In my last post, Overly Premature Predictions! I tried to predict what the starting lineup could look like in 2014. If you read this, you can tell that I'm a huge optimist when it comes to how our players progress, and many of you thought I had a few too many players sticking around this long. The majority is likely right, and we'll see in four years.
But this made think that there are so many factors to roster turnover, some of which can be intertwined, and I'd like to take a look at these and how they have affected the Broncos after the jump.
Everybody gets older, there's no way around that. In the NFL, the definition of "old" is much different than in normal life, as players are often considered old in their 30s, while a few kickers, punters, and quarterbacks stick around into their 40s, and those that do have to be good at what they do. When age is a factor in roster turnover, it can come in a few different forms. The obvious one is retirement, while many times an older player will be released because they aren't as good as they used to be, and a younger player with more potential for the future can perform the same role the older player would fill.
A recent example of how age has affected roster turnover is John Lynch. He was a great safety for the Broncos after he was released by the Buccaneers, and was a four time Pro Bowler while he was here. He was granted his release in July 2008 because he wasn't going to get as much playing time as he would have liked due to declining production with age. He signed with the Patriots, but didn't make their final roster and retired later that year. He is now a commentator for Fox.
This can encompass a number of things, and is often the case when a new coach is brought in. A player can be a bad fit in a new scheme the coach is trying to implement, or maybe their attitude doesn't fit with the mentality that the team is trying to build. The player could be traded or released, depending on how good of a player they are.
Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears in April 2009 after a month-long quarrel with new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels after hearing that McDaniels had considered trading him to acquire former Patriots and current Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. He was traded after it became apparent he wouldn't fit into the team-first mentality McDaniels wanted to install after he wouldn't answer calls from owner Pat Bowlen. Cutler and a draft pick which turned into Johnny Knox were traded for Kyle Orton and draft picks that helped acquire Robert Ayers, Richard Quinn/Seth Olsen, Demaryius Thomas, Tim Tebow, and Eric Decker. (Thanks to ocbroncomaniac and Colinski for the info.) Cutler led the NFL in interceptions in 2009.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but can happen to different types of players. Possibly the most common is the serviceable backup that is good enough to make the team each year, but who isn't irreplaceable. Also common are veteran "patches" that are signed to short-term contracts in the wake of an injury or a player not progressing as expected. This will also happen with players that would be too expensive to keep, or players that are getting older.
When longtime kicker Jason Elam's contract with the Broncos expired after the 2007 season, he did not resign because the Broncos weren't offering what he wanted, and he signed with his hometown Atlanta Falcons. In 2008, he had a really good year, while his replacement in Denver, Matt Prater, was inconsistent. In 2009, however, Elam struggled and was released in the middle of the season, while Matt Prater was having a great year for the Broncos. Elam signed a one-day contract with the Broncos in the offseason and called it a career.
Some players just don't play at the level they are supposed to, be they a starter or backup, and these players are not often kept around in the same capacity, if at all. Being released due to ineffectiveness is often how the career of a backup player will end.
In the wake of Darrent Williams' death, Mike Shanahan traded Tatum Bell, George Foster, and a fifth-round draft pick which later became Johnny Baldwin to the Lions for cornerback Dre Bly and a sixth rounder which was later traded to the Vikings (who used it on Rufus Alexander). Bly spent two seasons in Denver, and he was released after Josh McDaniels was hired. He is currently a free agent after spending a year with the 49ers.
Since football is a contact sport, players get hurt, and some injuries are too hard to comeback from and play football. With older players, injuries often just stack up and their body can't take as much anymore, which is why you often hear about the poor health of retired football players.
After being name Super Bowl XXXII MVP and then NFL MVP, Terrell Davis was plagued by injuries for the rest of his career, notably when he tore the ACL and MCL of his right knee in 1999 while trying to make a tackle after a Brian Griese interception. He retired in the 2002 preseason, and has had trouble getting voted into the Hall of Fame in recent years.
When a player is traded, it is usually because the team is trying to acquire help and they are willing to get rid of the player to do so, another team wants the player and is offering enough for the team to be willing to trade the player, the team is looking to get rid of a player and want to get what they can for them, or some combination of those factors.
In September 2008, the Broncos traded Domonique Foxworth to the Falcons for a conditional seventh round pick, which would have become a sixth rounder had he resigned with the Falcons. The pick was later traded to the Lions, and Foxworth signed a four year, $28 million deal with the Ravens with $16.5 million guaranteed, and he is currently one of their starting cornerbacks.