The Denver Broncos are no strangers to blockbuster offseason trades. In the 2004 offseason, Denver traded promising running back Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round pick.
In 2005, they traded their first round pick to the Redskins for a slew of picks that turned into even more picks in the 2006 NFL Draft. They've also taken part in a rare three-team trade in the NFL, when they unloaded wide receiver Ashley Lelie to the Falcons.
In 2008, they traded Jake Plummer and Domonique Foxworth for late-round draft picks, one of which turned into fan favorite Peyton Hillis. We all know what happened the following offseason, when quarterback Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears for a pair of first round picks, a third round pick, and quarterback Kyle Orton.
So will the Broncos be wheeling and dealing again in 2010? All signs point to one answer: yes.
And the biggest subject of all trade talks? Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a player who is one of only five in NFL history to catch 100 passes in three consecutive seasons. Marshall set a personal best in 2009 with ten touchdown receptions, and earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.
Marshall is an elite wide receiver in the NFL, but he has burned quite a few bridges in Denver. In addition to being frequently arrested early on in his career, Marshall has been suspended by the NFL and the Denver Broncos on three separate occasions. Off the field, he has been a problem for the Broncos, but for the most part kept his act together in 2009, save for some mental breakdowns in the early and later parts of the season.
Despite all of his off-field issues, Denver will likely have suitors lined up for Marshall's services this offseason, and many major sports media venues have already begun pondering some options, including here at Mile High Report. As of now, neither the Broncos nor any aspiring NFL team has expressed interest in trading/trading for Marshall definitively, so everything written about him at this point is speculation.
But Marshall is not going to be the only subject of trade rumors this offseason. It is likely, if not imminent that Denver will pursue a trade for tight end Tony Scheffler, who has become one of the game's better pass receiving tight ends in his time with the Broncos. Since 2006, no tight end averages more yards per catch than Scheffler, and he should be an enticing option for a team looking for an athletic tight end who can stretch the field and create mismatches with his speed.
Another player the Broncos might look to move is fan favorite Peyton Hillis, who doesn't seem to have found a niche in Josh McDaniels' offense. But he is not alone.
Denver could be looking to significantly upgrade their wide receiver group this offseason, and may have already found his replacement, so another player who could be on the outside looking in is veteran Brandon Stokley, who was rarely targeted in 2009, though when he was, he always made a big play.
Some other Broncos who are set to become restricted free agents are Elvis Dumervil, Chris Kuper, Matt Prater, and Kyle Orton, all of whom would net the Broncos a second round pick at the very least if any team decided to offer them a ridiculous contract.
In the case of Elvis Dumervil, the return package could be enormous, maybe even bigger than Brandon Marshall's. With the recent reports that Joey Porter wants out of Miami, and Jason Taylor likely not playing in this league much longer, it's been rumored that Miami will have significant interest in Dumervil. The fact that Miami's defensive coordinator is Mike Nolan, the man whose 3-4 scheme made Dumervil the NFL's top sack artist, makes them a likely suitor.
Chris Kuper could be on the radar of teams like Houston and Washington, or those who still employ the zone blocking system. Matt Prater will catch the eyes of teams looking for a powerful kicker who has greatly improved his accuracy and consistency on kickoffs.
With an uncapped year looming, the Broncos have many decisions to make, and some will be tougher than others. Among the restricted free agents, the two who currently will demand the most money on the open market are WR Brandon Marshall and DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil.
Denver is likely to tender both players the highest possible amount, which is around 2.6 million dollars. If any team decided to offer either player a contract and Denver chooses not to match, they will be compensated with a first and third round pick.
Will Denver unload any of these players in hopes that a high draft pick can improve their team, or will they look to a sign-and-trade for veteran players? Here are five players who could be traded this offseason, and what trades make sense for the Broncos to get better as a team.
1. Brandon Marshall
As I said before, let the bidding war begin for this guy. If Denver gets an offer they can't refuse, they won't refuse it. What kind of an offer would be considered one they cannot refuse? I like a variety of different options here, and we'll go with ESPN.com's list of potential suitors as an outline for any potential situation.
This is a tough spot here. Cleveland's current first round pick (7th overall) is likely going to be too high for them to want to include multiple picks for Marshall. If the Browns were willing to trade the 7th pick as well as defensive lineman Shaun Rodgers, I think the Broncos would oblige to that trade and try to move down from either 7 or 10/11 to acquire extra picks.
The Bucs need a big receiving threat to compliment last year's first round pick Josh Freeman. I don't think the Bucs would part with the 3rd overall pick, nor do I think the Broncos would be interested. One scenario I like has the Bucs giving up their second round for Marshall, in addition to some extra picks. A trade I like from this team has a return of both 2nd round picks (35th, 42nd), a 2011 3rd round pick, and a 5th round pick.
People keep saying that Bill Parcells doesn't trade a bunch of picks for diva wide receivers, and that may be the case. However, Miami needs a top tier receiver to go with Chad Henne, or their passing game will never flourish. Marshall is from the Florida area, and I think Miami offers an interesting package of their first and third round picks, plus a guy like Philip Merling on the defensive line.
