We begin our look at the Denver Broncos that are currently free agents - or will be once free agency opens on March 13. Who are they and should the Broncos look to bring them back? We start with arguably the Broncos biggest weapon last season:
Matt Prater, a kicker out of UCF, was acquired off the Miami Dolphins practice squad. Prater just finished his fifth season in the NFL. The last four have been a full time role all with the Broncos. Prater is known for the very strong leg he possesses showing the ability to hit from 60 yards out and possibly even further due to the high altitude in Denver.
|2011 - Matt Prater||16||0 - 0||5 - 6||8 - 8||3 - 7||3 - 4||19||25||80.0%||30||30||100.0%||87|
Matt Prater made a very strong case for the Pro Bowl this season. His name became well known throughout the league for his late game heroics, hitting game winning or tying kicks in the fourth quarter or overtime. Prater kicked clutch tying/winning field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime this season against Miami, San Diego, Minnesota, and Chicago, including one from 59 yards out at the end of regulation. Matt Prater became only the second kicker in NFL history (Mike Vanderjagt vs Broncos) to tie a game with a 50+ yard field goal and then kick another 50+ yard field goal to win it.
Prater made $1.8 million in 2011, and the Broncos could decide to use the Franchise Tag should negotiations on a long-term deal stall. Prater's past run-in with the law could lead the Broncos to go this route as well. Franchise Tag calculations have changed in 2012, with the League now using the average of the Top-5 players at each position over the past 5 seasons - not just last season. That means the Tag number will be significantly lower in 2012 than it was in 2011. Phil Dawson of the Cleveland Browns was tagged last year and made $3.25 million. If the Broncos tag Prater, he would be looking at a payday in the $2.6 to 2.7 million range.
WHAT TO DO?
In my opinion, Matt Prater is one of the, if not the most, important player for the Broncos to re-sign this season. While Tim Tebow rightfully received much of the praise for the Broncos turnaround, it is hard to ignore Prater's impact on the Broncos AFC West Championship season. Denver had the fortune of watching one of the great kickers of all time - Jason Elam - kick for a majority of his career, and Prater has come in and kept the line of successful kickers going for the Broncos. Matt Prater would be a tough loss, and when push comes to shove will be with the Broncos one way or the other when the 2012 season starts.