I was recently asked for my opinion on the offseason acquisitions that our Denver Broncos need to address; and whether they should do so via the Draft or Free Agency. The additions from 2011 have bolstered the depth and upgraded the quality of personnel of the team as was evidenced by the improvement to 9-9 from 4-12 a mere year ago. That is not to say that there isn't room for improvement because there is always room for any team to get better. Because an NFL roster is organic--it lives, breathes and ages--it is necessary to keep adding fresh meat to feed the animal. Taking into consideration, age and positional salary, i.e. the amount spent on one positional grouping, here are my thoughts starting with the Offense.
The 5 Starters aren't going anywhere of course and the Broncos should be getting ready to negotiate with Ryan Clady's agent, Joe Linta very soon. The remaining players that are tied to the team are:
Tony Hills, Age: 27, 4th year. 9/6/2011: Signed a two-year contract.
Chris Clark, Age: 26, 2nd year. 2011: $405,000, 2012: Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Ryan Harris, Age: 26, 5th year. 2012: $700,000, 2013: Free Agent
Adam Grant, Age: 25, 1st year. On 1/16/2012: Signed a reserve/future contract. Terms unknown.
Russ Hochstein, Age: 34, 11th year. Russ made $865,000 in 2011. To re-sign Russ, he would make at least $925K as a minimum salary under the new CBA.
Manny Ramirez, Age: 28, 5th year. Manny's salary numbers weren't revealed, but he signed a Futures contract at the beginning of 2011. The league minimum for a 5th year player in 2012 is $700K if he is re-signed.
Summary: The approximate amount spent on the (Offensive Line Base Salaries only) was roughly $9.8Million on the starters and another $3Million for the backups. For 2012, there is a minimum $9.5Million locked up in salaries. We know at least one more player needs to be accounted for at the end of Training Camp this year and a few of these players won't make the final roster. My gut feeling is that Ryan Harris will be the swing man at Tackle for 2012. Chris Clark may stick on the roster, but the team will need to find a backup at Guard and Center. Russ Hochstein filled that position last season. I would like to see another lineman brought in whether it was another veteran or a draftee to develop. The Guard/Center backup position could definitely be improved.
Virgil Green, Age: 23, 1st year. 2011 Salary: $375K, 2012: $465K
Julius Thomas, Age: 23, 1st year. 2011 Salary: $375K, 2012: $465K
Daniel Fells, Age: 28, 4th year. Dante Rosario, Age: 27, 5th year. The salaries for these two veterans weren't revealed, but their minimum wage for 2010 would have been $685K each.
Cornelius Ingram, Age: 26, 2nd year. Ingram was a 5th round draft pick by the Eagles in 2009 out of Florida. He was a part of the 2006 BCS Championship, but missed out in their 2008 Championship because of torn ligaments in his leg. He tore the ACL in the same leg in 2009 and has ridden the Practice Squads of the Eagles and Lions before being signed to a Futures contract a few weeks ago.
Summary: With Green and Thomas, there is depth for development. I'd have to say Ingram is a long shot to make the team due to his injuries. I would like to see Fells re-signed because I believe he has earned it. Rosario had more a more visible impact on Special Teams, but has shown to be versatile. Personally, I'd re-sign both of them because of their experience and the affordable salary, but if not, a veteran should be acquired to at least give the young players competition for the starting spot. Yes, a good receiving Tight End is of high value to a young Quarterback, but throwing money at a Blue Chipper like Jermichael Finley, who is likely to be Franchise tagged. There are a few 2nd-tier TE's available such as Martellus Bennett or Joel Dreesen that could prove sufficient to replace Fells, Rosario or both. John Carlson is also available, but I believe he wants to stay in Seattle.
Willis McGahee, Age: 30, 9th year. On 7/30/2011, Willis signed a four-year, $9.5 million contract.
Knowshon Moreno, Age: 24, 3rd year. 2011: $1 million, 2012: $855,000, Free Agent in 2015.
