The Broncos have had their share of woes this season. In my opinion, the Denver wide receiving group was one of the least woeful all season. While Brandon Marshall is the main reason our receivers are so good, plenty of our other receivers gave us reason to cheer. From Marshall to Jabar Gaffney to Brandon Stokley, all of our receivers have had their moments this year. Let us see what is to come of this group of receivers this year.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Eddie Royal
To describe Eddie's year in one word, it would be disappointing. When Royal came to the Broncos in 2008, he entered the Bronco universe with a bang. In his first game in a Bronco uniform, he caught 9 balls for 146 yards and a touchdown. He instantly became a fan favorite. He ended 2008 with 91 receptions, 980 yards, and 5 touchdowns. In his sophomore season, Royal finished with just a dismal 37 catches for 345 yards and no touchdowns. Royal, who stands at just 5'10", would be better suited as a slot receiver. Therefore, in this offseason, Denver should look for a bigger receiver to move to the outside while Royal can move to the slot.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Jabar Gaffney
Gaffney came to the Broncos last season in a four year deal worth $10 million. In his first year in Denver, he caught 54 passes for 732 yards and two touchdowns. While he primarily played the slot position, in week 17, Marshall was suspended and Gaffney was moved to the outside. That week, Gaffney put up his season best by catching 14 passes for 213 yards.
While that kind of production is unlikely to continue, it was an encouraging display. If Marshall doesn't come back, McDaniels might want to look at moving Gaffney to the outside. That way he could draft a big receiver and still move Royal to the slot. While it may be unlikely, it is an option that we might want to explore.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Brandon Stokley
Brandon Stokley is known as one of the most dangerous third down weapons in the league. We did not see a whole lot of Stokley this year. However, we will remember him for one thing. Stokley caught a tipped pass in the first week of the season and ran it for a touchdown. We have all seen the play. We all were jumping up and cheering while that play happened.
Stokley is under contract until 2011 when he becomes a free agent. He is a valuable third down weapon, but if a team were to offer a good trade for the 33 year old receiver, then Denver should consider it.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Brandon Lloyd
Brandon Lloyd signed to the Broncos last summer after we had traded for Kyle Orton. Lloyd followed the quarterback he was familiar with to Denver. Lloyd was limited all year until the final two games. In two games, Lloyd caught eight passes for 117 yards. He did put up a strong performance in week 17 against the Chiefs by catching four passes for 95 yards. Brandon was rarely used and offers little to the team going forward. I don't see his use for the future and see him being cut from the team.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Kenny McKinley
Kenny was drafted last year in the 5th round. He was put on the injured reserve in December after suffering a knee injury. He did not play as a wide receiver this season. However, he did play as a kick returner. His potential as a wide receiver remains to be seen, but he will be brought back for another year or two to see what he has to offer.
Wide Receiver Analysis: Brandon Marshall
Here it is ladies and gentlemen. This is the receiver we all know and love. This is also the receiver we all know and hate. He was suspended before the season even began due to his lack of effort. If you didn't see the footage, cameras caught Marshall giving very little effort at practice. He wasn't running, he didn't seem to care, and he punted a ball into the air after catching it. He campaigned hard to be traded because he was not being paid enough.
However, he was not traded and it's a good thing he wasn't. This season he caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards and 10 TD. Those totals would have been higher except he was suspended in week 17. However, his totals were good enough to earn him a Pro Bowl selection. The decision to suspend Marshall was highly controversial as Denver needed a win to keep their post-season hopes alive.
Now the big question is: What do we do with Brandon Marshall? He has stated that he wants to be a Bronco. Pat Bowlen and Josh McDaniels have stated that they want to have him back. This would indicate that he is going to stay.
Still, ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson insists that sources have told him that Denver still intends to trade him and that the two parties are simply acting cordial to one another before the split occurs. Make no mistake, losing Marshall would be devastating. He is an amazing talent that will not be replaced easily.
