With the news of continuing talks between the NFL brass and the NFLPA comes the hope that this CBA dispute and consequent lockout may be ending sometime soon. With that also comes the hope of a possible season approaching.
After taking into consideration the 2011 NFL Draft and the lack of a free-agency signing period, I have put together my thoughts on the 2011 Denver Broncos starters. I will go position by position, and name the opening day starters and in some cases their eventual replacement, be it situational or permanent.
I will also throw the names of a few unrestricted and restricted free agents into the mix for positions that have yet to be filled through the draft.
Let's get started.
I will go ahead and start with the position that seems to be gathering the most attention.
Whether that attention is deserved or not is better left to another article, but we all know to what position I am referring: quarterback.
The Broncos are in a very peculiar situation, although it is hardly unique. There have been a lot of teams in the past 10 years with similar situations at QB, but none with a player as perplexing and divisive as Mr. Tim Tebow.
The fact that is Tebow involved makes the situation a little more delicate than usual, and that is because he invokes such extreme emotions on both ends of the spectrum.
Fact is, the Broncos have to find out what they have in Tebow.
Whether good or bad, right or wrong, I believe that Mr. Not-So-Tiny Tim will be the day one starter for our Broncos in 2011. Kyle Orton will probably be traded the first chance the Broncos' brass gets, and because the talented Mr. Fox likes to keep three QB's on the active roster, Denver will probably pick up either a college free agent or a just a regular free agent to occupy the roster spot behind Tebow and Brady Quinn.
PROJECTED QB STARTERS
1. Tim Tebow
2. Brady Quinn
3. Free agent signing, maybe Matt Moore
Running back is a much less complicated position to determine, and unlike a lot of my fellow contributors, I am not as down on Knowshon Moreno as they seem to be.
In today's NFL, almost all teams run a two-back system now (whether they like to admit it or not), and some teams run a three-back system.
I believe the Broncos under John Fox will employ the two-headed attack, and since they don't seem to have the necessary personnel for that type of attack, they will have to take a dip in the free agency pool.
Many have pointed toward DeAngelo Williams as a surefire Bronco if the Panthers let him go. While I do like the thought of Williams in a Broncos uniform, there are other options to consider as well, such as Darren Evans and Noel Devine as college free agents.
PROJECTED RB STARTERS
1. Knowshon Moreno
2. Free agent signing (DeAngelo Williams?)
3. Lance Ball or free agent signing (Evans or Devine?)
Fullback is easy: We don't have one, we need to get one.
The FB is a dying breed in the NFL today, but Fox likes to run out of the "I" formation, meaning Denver will have a FB on the roster.
I am a big fan of the FB position because they tend to be some of the nastiest guys and greatest leaders. Spencer Larsen has done an admirable job, but he is not a FB. There are a few really good college free agents playing FB who could help Denver's running game right away, such as Patrick DiMarco, Henry Hynopski and others.
PROJECTED FB STARTERS
1. Henry Hynopski (college free agent)
2. Spencer Larsen
The wide receiver position for the Broncos has had some exposure as of late with articles and references being made to them on this very site and others.
If you ask me, they deserve it because I believe the Denver Broncos not only have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, but they also have an unbelievably great mix of experience and youth at the position.
With veterans like Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal, plus young guns like Demaryius Thomas, Erick Decker and Britt Davis, the Broncos could be set in that department for a long time.
This may also mean that someone is the odd man out. If that is the case, guys like Matt Willis and Gaffney may have seen their last days in a Broncos uniform. As much as I like these guys, the fact is the rest of the unit is too talented to let go, and both Gaffney and Willis have had their chance.
Since Thomas is injured and might not be back until sometime during the season, Davis may get his shot. After Lloyd, nothing is written in stone, and the lineup pecking order could drastically change.
PROJECTED WR STARTERS
1. Brandon Lloyd
2. Eddie Royal
3. Demaryous Thomas
4. Eric Decker
5. Jabar Gaffney
6. Britt Davis
The one position where the Broncos seem to be the most stable is the offensive line.
It is here where there will be a lot of continuation, with the one possible exception being whether or not Ryan Harris departs via free agency. It seems to be a forgone conclusion Harris will no longer be a Bronco at the start of the 2011 season, especially with the addition of Orlando Franklin, but I would much rather see Denver keep Harris.