Jeremiah Johnson, Age: 24, 2nd year. 2012: $465,000. 2013: Exclusive Rights Free Agent.
Mario Fannin, Age: 24, 1st year. 7/26/2011: Signed an undisclosed contract and injured in Training Camp. Spent the season on Injured Reserve. On 7/28/2011, Mario signed an undisclosed contract. The deal included a $10,000 signing bonus.
Lance Ball, Age: 26, 3rd year. 2011: $405K. Currently an Exclusive Rights Free Agent. His minimum salary will be $615K in 2012.
Xavier Omon, Age: 26, 3rd year. On 1/16/2012, Xavier signed a reserve/future contract.
Summary: Behind McGahee this position is thin and needs to be addressed. Knowshon Moreno appeared to be on his way to a productive season before he was injured. Still, he is not the big grinder that John Fox usually has in his stable. Lance Ball will return as an ERFA and is suitable for depth at his salary. Jeremiah Johnson and Mario Fannin are largely unknown quantities that will get an opportunity in Training Camp. Spencer Larsen is a Free Agent and a decision needs to be addressed for the Fullback spot. Omon is a player who is on his last chance with Practice Squad eligibility and I feel his last opportunity in the NFL.
By my count there are at least 30 Running Backs to be had in Free Agency this year(after March 13th). Another big bruiser like Mike Tolbert would greatly enhance the Denver running game, and would be cost effective. He is 26 and coming off a rookie contract that paid him around $400K last season. The Chargers are going to re-sign Jacob Hester instead and let Tolbert walk so he will be available. It will be interesting to see who EFX drafts also since I think they will select a Back in this years draft.
Demaryius Thomas, Age: 24, 2nd year. 2011: $1,637,500, 2012: $1.965 million.
Eric Decker, Age: 24, 2nd year. 2011: $405,000, 2012: $490,000.
Matt Willis, Age: 27, 4th year. 2011 Salary: $480,000, 2012: Restricted Free Agent
D'Andre Goodwin, Age: 24, 1st year. 1/10/2012: Signed an undisclosed contract.
Mark Dell, Age: 22, 1st year. 7/28/2011: Signed an undisclosed contract. The deal included a $10,000 signing bonus.
Tyler Grisham, Age: 24, 1st year. 1/16/2012: Signed a reserve/future contract.
Greg Orton, Age: 25, 1st year. 1/16/2012: Signed an undisclosed contract.
Tim Toone, Age: 26, 1st year. 1/16/2012: Signed a reserve/future contract.
Summary: The Broncos have two young starters to build around in Thomas and Decker. Eddie Royal should get an offer to stay, but my guess is that he will test the market as well. There is money available to spend here and Royal should be kept if the price is right. Matt Willis is the senior citizen of the group at the ripe old age of 27, so there is plenty of youth here. The Broncos don't need to spend a draft pick here. However, they can afford, age and salary-wise, to bring in a Free Agent. I don't believe they will go after a top-tier guy though, and with Thomas and Decker they don't need to. But a solid #3 Receiver would round out this unit. A guy like Laurent Robinson would make a fine addition here. He made $685k in 2011 with the Cowboys.
Tim Tebow, Age: 24, 2nd year. 2012: $1,942,500. Free Agent in 2015.
Adam Weber, Age: 24, 1st year. 1/16/2012: Signed an undisclosed contract.
Brady Quinn, Age: 27, 5th year. 2011 Salary: $700,000.
Summary: Tebow will go into Training Camp as the starter. Weber is a developmental project who had a good Camp last summer. Denver must bring in some competition for Tebow who can push for the starting spot or become an effective backup and it is questionable whether Brady Quinn will stay. I believe we will see the Broncos bring in a Free Agent if Quinn leaves and also use a draft pick on a Quarterback. If the Broncos are committed to Tebow though, I say bring in Mark Brunell. He is a lefty and has plenty of experience to mentor Tim. If he has to come in as a replacement during a game, Mark has the ability to adapt and ad-lib if needed.
That's it for the Offense. I will get to the Defense this afternoon. Until then...