Although the biggest key to success in 2011 for the Denver Broncos will be the successful rebuilding of the coaching staff, I have left that discussion out of this article.
Instead I will focus key player moves on both sides of the ball.
QB: Orton or Tebow. The new head coach will have to make a decision on which direction he wants to go: dink and dunk with Orton or the big play ability with Tebow.
WR/TE: WR is actually an area where Denver has an abundance of talent. The Broncos need to put that to good use and get that sticky-handed TE.
RB: Is it enough to keep this group healthy or do they just lack talent?
OL: Does this young line just need time to mold?
DL: The need to get younger is evident, and the organization needs to figure out if it's a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
LB: With Elvis Dumervil back in 2011, ILB could be the main area of focus.
CB/FS/SS: What to do with Champ Bailey?
I have looked at the free agent listing on footballsfuture.com, but I'm not totally updated on the contract negotiations, so please update me.
As always feel free to disagree, and let's have great debate.
I earlier wrote an article on why Orton and Tebow were actually great fits in Denver in 2010 because they actually complemented each other: Orton as the steady dink-and-dunk QB and Tebow as the playmaker.
Unfortunately McDaniels never really got to playing Tebow, because with Denver's awful production on third down and in the red zone under Orton, Tebow could have been the right medicine, at least from what we have seen in the last couple of games.
But moving forward Orton, in my mind, will be the odd man out, as Tebow becomes the franchise QB in Denver.
I think it was McDaniels' plan all along to trade Orton in the offseason. Fortunately for Orton, there are several teams that are looking for solid QB production.
For Orton to be successful, I think he needs a solid running game to support him. He would find that with the Vikings, Cardinals, 49ers and Panthers.
I'm thinking a high third round pick, or Denver getting a player for the defensive side of the ball.
The biggest O-line question in the offseason will be if Ryan Harris is the answer at RT. Otherwise, I think the line needs to grow and develop together.
Putting Logan Mankins in the slide picture is no coincidence though. I earlier wrote an article on trading Champ Bailey for Logan Mankins in the beginning of the season.
I still think Logan Mankins would be a great signing for the Denver O-line, as he would be the veteran to lead the group for years to come. He knows what it takes to win, and what I take to be a successful organization.
I know he is going to be looking for the big contract, but in Denver he would be worth it.
Of all the woes in Denver this season, the lack of running game has been one of the most obvious.
I can't figure out if it's just because of the injuries, O-line, lack of talent or maybe a combination.
However, I think the Broncos are in dire need of a big powerful short yardage back, with hands to make him a viable passing option. Just like Peyton Hillis, couldn't help it.
Fortunately, the free agent market has a great selection of backs available. I would take a serious look at Le'Ron McClain, Jason Snelling and Mike Tolbert (I think you get the picture).
The Denver Broncos are loaded with WR talent but need a great pass-catching TE to get the job done in the red-zone.
Michael D Banks wrote in this article that Denver should try and trade Eddie Royal to Washington and Mike Shanahan, who brought Royal to the Broncos.
I think that is a great idea, but since the Redskins could use all of their draft picks, Denver should be looking to acquire one of the underused tight ends in Shanahan's system, such as Fred Davis or Chris Cooley.
On the free agent market, Jacksonville's Mercedes Lewis comes to mind as a great option.
There is no question that the D-line needs some new influx.
But more than anything, Denver needs to bring in a defensive coordinator and give that defense a direction.
Denver will have to test the free agent market. San Francisco DT Aubrayo Franklin and Green Bay DE Cullen Jenkins could be options, as they are both looking for bigger contracts that their respective teams might not want to give them.
Management will have a tough decision to make come the draft as to whether to go DT/DE or CB, but that could also solve itself if Denver decides to go for the best player available. The re-signing of Champ Bailey and the deep free agent pool at CB could also have a major influence on draft direction.
I think the linebackers are probably the hardest to evaluate, as the production from this group has been hurt by the loss of outside pass rushers and the porous D-line against the run.
So the key to this group is getting the playmakers back and top fit, and I would look for the Broncos to add a veteran ILB from free agency, probably someone who knows the new defensive coordinator's schemes.
In the draft I would look for Denver to search for late round, raw physical talent to develop for the inside and outside.
Champ Bailey wants to stay. I think this has to be a done deal, as the Denver secondary is in transition.
Fortunately, the pool of DB free agents is big and deep, and I would look for Denver to target one veteran starting corner in free agency.
Actually, I think that the depth of the DB free agency pool could lead the Broncos to pass on drafting one of the top CB because Denver could be in a perfect position to trade down to get more picks.
As for either safety position, looking for a veteran leader in free agency could be a priority, but I would look for the younger players to step up and take over from Brian Dawkins.
- Trading Kyle Orton for picks or a player
- Signing Ryan Harris at RT and landing Logan Mankins on a big contract
- Giving the running backs a final chance to prove themselves behind a better O-line
- Trading Eddie Royal to Washington for picks or a TE
- A rebuilt D-line and a new defensive scheme.
- Stability with the linebackers
- Champ Bailey leading a younger secondary
The biggest change in Denver though will be with the coaching staff, which needs to be completely rebuilt. I hope that doesn't transcend into a total players turnover.
On the field I think upgrading the defensive line, whether it's a front three or four, will be the biggest key to success for the Broncos in 2011.
The Broncos looks to be at a crossroads, and the following weeks will be very interesting.