What We Learned About the Denver Broncos' Offseason Plan at the Combine
The Denver Broncos have a plan for the offseason, and we were able to gather clues from what was said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week. The plan includes a strategy for keeping key free agents, a map of potential outside free agents to pursue and a draft-board compilation.
One player we already know the importance of is linebacker Von Miller. Whether it’s through a long-term deal or the franchise tag, there’s a sure bet the Broncos are not going to let the Super Bowl 50 MVP slip away.
Broncos general manager John Elway almost immediately started talking about Miller from the podium at the combine.
“We’re in discussions with Von. We’ve exchanged some offers. We continue to be able to meet with his representatives. We feel good about it.”
Elway emphasized, “Obviously with the career that he’s had already and the way that he played this year, we’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to get something done.”
Nobody is surprised that Miller is a top priority for the Broncos, but what about the plans for other players? Through Elway’s comments, we got a glimpse of what the team could be putting together for 2016.
What did we learn about the Broncos' offseason plan at the combine? Let’s take a look.
Danny Trevathan to Hit the Open Market
In a quote that surprised some, Elway admitted linebacker Danny Trevathan would “probably have to hit the market.” With so many key free agents to sign like Miller, Malik Jackson and Brock Osweiler, we might see Trevathan be the player who slips away.
Arguably the most sound tackler on the Broncos roster, Trevathan does a good job of bringing his man down consistently. While not a “thumper” by NFL standards, Trevathan arrives at the ball-carrier swiftly and has good technique when going in for the tackle.
Trevathan can play sideline-to-sideline and is a proven linebacker in coverage. He’ll bait quarterbacks into bad throws, and he's not shy when it comes to going for the football in the air.
His dual-threat ability keeps him on the field for all three downs, and that’s an asset teams will be looking for in free agency. There are more than a few teams with Broncos connections that could be interested in Trevathan. Reuniting with John Fox on the Chicago Bears would make sense, but don’t discount the Atlanta Falcons where former Broncos linebacker’s coach Richard Smith is the defensive coordinator.
It would be great if Trevathan could stick around in the Mile High City, but as of right now it looks like the Broncos will let him test the open market.
Osweiler Deal Being Worked On
While the starting quarterback for 2016 is up in the air right now, it looks like the Broncos want Brock Osweiler to be their guy. The team has been waiting for Peyton Manning to make a decision about his retirement, and there could be an announcement about that later this week. The new league year begins on March 9, and it would be nice to have the quarterback situation figured out for the defending world champions.
Elway has confidence in Osweiler based on what he showed as a starter in 2015.
“I think that with the sample size that we got from Brock, we were excited about what we saw. I think when you look at the seven games that he started and the way that he played, he made some good strides. You never know what a quarterback can do until he gets in there, gets underneath the gun. I think he proved a lot to us.”
Elway said what a lot of Broncos fans have thought when he stated, “We wouldn’t have been world champs without Brock. We needed both quarterbacks to play like they played. It allowed us to be world champions. I was excited about where Brock is and his process.”
Per NFL rules, the Broncos have an exclusive window to deal with Osweiler but that ends on March 7. Troy E. Renck, from the Denver Post, reported the Broncos will push to secure a deal before then.
The Broncos proved they could win a championship with suffocating defense and an offense that did just enough. In 2016, with Osweiler at the helm, we could see that side of the ball do even more.
Two to Restructure?
There are two talented veterans the Broncos are trying to restructure their contracts. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware and left tackle Ryan Clady have cap numbers the Broncos want to bring down. Ware is set to make $11.6 million in 2016, but there’s only $1.6 million in dead money. Clady is on the books for $10.1 million in 2016, and he only has $1.2 million in dead money left on his contract.
Elway revealed both contract situations would be addressed.
“I’ll talk to all those guys. I’m going to talk to DeMarcus. The time that we haven’t had up until this point, I’ll be able to spend time with them.” Troy E. Renck, from the Denver Post, reported the two sides met last Friday. In fact, Ware and Clady have the same agent, which could help things along.
Elway also talked about Clady at the combine, “Ryan will be one of those guys that we’ll sit down and talk to. We have a lot of different plans and a lot of different situations. The closer we get to the deadline and as far as the new league year, we’ll start molding that and see how everything takes shape.”
Ware could at least be a part-time pass-rusher in 2016. If he can stay healthy (a problem for him in 2015), then Ware could still be a dangerous defender who can get after the quarterback. He also gives the Broncos a great mentor for Von Miller.
Clady has played in only 18 games over the last three seasons. His pay reduction could be quite drastic, but the Broncos could add incentives to the deal where Clady would be compensated for his playing time. If healthy, Clady can still be a fine left tackle in a zone-blocking system.
Malik Jackson Wanted Back
With Trevathan likely to hit the open market, the Broncos are also showing that defensive end Malik Jackson is a priority. With others waiting to hear from the team, Jackson is reportedly already in negotiations with the Broncos.
Elway talked about the process of keeping key free agents.
“It’s going to be a fluid situation. 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.”
Mike Klis, from 9 News in Denver, reported the two sides are "far apart" in negotiations at this time. His reports indicate the Broncos might be offering around $12 million annually for Jackson, but the asking price could be more around $15 million per year.
Jackson can rush the passer as a defensive end or defensive tackle. He plays until the echo of the whistle, and the best may be yet to come from the young defender.
The Broncos would like to keep Jackson, but the cost may be just too high. If Miller gets the franchise tag, then that means keeping Jackson would get increasingly difficult. If he hits the open market, a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars could make a serious investment and go hard after Jackson.
Looking for Running Back Help
The Broncos are going to look for additional running back talent this offseason. That could come through free agency, but it might be more likely to come from the draft. This running back class has good talent throughout, and there are several different types of backs who will be available from the first round to the last.
Elway revealed a tidbit about the team’s plan at the position.
“[RB] C.J. [Anderson] had a good year. [RB] Ronnie Hillman will be a free agent, and so we’ll see what happens with Ronnie. [RB] Juwan Thompson had a good year and did a nice job for us on special teams.” Elway concluded, “We’ll continue to try to get better there. We’ll look at that position group in free agency as well as the draft and see if we can get better in that area.”
Head coach Gary Kubiak said the key to the rushing attack in 2016 is keeping Anderson healthy. The team needs to make sure if Anderson gets banged up again, it has a backup who can effectively carry the rock.
With so many options in the draft, the Broncos could look for a back who has a unique skill set when compared to other guys on the roster. A player like San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin could make a lot of sense for the Broncos in the middle rounds. Ervin is incredibly fast and has instant explosion when running the ball. In addition to being dangerous in space as a running back, Ervin could immediately contribute for the Broncos as a return man.
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.