However, this may be a case of too little, too late. Marshall and McDaniels have had their differences. McDaniels has suspended Marshall twice in the course of one season. It may be too late for the parties to mend their relationship. I don't see Denver signing him to a long term contract. I also don't see Denver just letting Marshall walk out of Denver without anything in return.
Therefore, a trade is highly likely whether we like it or not. Personally, I would love nothing more then to see McDaniels and Marshall resolve their problems and then sign Marshall to a long term contract. However, I believe that is more of a wish then a realistic possibility.
Overall Grade B+
It is hard to find much error in this aspect of the Broncos. Several of the receivers have plenty to give Denver in the years to come. This summer's pending resolution to the Brandon Marshall problem will dictate a lot. Jabar stepped up this year and became a reliable target.
While Eddie had a disappointing year, if we find someone to take the outside position, Royal would benefit greatly in the slot position. Marshall on the outside, a deep threat on the outside, and Royal in the slot would be a dangerous set of receivers that would be one of the best in the league.
Five Possible Solutions With Brandon Marshall
1. Dez Bryant WR from Oklahoma St.
2. Kevin Walter WR from Houston
3. Chris Chambers WR from Kansas City Chiefs
4. Terrell Owens WR from Buffalo Bills
5. Brandon LaFell WR from LSU
Dez Bryant is the most talented wide receiver in the draft. He would come in and be an instant threat opposite of Marshall. Throw in Royal at the slot and we have one of the most dangerous young trio of receivers in the game. Kevin Walter is a big, reliable receiver from the Texans. He would be a nice complimentary piece to Marshall.
Chris Chambers was released from the San Diego Chargers this year and came to Kansas City with a vengeance to prove he still had game left to play. He was a reliable target for Matt Cassell. If he joined Denver, he could help us beat his former team. Oh the sweet taste of revenge.
Terrell Owens played well in Buffalo despite having quarterback problems. He is a risk with his big mouth and age but his skills could help us be a better group of receivers if for just one year. Brandon LaFell is a big target out of LSU. He is one of the biggest receivers in the class. He has big, reliable hands and he could be bought for the low price of a third round pick if we're lucky.
Now I will assume we trade Marshall leaving us with no outside receiving threats. I will put together five combinations we can use on the outside that will allow Royal to still move to the slot. Please note that these are simply ideas for us to think about. I will not put together two rookies. I will not put in T.O. because he is not a long term solution. I will also not include Vincent Jackson because I don't see any way that he is leaving the Chargers, especially for Denver.
Five Possible Combination Without Brandon Marshall
1. Dez Bryant and Chris Chambers
We can use the first rounder we get for Marshall on Dez. If we can lure Chambers to Denver in the offseason then we would be set for a good group of receivers. Caution that Chambers is 31.
2. Dez Bryant and Kevin Walter
We can again use the first rounder to get Dez who is the best wide receiver in the draft. If we can nab Walter then I would be really happy. Kevin is still in his 20's and he would present a good option for our QB.
3. Kevin Walter and Brandon LaFell
If we don't want to use the 1st on Bryant, we can draft LaFell in the 2nd or 3rd round. He is not as talented as Dez Bryant, but he has a lot of potential. Like I said before, Kevin would be a great offseason acquisition.
4. Chris Chambers and Kevin Walter
This is the riskiest solution in my opinion. Chambers is 31 and while Walter is a good receiver, he has had an injury problem. This would be more of a short term solution.
5. Miles Austin and Eric Decker
Of these five solutions, this is my favorite. Miles Austin was fantastic this year for Dallas. If we can get him in Denver, he would be a great asset. He is only 26 and could be a dangerous target for our QB for years to come. We would have to give up a lot to get him which is why I chose Decker as the second solution. Decker is a nice prospect out of Minnesota. He can be bought for a low price of a fourth or fifth round selection. This would give us a pair of young, talented wide receivers.
There you go. This is the analysis on last year's wide receivers and the future of them. Comments are always welcome. I love to speculate about what is going to happen, especially with the solutions.