Reviewing the Denver Broncos Early Free Agency Moves

Jon Heath@http://twitter.com/JonHeathNFLContributor IMarch 15, 2013

(Screenshot courtesy of NFL Network)
(Screenshot courtesy of NFL Network)

For now, the Denver Broncos appear to be done with free-agent signings.

After locking up guard Louis Vasquez, linebacker Stewart Bradley, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and wide receiver Wes Welker, the team has little cap room remaining, according to the Denver Post's Mike Klis

But more cap room is expected to be created by Saturday.

The Broncos are in a contract dispute with defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who has a $12 million 2013 salary that will become guaranteed on Saturday.  The team wants Dumervil to take a pay cut. if he doesn't, they reportedly are willing to release him.

According to CBS Sports' Jason La Confora, the team may see Connor Barwin, Dwight Freeney and Richard Seymour as potential candidates to replace Dumervil, if he is released.  In addition to Dumervil, linebacker Joe Mays ($3.3 million), running back Willis McGahee ($2 million) and guard Chris Kuper ($2.6 million), who recently became expendable due to the Vasquez signing, could all see themselves released as "cap casualties," as pointed out by IAOFM.com's Douglas Lee.

For now, the team's top priority is working out the situation involving Dumervil.  After that, the secondary and backfield will become the team's next areas of focus and both can be addressed through the draft (Eddie Lacy, anyone?).

Here's a breakdown of the players Denver has signed thus far:

  • Offensive tackle Ryan Clady (One-year franchise tag, $9.2 million)
  • Cornerback Tony Carter (Re-signed for one-year, $555K)
  • Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (Re-signed for one-year, $555K)
  • Offensive lineman Chris Clark (Re-signed for one year, $1.32 million)
  • Punter Britton Colquitt (One-year tender, $1.32 million)
  • Running back Lance Ball (One-year tender, 1.32 million)
  • Safety David Bruton (Three years, $4.5 million)
  • Guard Louis Vasquez (Four years, $23 million)
  • Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (Re-signed for two years, $5 million)
  • Wide receiver Wes Welker (Two-years, $12 million)
  • Linebacker Stewart Bradley (One-year, $1.1 million)
  • Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Two-years, $4.5 million)
  • Cornerabck Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (One-year, $5 million)

The Broncos know they have a short window to win the Super Bowl with veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, which is why most of their free-agent signings have been short, relatively cheap contracts.

Welker is obviously the biggest signing, but several other lesser-known signings could prove to be just as important for the Broncos.  David Bruton is a special teams ace that got his hands on several punts last season, Knighton will be reunited with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who coached him in Jacksonville, and Vickerson is coming off a career year.

The signing of Vasquez, meanwhile, cripples the rival San Diego Chargers offensive line while strengthening Denver's.  Vasquez was easily San Diego's best offensive lineman in 2012, allowing a team-low 2.5 sacks, according to STATS.  Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times last season and just lost his best lineman.

Welker is also as beneficial on defense as offense, as Denver will never have to face the deadly slot receiver again (or at least not in the next two years).  In six regular-season games against the Broncos, Welker has caught 35 passes for 354 yards and three scores.  Moving forward, Welker will now be a menace to opposing teams, rather than Denver.

Overall, team executive John Elway has made all of the right moves so far.  The team has improved through free agency without breaking the bank.  The Broncos are now equipped to draft the best player available in April rather than based on "team needs," which often leads to a team reaching for a player.

Dumervil remains the team's next order of business.  Expect Denver to make its decision soon.


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