For the first time in a long time, I feel like football is on the horizon. With news breaking last week that Roger Goodell, the owners, DeMaurice Smith, and the players met privately to try to work out the lawsuit, I have been filled with a hint of optimism. Now, there is still a long way to go and things could easily fall apart again, but I think there is a decent shot that there could be football before the 4th of July.
I sure hope so because the lack of football news is killing me. I've been meaning to write a Broncos post lock out plan, but I just haven't been able to muster the enthusiasm to write one. However, with the recent turn of events, I've mustered just enough to write out a full detailed post-lockout plan. "A mock free agency", if you will. So get out your reading glasses and bring back that Mile High spirit. It's time to talk Broncos football
First, the rules. It's impossible to know the rules of free agency until they are actually in place. The players want 4 year free agency. The owners want 6 years. Let's just assume that the players get their wish and their is 4 year free agency. This would effect the Broncos significantly because this would mean the Broncos would lose Marcus Thomas, Ryan Harris, and Wesley Woodyard. So with the rules being set at 4 years, lets take a look at a course of action.
Marcus Thomas, Defensive Tackle
Thomas is a nice, young player who quietly had a very nice year for us despite all the controversy and poor play. He is a natural fit as a 4-3 DT and it just so happens we need one of those very badly. I don't think there is a chance that we let Thomas go. We'll overpay if we have to. He's a big boy (6 ft 3, 315 pounds) and he is young (25 years old). He should be one of the top priorities for EFX once Free Agency opens.
Justin Bannan, Defensive Tackle
I still have no idea why we cut Bannan. It was a stupid move and we might have to overpay to get him back, but he's a good, solid veteran who could be a rotational DT for us. He's a Colorado native. He was with us last year and he is originally from Colorado. He had a very good year for us last year. He doesn't have a great pass rush and his stats will back that up, but he's still a good contributor who can give you good minutes. I just hope he isn't bitter enough to go somewhere else.
Cullen Jenkins, Defensive Tackle
We aren't going after Cofield. We aren't going after Mebane. I have a feeling we will go after a Cullen Jenkins type a player. By that I mean, a good veteran who won't cost too much, but will still be a productive starter for our defense. Jenkins won a rings with the Packers last year so he has the experience. The 6 ft 2, 305 pound defensive tackle is not expected to return to the Packers. Jenkins would give the Broncos a solid 4 man rotation with Vickerson, Thomas, Bannan, Jenkins along with whatever rookie they will pick up in undrafted free agency.
Wesley Woodyard, Linebacker
I love Woodyard. He's an energetic, versatile player and a leader. Even though the Broncos spent 2 early picks on linebackers, Woodyard should still be retained. He will probably be kept as a backup Will and Mike linebacker, but his main role will be on special teams where he became a captain for the Broncos. He would be a great guy for Mike Mohammad and Nate Irving to learn the ropes from.
Jake Delhomme, Quarterback
Now, Jake is still under contract with the Cleveland Browns. However, I think it is just a matter of time before they cut him. Colt McCoy is the clear winner to be the starter and they also have Seneca Wallace there as a veterab back up. Cleveland really has no use for Delhomme and I think they will cut him. If and when they do, I think Denver is the perfect spot for Delhomme to come and be the veteran backup to Tebow. Now, this of course is all based on the assumption that Kyle Orton gets traded, but I believe that to be a matter of time. Too many teams need QB's and I think someone is going to offer Denver a very good deal for Orton.
Le'Ron McClain, Running Back
Knowshon has not lived up to his draft status, Buckhatler is old, White is coming off an injury, and Ball is a question mark. It is clear that the Broncos need help at the position. While many people have the Broncos picking up DeAngelo Williams, I do not think the Broncos are going to spend the amount of money it would take. McClain is a versatile, physical back that would compliment Knowshon nicely. On top of being a talented bruiser, he is also one of the leagues best fullbacks. He could play fullback on some downs and running back on others. He has been wanting a bigger role on offense in Baltimore for awhile. He would definitely get more touches in Denver. He is a tough player who I would love to see in orange and blue.
