How's that for a hubristic title eh MHR? Look we're feeling down right now - so lets try a bit of optimism and see how the Denver roster might pan out next year. I will at least try and avoid kneekjerk decisions on the basis of one game last night...
Big caveat. We're almost certainly going to be losing a couple of these players to Free Agency. I'm assuming we stump up the cash for Ryan Clady. Elway knows Manning needs his blind side protected. We can't afford to start again with a new Left Tackle via the draft. Clady will get his big bucks contract, but in doing so we might not be able to overpay for others on the roster. And we're unlikey to be paying lots of money ourselves on free agency.
Some of these slots will be filled out via the draft. Here's my draft wishlist in no particular order.
1. Cornerback - Bailey is getting old, and Carter does not convince me enough yet. Bolden might be ready in a year or two to start, but we need a good nickel as well.
2. Lineman x 2 - Kuper got a lot of flak last night, and we don't know how long we can keeping paying him big money if he's going to be injured a lot. Plus we need depth desperately all along the O-Line.
3. Middle Linebacker - Give Fox some credit - he realized the Joe Mays experiment was not working and switched to Brooking who was more effective, but his lack of speed is an issue. We need a MLB who can assist in pass coverage. I suspect sadly that Keith Brooking has played his last game in the NFL.
4. Defensive Line - The Broncos have the right idea. Get pressure from the front 4 and not get burned by the blitz. We're doing this well - but we could still do with more. I would like to see one more pass rushing DT - this would be worth a high draft pick if such a player is available.
5. Running Back - Not 100% sure on this one - a lot of people at MHR last night were calling for one. Really liked what we saw from Hillman late on - could he and Moreno carry the load going forward with McGahee as backup? Personally I think so - but if a tough running back who can get inside yards is available then that would be worth a punt I think.
6. Wide Receiver - need a slot receiver to take over from Brandon Stokley at some point. I don't think Willis or Caldwell offer enough there to do it. Not a high pick though.
OK so on with the projected roster. I'm running with the numbers as per the 2012 squad.
QB (3) - Manning - Osweiler - Hanie. Only point of limited interest is whether or not Hanie gets competition from a 4th QB. I suspect if he does then he will probably do enough to keep his slot.
RB (5) - Moreno - Hillman - McGahee - Draft Pick - Hester. Hester did enough to keep his FB slot over Gronk. Look for Mario Fannin (IR) to come back and maybe nick one of those slots.
WR (6) - Thomas - Decker - Stokley - Draft Pick - Willis - Holliday. Hopefully Stokley can stick around one more year. He's proved himself all season. Holliday obviously gets a slot here for his return skills.
TE (4) - Dreesen - Green - Tamme - Thomas. No reason to jetison our TE rotation all 3 have played well. As for Julius Thomas well this is his last chance I think this year. If we don't take a RB in the draft perhaps a TE to compete with Thomas for that last slot.
T (3) - Clady - Franklin - Draft Pick. Look for a draft pick here to strengthen depth over Chris Clark.
G (4) - Beadles - Kuper - Blake - Draft Pick. Not ideal, but at least Beadles is getting better. As discussed elsewhere look for Kuper to be gone by 2014. Blake might beat Ramirez out as a backup guard once he is healthy again.
C (2) - Walton - Koppen. Most commentators thought Walton was getting better before his injury. We got a good year out of Koppen and hopefully he can stick around one more year for depth. I honestly have no idea if Blake can beat him out at centre.
Cut/Released : Ball, Gronkowski, Fannin (probably), Caldwell, Clark, Davis, Ramirez
I make that 26 offensive players. Now defence.
DL (8) - Dumervil - Wolfe - Ayers - Draft Pick - Jackson - Beal - Unrein - Vickerson. Really tough to figure this out I got to admit. (McGeorge thinks Vickerson is going to be overpaid in Free Agency by some other team by the way - hope he is wrong!). Also Justin Bannan could keep out Beal although I see the management preferring to go with young draft picks where possible. Going to be a huge roster scrap here I feel. Siliga and Hunter could also push for a slot here.
LB (7) - Miller - Woodyard - Draft Pick - Trevathan - Johnson - Irving - Williams. DJ Williams? He costs a lot but it might be more expensive to cut him. He does offer good athletic skills still. Besides his contract expires next year so lets see how he does in 2013 and then decide. Look for Irving to battle with a high round draft pick for MLB.
CB (5) - Bailey - Harris - T.Carter - Bolden - Draft Pick. Tony Carter is another FA who might be drawn somewhere else. Hopefully we can keep him - he did enough in my view to warrant some effort
S (4) - Moore - Adams - Q.Carter - Bruton. Look for Bruton to be resigned for his ST skills.
Cut/Released - Warren, Bannan, Siliga, Brooking, Mays, Leonard, Porter.
That's 24 players. Finally special teams:
LS (1) - Brewer. We never heard his name and for a long snapper that's a good thing!
P (1) - Colquitt. Played really well and will be rewarded with a nice new contract hopefully.
K (1) - Free Agent. Not seeing much love for Prater right now. Getting paid a lot and could end up paying the price against a free agent in training camp.
So there you go. Obviously its ridiculously early to have a stab at the roster but I don't care! Ignore the post if you don't like the idea. Personally I think its fun to have a think about the shape of our roster next year.
And after last night we need some fun. So lets have your opinions. Who makes the cut and who doesn't? Is there someone out there in free agency who we should pursue at all costs? Is there someone on our practice squad who's going to be the next Mitch Unrein?! And is this a stronger team than the 2012 version? I think so - we have more players who are young and getting better than we have old players who are declining.