What Is Denver Broncos' Free-Agency Plan?

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IFebruary 12, 2016

What Is Denver Broncos' Free-Agency Plan?

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    With the confetti cleaned up and the parade in the books, the Denver Broncos are ready to get their offseason started after Super Bowl 50. The first part of the offseason for every team is free agency.

    The new league year is set to begin on March 9, but each team will have about a week to negotiate with its own free agents before they hit the open market. During that time, the Broncos may be able to keep a few key players if the price is right. However, some quality talent may depart the Mile High City for more money elsewhere.

    Broncos general manager John Elway revealed the team is well underway with its offseason preparation.

    “We’ve already done some of that work," he said. "Obviously, when you go this deep into the playoffs, we’ve got to start moving on to next year, so we’ve been involved in some free-agent stuff already as far as evaluation and also with the draft and the combine coming up. We’re already into that process, and we’ll continue to do that.”

    The Broncos have many tough decisions with 16 unrestricted free agents of their own. With a Super Bowl championship, they will have multiple players targeted by other teams. There’s only so much cap room to go around, and the Broncos are still waiting on a decision from quarterback Peyton Manning that could free up around $20 million in space.

    What is the Broncos' plan for their free agents—or at least, what could it be? Let’s take a look.

S Shiloh Keo

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Broncos added Keo after he reached out to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips via Twitter. Not only did Keo get on the field, but he made a few key plays for the team in the playoffs.

    Injuries depleted the secondary during the team’s postseason run, but having players like Keo to step up really helped. In addition to contributing on defense, he was a solid special teams player.

    Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak appreciates what young players like Keo did for the team this past season.

    “They were extremely important," Kubiak said. "That is what I’ve been doing since I walked in the door this morning. Really evaluating the players and trying to come up with an assessment of what took place has been this past year. One of the great things that did take place is all of our young players became contributors.”


    What’s The Plan?

    The Broncos should be able to bring back Keo at a good price. He proved himself as a valuable asset and good depth at the safety position.

WR Kyle Williams

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Many may not remember that Williams is even on the team since he was on injured reserve for the entire 2015 season. He was signed to a futures contract at the end of 2014 after missing that entire season. He was with the Kansas City Chiefs in camp that year, but a shoulder injury knocked him out of action, and no team chose to pick him up.

    Williams flashed ever so briefly in camp with the Broncos last year. He’s been through not only the shoulder injury but also two previous ACL injuries. Williams looked speedy as a receiver, and it looked like he could perhaps make the team as a return man.

    Then, Williams tore his Achilles early in camp. That injury is not as devastating as it used to be, but for a player like Williams, it could possibly end his career.


    What’s the Plan?

    The Broncos might bring him back as a camp body. They could give Williams a chance to prove himself the same way that Jordan Norwood did after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury. Or, they could also easily move on.

OT Tyler Polumbus

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    When the Broncos needed veteran depth on the offensive line, they signed Tyler Polumbus in early October. The Atlanta Falcons released him in late September, but it didn’t take long for Polumbus to land a new job.

    The Broncos initially had Ryan Clady at left tackle before he was lost to injury during OTAs. They then moved rookie Ty Sambrailo from right to left tackle before he too was lost to an injury. With Ryan Harris moving over from the right side to the left, the Broncos wanted to make sure they had more bodies at the position—and landing an experienced player like Polumbus was a good move.

    He appeared in 10 games for the Broncos but played briefly when he was on the field. He’s a good veteran to keep around, but with Clady and Sambrailo healthy, it could push him off the roster.


    What’s the Plan?

    The Broncos should shuffle their offensive line this offseason, and the plan may not include Polumbus.

WR Jordan Norwood

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    The Broncos were patient with wide receiver Jordan Norwood after he tore his ACL in 2014 training camp. That year in camp, he was making strides to make the final roster as a sure-handed veteran receiver. He was also looking good as a return man in practice.

    Then, Norwood hurt his knee and was out for the season. He stayed patient and positive and worked to make a comeback in 2015.

    Norwood picked up right where he left off in training camp of 2015. Once again, he made plays as a receiver over the middle of the field. With talented receivers above and below him on the depth chart, he did enough to make the final roster.

    In limited playing time this last season, Norwood was targeted 32 times, catching 22 passes for 207 yards.


    What’s the Plan?

    Norwood doesn’t always make it to the Super Bowl, but when he does, he sets NFL records. He now owns the longest punt return in Super Bowl history (61 yards). He’s worth bringing back as veteran depth at wide receiver.

S Omar Bolden

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    After getting picked as a cornerback in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, Omar Bolden ended up making a switch to safety for the Broncos. He’s played sparingly on defense over the course of his career, and injuries have knocked his career a bit off track at times.

