Undoubtedly, there are numerous and varied approaches to building a championship-caliber roster. Many of these strategies will be discussed here in the halls of MHR over the upcoming 3 months of the Reloading Season.
One such strategy that I have always enjoyed considering is perhaps one of those least considered or discussed - namely, adding talent and depth to areas of the roster already loaded with them.
Join me for a brief perusal of this concept....
To borrow from the military paradigm, I'd like to discuss this concept in regards to strategy (the long-term view) and tactics (the immediate actions resulting from the strategy).
The strategy of building on already-existing core roster team strengths hopes to capitalize on several key, long term objectives:
- Create two or more foundational team units (ie. offensive skill positions, LB corps, kickers/punters) or combinations of units (ie. pass rushing units (Ends, tackles, rush LB's), running game (OL + RB)) that can then become integral in providing a framework for consistent gameplanning.
- Create an "identity" that the players and coaches can build confidence in and rally around.
- Build depth in positions that provides continuity in both of the above areas.
- Create a long-term, balanced turnover of veterans to up-and-coming players that not only creates a sustainable salary cap impact cycle, but also provides for transfer of habits and team "lore" from player generation to player generation.
- Cause opponents to focus their game-planning on specific areas of the team that, ultimately - due to a level of proficiency possessed by the unit - more often fails than not.
- Provide in-game momentum and whole-season emotional "anchors" due to consistent dominance.
- Create a complementary system, where developing squads have the opportunity to "ride the coattails" of the core of the team.
To draw up a few examples of what I am referring to, consider:
The Pittsburgh Steelers' Front 7 over the past 10-15 years (and probably the next 10-15 years).
The Denver Broncos' offensive line/running game of the mid-90's to around 2003,
The Chicago Bears linebacking corps of the late 60's, and again over the past 6 or 8 years.
Currently, the New York Giants Defensive front four.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneer's, um ..... well .... never mind. You get my point.
I guess from an overarching perspective, I am endorsing a focus on building the team through specific units, as opposed to saying "defense" or "offense". Not exactly a revelation, but somewhat of a different focus in developing a team-building strategy.
And now for the tactics. I am EFX. I have the authority to execute the Denver Broncos' offseason plan. Based on what I have described above, I am going to make every effort to build upon our existing strengths. As to the units of the team that do not fall in the upper tier of the AFC either talent- or performance-wise, I will see about adding some low-cost veteran depth and some young developmental talent, basically asking the veterans to "hold down the fort" and looking for developing players' upside as the entire team relies on our core philosophy that is built around truly dominant units.
So what are those units? In my view, and here is the section of this FanPost where there is perhaps the most room for disagreement, they are:
The Offensive Line / Running game
The Pass Rush
I am going to try to add instant boost and serious depth to these two areas, and address the remainder of the team as described above.
The only current Broncos free agents I am offering contracts to are: Broderick Bunkley (any good pass rush works better with stout run-stoppers at one of the tackle positions), Ryan McBean (who was a surprisingly effective penetrator this season and has shown consistent development throughout his time as a Bronco), Matt Willis (simply because we lack enough bodies at WR), Lance Ball (consistently improving, valuable depth), and Spencer Larsen (quite simply an unsung hero on the Broncos roster), Jason Hunter and Mario Haggan (depth and continuity to surround my pass-rush chess pieces). The rest of them can walk - I don't need them to complete my core philosophy and I want to use my resources to that end.
One more thing about the existing roster - and I think this is a BIG one: Next season we get Ty Warren back. Warren and Bunkley are to form the veteran core of my Pass Rushing unit by freeing up the rushers to do what needs to be done. That's important.
Free agents I am targeting in order to achieve my specific goals are:
Rex Grossman, QB. Really? Yes, really. I think this guy would really do well as a game-ready backup to Tebow who would accept his backup role and yet provide just enough competitive edge to constantly make Tebow feel like he was nipping at his heels. I view him as a "complementary" guy who, with our emphasis on the rushing attack can hold his own for a stretch of games where Timmy T is not available.
Pierre Garcon, WR. I am only grudgingly singing a WR due to a lack of bodies on the roster. In addition to a late-round pick I hope to use on a WR prospect with clear KR/PR capabilities, I need a reliable guy here to stretch the defense and to play some slot. I really wanted to write Brandon Lloyd here, but that road out of town had a one-way sign on it. Additionally, a stretch-the-field guy like this can do wonders for my running game.
And my "Featured Signing" is: Ben Grubbs, OG. Let's get this road-grader on my team and go play some ball. Grubbs gives me a tremendous amount of flexibility on the line. He provides insurance against the possibility of Kuper's injury being career-threatening, and he otherwise displaces Zane Beadles to a backup role, making him an utility guy who can play any position on the line. This, in turn allows me to use Franklin either as a continuing starting RT or to place Beadles there and Franklin becomes my utility and "6th guy" when we have short yardage. In any case, a very strong move to to fortify the OL as a group.
So I am continuing to build my rushing attack and my pass rush. In order to do so, I will target this in the draft. I've got 7 picks. I'm not feeling any upward trades coming on as I like what we have to build with in youth and I am patient about developing my team.
I'm also utilizing a few key philosophies: Don't take RB's too early, understand there are value 'positions' in the draft such as C and TE that are less emphasized and therefore leave high-potential guys in later rounds, and try to find guys with high floors as opposed to swinging for the fences with a high-ceiling, high-risk guy.
I'm also feeling like I am satisfied with the current developmental prospects I have at the TE, LB, and S positions and do not need to invest further resources there until another year plays out and I really see what I've got.
Here we go...
Round 1 - Melvin Ingram, DE. If he develops as I expect him to, he is going to be that "third guy" in the disruptive triumvirate of Miller-Dumerville-Ingram. Has immense potential as a defensive game-changer.
Round 2 - Brandon Boykin, CB. Not only a high-level (but not elite) CB prospect but also an impact KR/PR. Has a ton of game experience and excels on the big stage. Not a bigger cornerback, but very quick/fast. I'd go to battle in 2012 with this rookie, Champ, Goodman, Harris, and Syd'Quan Thompson at CB and feel like I had a good shot at fielding one of the more diverse and effective secondaries in the AFC West. I realize this doesn't play directly to our strengths, but "coverage sacks" certainly boost a pass rush and bottom line is we really do need an influx of talent at CB this year. Oh, and remember how I said I would target a speedy WR/KR? Not necessary now unless the right guy falls.
Round 3 - Robert Turbin, RB. This is a solidly built, run-to-daylight type guy. Not a game-breaker in regards to speed, but a guy who (much like McGahee) can square up and find the gaps and get the needed yards. For a 3-rd rounder, could be impactful as a rookie. This gives us McGahee, Turbin, Moreno, Ball, Fannin, and J Johnson (+ Larsen) competing for the RB position and I think we end up with a very strong group of backs combining power, speed, wiliness, and strength.
Round 4 - Malik Jackson, DE. A long, tall, strong, violent DE prospect with raw mechanics. Perfect guy to work in the rotation during development, provide energy and suddenness later in games, and eventually become a starter on the team.
Round 5a, 5b, and 7: I'd still like to see a pure-bred returner. A C or OG can be had here. Perhaps an unusual QB prospect. Or a beefy, gap-filling DL.
Overall, this approach has gone a long way to assuring our cornerstone attributes of 2012 - strong running and a vicious pass rush - will not only remain intact next year but in fact will progress significantly. These areas play into Coach Fox's philosophies and schemes well, and will provide a good platform to continue to develop our most important position of all - the QB.