Hi to everybody, this is my first post on MileHighReport.
Not being English mother language, I guess there will be some grammar mistake around the post…sorry for that!!!
Here is my analysis of Broncos talent and roster situation for the three most glaring positions of need towards 2012 Free Agency and Draft:
1. Defensive Tackle
Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas are unrestricted free agents.
I think the Broncos are wishing to bring back one between Bunkley and Thomas. I think that they’re prepared to pay Bunkley; what makes his re-sign little bit less obvious could be the additional payment that the re-signing him after a playoff appearance it would means for 2012 draft. In fact the trade with the eagles involved a Broncos 2012 draft pick. It remain to be seen if the draft pick depends on number of snap played by Bunkley, playoff participation and/or re-signing of the player. If re-signing him will increase significantly the values of the draft pick to give to the eagles, it’s also possible that the Broncos would give up on him and will re-sign Marcus Thomas, although he played good but not great this year. In my opinion Bunkley played really well against the run, played tough during the whole year and also has a sack finally during the playoff game against Pittsburg. A run stuffer like him is absolutely necessary since Oakland and Kansas City have primarily running offense (and great ones) and San Diego has a really good backfield that worked really well when Rivers didn’t screw it with terrible mistakes.
Like every other Broncos fan, I also would like the FO to find a pass rushing DT, that could start with Bunkley at any snap and give the Broncos a loaded pass rushing corps, but I’m not a general manager, neither a coach that could evaluate what a player could bring to the table and which areas of his playing could be developed.
I won’t be shocked if next year starters will be again Bunkley and Thomas, hoping that, in these case, Denver won’t overpay for Thomas.
It would be interesting also to know what Denver think they could get out of Ty Warren. Are now 2 years in a row that the former Patriot didn’t played a snap. He could be cut or also he could be a great rotational addition in the center of the defensive line. After 2 years on I/R, I don’t think he could have the athletic ability to start, but if the coaches see in him some pass rushing ability, he could be plugged in sometimes to create havoc in the opposite backfield.
Ryan McBean was the surprise of McDaniels first year (or probably Nolan year at defensive coordinator). Then in 2010 he lost his starting job to Vickerson and this past year he get back playing a rotational defensive tackle position and getting 4 sacks during the season (the only 4 sacks cumulated by the whole defensive tackle group). He is a restricted free agent, I see him in Denver training camp fighting for a role in the roster.
McBean will probably fight with Vickerson, that had a good year in 2010 then played at the beginning of the season before an injury put him on I/R for the rest of the year. I don’t recall any play from him anyhow, so he will be back in training camp competing for a role on the team with McBean.
Unrein will likely compete too, but if the team bring in a new defensive tackle (or re-sign both Thomas and Bunkley) he is the early candidate to not make it. Anyhow he made it this year, when no fan expected it, so I won’t be surprise if he could repeat. If that will happen I would then expect him having a bigger role in the defense and play a significant bigger amount of snaps.
Siliga spent more than half of the season on Denver practice squad. He will be at the training camp to compete.
Cornerback is another interesting position on the Broncos roster.
Starters Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman will be 34 next season. Bailey is still the best player on the Broncos defense (although fortunately it looks that now is a close fight with Dumervil and Miller); Goodman is the scapegoat for the most of the fans.
A part them, Chris Harris played really well last year for an undrafted free agent as nickel cornerback. It still remain to be seen if he will repeat this year (I really do hope) and could even get better (would be a gift for the Broncos).
Syd’quan Thompson was on I/R the whole year, I hope he could recover in time for the training camp after the Achilles tendon rupture the past pre-season. It would be great addition if he could make the team next summer coming back such a devastating injury.
The Broncos brought in Jonathan Wilhite the week before the season started to compete for the nickel back duties. He lost out to Chris Harris and will be a free agent this March. I don’t think the Broncos will bring him back.
Tony Carter is a late season addition as insurance against CB injuries. He will compete in training camp.
Cassius Vaughn started 2 games when Bailey was injured, he wasn’t a disaster but after that he too lost out to Chris Harris for the nickel back role. He also has value as kick returner. I think He will be on the team again on opening day; his special team ability will keep him in, a further development as a cornerback could be good for the broncos to build the desired depth, but keeping him as 4th cornerback could be good, given the experience he gained this year before he went down injured.
Resuming, my prediction for the CB position it includes one addition through draft or free agency, although I think that there won’t be many free agent that will accept Denver low money offer that are actually better than Goodman. Drafting a good development cornerback in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th round could be the best solution, using Goodman for one more year and letting compete the newest draft addition, Harris and Vaughn for being his successor. I would still love Squid to stick around.
3. Inside Linebacker
This is the most interesting situation on the Denver roster, IMO.
Joe Mays, this year starter is an unrestricted free agent. Mario Haggan, his first replacement on the Broncos depth chart, also. Neither of them would probably back with the Broncos next year if coaches believe and develop Nate Irving, last year 3rd round pick. Mike Mohammed, last year 6th round pick, could be in the mix too for a spot in the roster as inside linebacker.
Joe Mays plays his heart out and he is good against the run, at times fantastic, but is only a two downs linebacker. The Broncos glaringly need a stout and sound team leader at inside linebacker since they parted ways with Al Wilson. Mario Haggan is a great team player but is not the answer at this position.
Could Nate Irving be “the guy” for the Broncos? I think Broncos fan would have a better perspective of the coaches opinion at the inside linebacker position when the free agent period will start.
Panther’s free agent Dan Connors will be on the market and on his way for starting duties in Denver. Also Denver could re-sign Mays.
If Connors will be signed, Mays won’t be back and Irving will be developed for depth.
If Mays re-signs Connor won’t be brought in and Irving will get his shot at starting duties in training camp, having Mays on the roster as insurance. This could be my preferred solution because it could allow Inving to develop in a leader and be the starter someday.
Between the other free agents, few are better than Mays and will demand a lot more money than him, I don’t see the Broncos to sign Tullock, for example, also because if Detroit let him go it would mean that he would sign for playing in the third team in three years, not a great indicator for leadership.
Denver, with the 25th pick in the first round could easily draft a new inside linebacker. Again the position requires intangibles, physical skills and football knowledge that all together are rare to find from day one in a young player. When they are there, the guy is being draft in the top 10. At 25, do the Broncos really would find a first day starter that is better already than Mays and Irving? Let’s hope the scouting department has done his homework.
My prediction is that Denver will sign Dan Connor for a two/three years contract and let him be the starter the first year and then battling with Irving during 2013 summer training camp.