The trade proposal offered here is absolutely ridiculous. Brandon Marshall and the Broncos' first round pick to the Rams for the rights to draft Ndamukong Suh at #1 overall. Not only do I not buy that, it would be absolutely absurd. Denver trades a top ten pick and Brandon Marshall for a five technique? Come on now, people. If the Broncos deal with the Rams, which is unlikely because they don't have extra picks in any of the first three rounds, they would likely have to include a future first round pick in the trade. One possible scenario is Marshall for a future first, their 2nd round pick this year, and a sixth round pick.
This spot is intriguing to me, because the return seems to make sense for both sides. Denver trades Marshall and their first round pick to the Cardinals for WR Anquan Boldin, their 1st round pick (26th), and a 2nd round pick. That way, Arizona moves up high enough to get their QB of the future, and they get a receiver to compliment Fitzgerald.
This seems unlikely on many levels also because Arizona's receiving core is very good without Boldin or Marshall.
While my opinion on the Marshall trade varies by the day right now, I think today this trade is the one that I like the most. Marshall and a third to the Patriots for WR Randy Moss and the latter two of New England's three second round picks. Then Denver turns around and swaps first rounders, including a second rounder with the Cardinals for WR Anquan Boldin.
Having Moss gives Denver a deep threat, and by adding extra second round picks they can deal for another proven commodity. Essentially, this trade nets the Broncos Moss, Boldin, and a 2nd for Marshall and a 3rd round pick.
Any trade from Cincinnati would involve their first and third round draft picks. I'm not exactly sure just glancing over their roster who Denver would want as a veteran, and this doesn't seem like a likely spot anyway.
Seattle doesn't have a third round pick in the up-coming draft, and one trade that has been mentioned is Denver getting its first round pick back along with Deion Branch and his fat contract, and possibly another mid-round draft pick. I personally am not a fan. I think the Broncos would like to add one of Seattle's young linemen, possibly Rob Sims, a first round pick, and a fourth round pick.
This scenario makes sense from a standpoint of Mike Shanahan reuniting with Marshall, and while many will say, "Well Shanahan was going to cut Marshall, so he won't want to trade for him," they couldn't be more wrong. Shanahan refuted those rumors and was a better general manager of this team than that. Shanahan has made blockbuster trades in the past, and I could see him trying to get Marshall from the Broncos but the Redskins have other more pressing needs. If a trade went down, it would likely include the 4th overall pick and a fourth rounder, because Washington does not have a third round pick.
Maybe the most likely of all the landing spots in the AFC, Baltimore has an enticing package to potentially offer the Broncos. Personally, I would like a package of their first and third round picks, as well as guard Marshal Yanda. I think this nets us a nice young guard prospect as well as two high picks, which to me is excellent value.
All of these Marshall trades have varying chances of happening, but I don't think he goes anywhere for anything less than a first and third round draft pick. It becomes a bidding war from then on.
2. Tony Scheffler
I could see Scheffler winding up in a couple of places. Most notably, I think Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Cleveland are all options that have varying degrees of likelihood. Essentially any team looking for a tight end who can stretch the field as a receiver will have Scheffler on their radar.
Since 2006, Scheffler has led the NFL in yards per reception and is one of the better playmakers at his position. In comparison to two prominent tight end's who were recently traded in Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey, Scheffler's 2009 production is quite similar. I don't think the Broncos will get a 2nd and 5th for Scheffler, but I think the bidding will start at a 3rd and 5th for his services. If no team signs Scheffler to an offer sheet, Denver has a very cheap receiving option on their hands.
3. Peyton Hillis
Hillis simply did not fit in McDaniels' offense for whatever reason, which is shocking to many including myself because he is such a versatile performer. His blocking skills seemed to be sub-par, and this offense calls for strong blocking runners.
Hillis would be a great fit in either Houston or Washington, and I think either team would be willing to give up a fourth or fifth round pick. Washington makes a ton of sense to me on multiple levels, mainly because of the arrival of Shanahan. I think Hillis could be on his radar this offseason given their lack of depth at running back.
4. Brandon Stokley
Stokley is a great player, but the Broncos might need to move forward from him. In other words, the future is now. Eddie Royal is ready for a slot receiver role, and Stokley could probably had by some team at a very reasonable price. I think Houston would be an excellent fit for Brandon, and he could make a nice impact in their pass heavy offense.
Houston might be willing to deal Denver a fifth or sixth round pick for Stokley's services.
5. Trade down in round one
This one seems fairly obvious, but this is one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, and Denver would be wise to move down. Their pick currently is either going to be at 10 or 11, and there will be teams late in the first round looking to move up for a player like Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford, Dez Bryant, C.J. Spiller, or a premiere offensive tackle.
The Broncos could choose to keep the pick and take one of those players for themselves, but they need depth at a lot of positions, and would be wise to move down and acquire more picks.
Some teams who may be willing to move up are Green Bay, Baltimore, and Arizona.
Take this for what it's worth--a list of possibilities. I have not heard anything definitive, nor do I claim to have any inside info, but Bronco fans need to be prepared for anything.
Also, I'd love to hear if any of you have other options for trades. I know some have dangled the notion of trading D.J. Williams, which seems unlikely to me but if there is a good offer out there, I don't think there are many players on this team who are untouchable.