Undrafted Free Agents
Courtney Smith, WR, Southern Alabama
Smith is a player that turned a lot of heads at the Senior Bowl. With his 6 ft 4, 225 pound body, it was hard not to. The Broncos paid some attention to him during the pre-draft stuff and he would make for a solid pick up. The Broncos already have, in my opinion, one of the deepest WR corps in the league and they could get even deeper with Smith.
Graig Cooper, RB, Miami
I've watched a bit of film on Cooper and whoever picks up Graig Cooper is going to get a steal. Cooper should have been drafted, but he had a torn ACL, ran slowly at the Combine, and teams stayed away from him. However, make no mistake, Cooper is a talented back. He's got some good athleticism and is capable of making some explosive plays. He can be a factor in the pass game too. With Denver's need at RB, it would be a very good move for EFX to pick up Cooper and stash him either as the 4th RB or on the PS.
Vai Taua, RB, Nevada
Taua put up some great numbers at Nevada thanks to the pistol offense. However, it didn't help him enough as he went undrafted. However, he is a very talented back who ran for over 1600 yards in 2010. He was a team leader for the Wolf Pack. He has great vision, is a useful blocker, and can be a receiver out of the backfield. Now, he clocked a slow 40 (4.69) and that lack of speed definitely hurts his pro prospects, but he is definitely worth signing and putting on the PS.
Kyle Hix, OT, Texas
Hix was a 4 year starter for the longhorns. He has played both left and right tackle spots. He is a huge prospect (6 ft 7, 314 pounds) with a lot of starting experience. He has good strength and is an above average run blocker. The problem with Hix is that he lacks athletic ability. He struggles in pass protection and he needs work on his form. Nevertheless, he's a massive guy who can develop into a useful backup. Denver has a need at backup tackle and Hix could be a developmental guy.
Martin Parker, DT, Richmond
Parker made some noise early in the draft process when he played in the East-West Shrine game. I remember writing down his name several times when reviewing the film. Parker is a 6 ft 2, 303 pound DT from Richmond. He displayed good pass rush ability and decent potential as a 3 technique. I'm surprised he wasn't drafted and would love to get him as a developmental D-Lineman for us.
Kendrick Burney, CB, North Carolina
He is small and slow. Those are the two reasons why Burney went undrafted. However, he is a player. He displayed great instincts at the senior bowl and Mike Mayock was raving about this kid. Burney will be a good zone nickel corner who can contribute on special teams as well. He is the Syd'Quan Thompson of the 2011 draft, but he didn't get drafted like Thompson did.
Ryan Donahue, P, Iowa
Last year, we had a brand new starter in Britton Colquitt. He played decent last year. He punted 86 times and averaged 44.6 yard per punt which isn't bad. However, there is nothing wrong with giving him a little competition. Donahue was the starter at Iowa. He's got a huge leg and that's all I got on him. If you want more on him, talk to Sayre.
This is my personal plan for when the lockout ends. All in all, the Broncos are getting 4 defensive tackles, 3 running backs, 1 linebacker, 1 quarterback, 1 wide receiver, 1 tackle, 1 cornerback, and 1 punter. Of course, in real free agency, the Broncos would sign a lot more undrafted free agents and use them as training camp fodder. However, these are just a few of the guys I think we could target once it opens. A few others would include:
Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame
Brandon Blair, DT, Oregon
Ryan Winterswyk, DT, Boise St
Ollie Ogbu, DT, Penn St
Derricke Locke, RB, Kentucky
Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh
Mario Fannin, RB, Auburn
Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Vidal Hazelton, WR, Cincinnati
Schuylar Oordt, TE, Northern Iowa
Kris O'Dowd, C, USC
Adam Grant, T, Arizona
Josh Bynes, LB, Auburn
Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers
and many many more options.
This is just one scenario and things would change drastically if the NFL had 5 years of free agency. Nevertheless, it's just nice to talk some football again. Who you got your eyes on MHR?