Hoosierteacher had a good diary before last week's game about the state of our roster heading into next year. I had actually been thinking about a similar diary, but looking a bit farther ahead. I see a solid chunk of veteran contributors who will be gone soon (either this year or after the 2008 season). These are T Henry (depends on the suspension obviously), R Smith, Nalen, S Adams, N Webster, Lynch. There are another handful of guys who may last through 2009 but no longer: B Stokely, S Alexander, E Ekuban, W Holdman, I Gold, N Ferguson, Elam, Sauerbrun. Lastly, there are a few guys who may be around to play in 2010 but I would be surprised if they have a significant role (ages in parenthesis are approximate as of week 6 of the 2010 season): Lepsis (33.5), Hamilton (33), Leach (34). That is a total of 16 guys, although the number is really closer to 10 when you discount the ST and injured folks. The good news is that for the most part, we are in a position to replace them - either with players already on the team or with draft picks in the next three drafts. Even better news is that we have a solid young core of players on both sides of the ball who could prove to be something special. Both lines are young and need to gain experience individually and as a group. But if they do, most of the other pieces are in place to have a Super Bowl caliber team for years to come. (Please note that I gave minimal, at most, thought to the salary cap ramifications)
QB: Jay Cutler (27.5) and Patrick Ramsey (31.5) (assuming Ramsey wants to play Kubiak to Cutler's Elway)
RB: S Young (27)
WR: Javon Walker (32), Brandon Marshall (26.5)
TE: Tony Scheffler (27.5), Daniel Graham (32) and Nate Jackson (31.5)
OL: Ryan Harris (25.5), Chris Myers (29), Greg Eslinger (27.5), Chris Kuper (28), Erik Pears (28) with possible contributions from Holland (30.5) (and conceivably Hamilton(33), though I doubt that)
DE: Jarvis Moss (26), Elvis Dumervil (26.5), Tim Crowder(25)
DT: Marcus Thomas (25), Antwon Burton(27), Alvin McKinley (32)
LB: DJ Williams (28) and maybe Jordan Beck (27.5)
CB: Dre Bly (33), Champ Bailey(32), Dominique Foxworth (27.5) and Karl Paymah(28)
S: Hamza Abdullah (27), Sam Brandon (31.5) (is this possible?)
Offensively, Cutler's growth is clearly the linchpin to the offense. But an underrated key to his growth will be the transition of the offensive line to the new version I listed above. If Eslinger can handle C in the NFL, I would feel comfortable with Harris and Pears at tackles and Myers and Kuper at guards. Keeping Holland around as a third guard in case Myers is the long term answer at center makes sense too. Assuming that Javon can get his knee healthy, he should be able to play until 2013 or 2014. So the only real needs I see in 2010 would be a third WR (if Martinez is not the answer - and when has a #3 WR not been an issue for the Broncos?), and a couple backs (at least we have better luck with this one). Oh, and some depth along the line, but nothing major there.
Defensively, the story is rather similar. We can't be lucky enough to have all four of our young DL turn into Pro Bowl studs, but they should have enough of a core that, other than getting a solid DT, they can fill the bottom of the rotation with free agents or rookie prospects (I am thinking players taken in the mid rounds who are considered somewhat one dimensional) or maybe even the young guys we just signed. The linebacker corps and our safety situation require some work, but who didn't know that? AT CB, I would really like to see us keep Foxworth and Paymah, but that may be tough with the cap and their desire for playing time. We will need to draft/sign a few LB over the next couple of years, both as starters and to provide depth at ST. Holdman and/or Gold may stick around for a year or two, but they are stop gap measures. (Based on the Shanahan model, it would not shock me to see them draft 2 or 3 LB in 2008) As for safety, I guess my ideal plan would be to draft a young safety in 2008 and let him compete with Hamza for one spot while Lynch and/or Ferguson are on their last legs manning the other. If you end up with two quality guys in Hamza and the new guy that would be great. Otherwise the better of the two stays, Bly moves back to safety and we would still have good CB depth.
As for special teams, I think we can find a decent punter and kicker easily enough although there may be a couple missteps along the way. The most important loss could be Mike Leach if Myers and/or Kuper can't handle the long snapper job.
I'd like to hear your thoughts and maybe explain your answer to the poll question. Will anyone make a case for Mike Bell or Andre Hall to be included in the 2010 Broncos? Did I miss anyone else? Did I include someone who should not be on the list?
PS. Please don't take this to mean I have given up on this team or this season or even the next couple. It is more of a mental exercise trying to visualize what the team will look like once the older guys retire in a couple years and trying to see where (and how) the team can find the pieces it needs, both to compete over the next couple of years and for 2010 and beyond. (On that note, I would like to say that Shanahan has done a very nice job with the drafting and stockpiling of young OL to step in when the inevitable transition to a younger line occurs/occurred/is occurring?)