    Bolden has the speed and athleticism to make field-flipping plays as a return man. The Broncos didn’t have a great return game in 2015, but Bolden is arguably their best returner and can be effective, consistent and reliable.


    What’s the Plan?

    Keeping Bolden around at the right price would make sense. His injury history could keep other teams from throwing bags of money at him, and that could work in the Broncos' favor—if they want him for depth and help in the return game.

RB Ronnie Hillman

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    The Kubiak system is friendly to running backs. The zone-blocking scheme can make a back stand out if he has the right skill set. Ronnie Hillman started about half the season for the Broncos, but his future with the team is unclear.

    Hillman has great speed, and if he’s given space, he can rip off big runs. He’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball, but he is not a good runner inside the tackles. The threat of a field-flipping play is always there , but he also has many negative plays because he fails to run through arm tackles.


    What’s the Plan?

    There’s no need to overpay Hillman to stick around. With John Fox (Bears) and Adam Gase (Dolphins) at other spots in the NFL, we could see Hillman reunite with either coach. Other teams may also be interested in the speedy change-of-pace back, but none should overpay for his services.

QB Brock Osweiler

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    The Broncos would not have gotten to the Super Bowl without quarterback Brock Osweiler. His play in the second half of the season led the team to key victories within the division and conference.

    The NFL isn’t a quarterback-driven league—it’s a quarterback-desperate league. Even though Osweiler has limited experience as a starter, if he makes it to the open market, there will be teams willing to shell out more money than some expect.

    The Broncos will have an opportunity to sign Osweiler before he hits free agency, but they need to find the right number that is team-friendly but also fair to the young quarterback.

    Having tough decisions is a good thing, according to Elway.

    “We’ll have to make some tough decisions," he said. "Anytime you have a world championship team, you’ve got tough decisions, but you know what, we’d much rather have the tough decisions than the easy decisions because when you’ve got the tough decisions, you’ve got a lot of great football players.”


    What’s the Plan?

    At this time, the future of starting quarterback Peyton Manning is up in the air. The Broncos seem ready to move on with Osweiler as their new starter. If they can sign him for a deal in the neighborhood of three years and $30-35 million, then Osweiler could stay in the Mile High City.

OT Ryan Harris

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Broncos were fortunate to find a talent like offensive tackle Ryan Harris, and they quickly brought him back to Denver for a third time when they needed help at tackle.

    A third-round pick of the Broncos in the 2007 NFL draft, Harris has plenty of experience working in the zone-blocking system. He’s a strong player, but what makes Harris a standout player on the outside are his footwork and athleticism to mirror edge-rushers.


    What’s the Plan?

    Harris may end up retiring after winning the Super Bowl. The team could let him test the open market, and there’s a chance Harris may be around if the team needs him again in case another emergency situation arises.

WR Andre Caldwell

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Every team in the league needs a guy like Andre “Bubba” Caldwell. He does everything as a wide receiver and can play outside or in the slot. Caldwell also has the speed to work as a return man if needed.

    Caldwell appeared in 14 games and only had 10 targets, but two of those catches went for touchdowns. The Broncos are stacked at the top of the wide receiver depth chart with stars Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Caldwell may not be able to climb the depth chart, but his versatility and reliability make him a valuable asset.


    What’s the Plan?

    Caldwell is unlikely to find a market that is white-hot for his services. I would consider him 50-50 to return to the roster in 2016.

LB Danny Trevathan

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    The Broncos uncovered another gem linebacker out of Kentucky when they found Danny Trevathan. Years ago they found Wesley Woodyard as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky, and in 2012 they spent a sixth-round pick on Trevathan—also a Wildcat.

    He quickly made an impact for the Broncos and has two seasons with more than 100 tackles—including this past season. He missed most of the 2014 season with two separate knee injuries, but when healthy, Trevathan is a great player.

    With his play on defense, he has to be considered a priority for this team. Elway believes all their unrestricted free agents are a priority.

    “They’re all priorities," he said. "I think it’s all a combination. As we go through it, it’s a fluid process to kind of see where each one is and talk to their representatives and see where they are. It’s going to be a fluid situation.”

    The Broncos general manager continued: “We’ve only—our budget is only so big, and so we’ve got to make it work within that. This will now be the time that we can now kind of see where everybody is and start working on that and get a feel for who we’re going to be able to hold onto. They’re all priorities, but we just have to see where they are.”


    What’s the Plan?

    Even though they let Woodyard go, the Broncos are likely to keep Trevathan around if they can. He’s great in coverage and helps the defense with his ability to defend the run as well. The price is going to be a huge factor, but Trevathan’s injury history may keep the cost a bit lower than it could be.