Regardless of what I want, here is my projected lineup with and without Harris.
PROJECTED O-LINE STARTERS
C: J.D. Walton
The DT unit seems to be where the most speculation resides. Since the Broncos did not address this unit through the draft, we must believe this will be addressed through free agency, and there are some good ones out there.
Denver kept Vickerson, perhaps one of the most underappreciated players on the roster, and hopes to keep Marcus Thomas. I don't think it is a secret that I am a fan of Thomas, and I hope they do end up keeping him.
Then there are the potential free agents of this year.
Brandon Mebane is included as the Broncos' top target and with good reason. Mebane has been given an original round tender, meaning if the 2010 rules apply in terms of free agency, players would have to have six years of service to be considered unrestricted. Since Mebane has four years of service, the Broncos would have to give the Seahawks a third-round pick in order to acquire him.
Barry Cofield is in the same boat, but the draft additions of the NY Giants—especially the addition of Marvin Austin—seem to suggest that maybe the Giants are willing to part ways with Cofield.
That is certainly good news for a Broncos team looking to get better at that position, and Cofield would do just that.
PROJECTED DT STARTERS
1. Kevin Vickerson
2. Marcus Thomas
3. Barry Cofield
4. Justin Bannan
Defensive end is a no-brainer for me. I think that it's obvious Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil will be the two starters at the position.
PROJECTED DE STARTERS
1. Elvis Dumervil
2. Robert Ayers (Von Miller will put his hand in the dirt on nickel-and-dime situations, and Ayers will kick inside.)
The linebacking unit is another one that seems clear as day to me. The addition of Nate Irving, an ILB who two years ago had a first-to-second-round grade, but because of a car accident slipped into the third round, is one who can—and in my belief will—have a lasting effect on this defense.
Irving will solidify the middle of the LB unit for years to come, and his instincts and hard work will allow the Broncos to focus on upgrading the rest of the team.
PROJECTED MLB STARTERS
1. Nate Irvinig
2. Mike Mohamed
PROJECTED SAM STARTERS
1, Von Miller
2. Mario Haggan
PROJECTED WILL STARTERS
1. D.J. Williams
2. Wesley Woodyard
As far as the defensive backfield is concerned, I believe we will see a lot of turnover as far as personnel.
Dawkins is no longer fit to play, and Hill was never special; now that he is older, he is even less spectacular. McBath has shown flashes, but can he stay healthy? And Bruton is a special teams lifer.
Champ is still Champ, and even if has lost half a step, his skills were so daunting to begin with that he will remain one of the top CB's for the next three or four years. Goodman just can't seem to stay healthy, and Cox might be covering something else instead of NFL WR's.
The additions of Rahim Moore and Quentin Carter make for some interesting scenarios.
I believe Moore will be a day one starter at FS, but it is Carter and McBath who will provide the best fireworks in terms of competition. Either McBath or Carter will replace Dawkins at SS at some point during the season; the question is, which one will it be?
While Carter is a thumper whose weakness lies in coverage, McBath is a finesse player whose weakness lies in run-defense. Now, when I speak about their weaknesses, I am referring to the aspect of their talent that they have yet to develop as much as others. While Carter's weakness may be coverage, he is a lot more than just serviceable at it, and the same can be said about McBath and his weakness.
I would personally love to see Moore and McBath splitting the back end of the field, and I think that would give Denver the best young safety tandem in the league that could provide many a turnover.
PROJECTED CB STARTERS
1. Champ Bailey
2. Perrish Cox
3. Andre Goodman
4. Syd'Quan Thompson
5. Chevis Jackson
6. Cassius Vaughn
PROJECTED FS STARTERS
1. Rahim Moore
2. Reynaldo Hill
PROJECTED SS STARTERS
1. Brian Dawkins (He will be spelled by either McBath or Carter on passing down or nickel-and-dime situations.)
2. Darcell McBath/Quentin Carter (One of these two will eventually take over for Dawkins full time.)
PROJECTED K STARTERS
PROJECTED P STARTERS
Free agent please!
PROJECTED KR/PR STARTERS
Noel Devine (college free agent)
There you have it folks, let me know what you think in the comments below, and thanks for reading.