DL Malik Jackson

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Perhaps an unsung hero on defense for the Broncos is defensive end Malik Jackson. While there are stars on the outside such as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, Jackson can wreak havoc in his own way on the interior of the defensive line.

    Jackson plays to the echo of the whistle, and he creates an intimidating presence with his play on the field. He has a long reach to snare ball-carriers and arrives at the play with natural violence.

    Elway admits he’d like to keep the defense together: “That’s the hard thing, but there’s no question we’d like to try to do that. The first step was trying to get [DE] Derek [signed]. We were able to get that done, and so [ILB] Danny [Trevathan] and [DE] Malik [Jackson]—the two that I can think of now that we’ll try to work to keep it together and see what we can do.

    “That’s something we’ll start working on right away and see what we can get done.”


    What’s the Plan?

    The money will dry up somewhere, and this could be the best player the Broncos lose this offseason. There are a few teams with tons of salary-cap space that could make a run at Jackson. The Oakland Raiders (with former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) have a whopping $79 million in cap space, and Jackson may be set to get a payday past what the Broncos could afford.

S David Bruton

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Arguably the best special teams player the Broncos have, safety David Bruton is a player the team may consider re-signing. He has experience starting at both safety positions—even in the postseason. He can help stuff the run and is decent in coverage too.

    He has the speed to run a fake punt as the “up” man on the punt team. His speed gets him to the play quickly, and he has a nose for the ball.

    Bruton suffered a broken leg in late December and was put on season-ending injured reserve.


    What’s the Plan?

    It would be nice if the Broncos could keep Bruton. He’s great in the community and such a valuable asset. I believe both sides want to get something done.

DL Antonio Smith

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    DeMarcus Ware wasn’t the only defender to have worked with Phillips before. During their time together with the Houston Texans, defensive end Antonio Smith also was able to shine under the veteran coach.

    He didn’t play much with the Broncos, but Smith seemed to be around the ball when he was on the field.

    Smith played a limited number of snaps and compiled 2.5 sacks in 2015. He played 368 snaps total in 2015 but didn’t play more than 20 snaps in a single game from Week 10 on.


    What’s the Plan?

    Smith served his purpose this year. The Broncos could let him walk in free agency if a team wants to pay him a bit more than they do.

TE Vernon Davis

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Trades don’t happen that often in the NFL, but the Broncos decided to exchange some assets with the San Francisco 49ers in order to acquire veteran tight end Vernon Davis. In early November last year, the Broncos added Davis to the roster.

    The move was exciting at the time, as he had done next to nothing with the 49ers in the first six weeks of the season. The excitement quickly died down as Davis continued to disappoint.

    In eight regular-season games, Davis ran 223 routes but was only targeted 39 times, catching 30 passes for 286 yards. In the postseason, he saw his role shrink even more.


    What’s the Plan?

    Davis did next to nothing with the Broncos. The team loves second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman, who could be the team’s leading player at the position in 2016.

OG Evan Mathis

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    If the Broncos had a “tough guy” award, it would go to left guard Evan Mathis. He played most of this season banged up, and nagging injuries impacted his play. There were times in the locker room I would see Mathis hobble around to collect his things as he prepared to go home. Looking at his leg revealed a hamstring so injured it looked deeply bruised.

    Mathis was banged up, but he didn’t complain and kept putting himself out there when he could to help the team.


    What’s the Plan?

    With Max Garcia (24) getting plenty of experience while Mathis was hurt, the Broncos could decide to go with the younger option as the starter. That means Mathis (34)—who isn’t the player he used to be—could play elsewhere next season.

LB Von Miller

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    Get the checkbook ready! The Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller, is going to get a huge payday in the near future. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him snare more than the $101 million contract that Justin Houston signed with the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

    Elway knows how important Miller is to the future of the team. He also respects the growth and development the supremely gifted pass-rusher has made on and off the field.

    “I think he’s matured," Elway said. "I think he’s grown up quite a bit. I think it’s a compliment to him and the people around him with some of the things that he had to go through when he was younger. He’s grown up tremendously.”

    Elway knows there will be a process to the upcoming negotiations with the superstar pass-rusher.

    “The goal is always to get a long-term deal, but again that goes back into the same old process of trying to include everybody in what we’re looking at and looking at it from the 20,000-foot view of how this team is going to look, not only next year but two or three years down the line," Elway said. "It’s going to be hard, but we look forward to it and think we can get it done.”


    What’s the Plan?

    Pay the man! The Broncos should place the franchise tag on Miller, which would them until mid-July to come to an agreement on a new long-term deal. Just like Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas before him, Miller will likely get something done with the team right at the deadline.


    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.

    Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac. Transaction history provided by Pro Sports Transactions.