Mocks are a little useless until after we see how free agency goes. The front office can shore up a lot of holes in free agency or create them for that matter, depending who they sign or don’t resign. For instance, everyone assumes we resign Clady to a long-term contract or use the franchise tag on him at the very least. But what if the unthinkable happened and we let Clady go? Suddenly there is a massive hole at left tackle to fill. All the mock drafts would suddenly jump on this and have us taking whoever is left on their big board at left tackle at #28.
So what I would like to do is discuss who we should be targeting in free agency. Legitimately. No Revis Island, no Dashon Goldson, no Cliff Avril. These guys would break us. We have $20 million to play with (more if we cut a couple of players, more on that later) and we have to lock up Ryan Clady to a long-term deal which will be in the $10 million a year ballpark. So we got $10 mill left, and we are not going to break the bank for a malcontent like Revis.
First things first, we’ve got to cut some guys loose. Lance Ball, Chris Clark, Chris Gronkowski and Britton Colquitt are restricted free agents. I think we extend a tender to Britton Colquitt as he was third in net punting last season. Chris Clark I would low-ball and if he signs for a minimum, great, we got a camp body. If not, see ya! Lance Ball and Gronk are done. We need to get better at running back and these two are boat anchors. We need to bring in a couple of guys and Gronkowski is expendable with Jacob Hester on the roster.
Next, let’s look at our own free agents. I would not resign Tracy Porter. His concussion issues and his overall play make him expendable. Same with Ty Warren. He has not contributed at all in the two (three??) years he has been here. He was cut by New England for being injury prone and he has certainly validated that claim here. Matt Willis is gone, too. The next guy is a tough one. Justin Bannan is 33. He played very well for us in 2012, but we need some serious push up the middle and as good as Bannan is against the run, he can’t rush the passer effectively. Keith Brooking filled in well at the gaping hole at middle linebacker, but he showed his age as well and we have to find a better option via the draft and free agency.
I would get Clady resigned to a long-term contract. Make an offer to Britton Colquitt. Offer to bring back Brandon Stokley, Dan Koppen, Jim Leonard and David Bruton at one year veteran minimum contracts. Stokely can provide depth at WR in Caldwell’s place, Koppen can provide depth at center and guard as he did this year when JD Walton went down with injury. Leonard provides sure hands as a punt returner, and depth at safety. Bruton as a special teamer and back-up safety.
Kevin Vickerson needs to be brought back with a new contract. He did well after putting on some weight and is still young enough to be part of the future.
There is some cuts that need to be made. The first guy to go has to be Joe Mays. He signed a three year, $12 million contract. He will make $4 million in 2013. I have said it several times but am going to say it at least one more time, it wasn’t a coincidence that we started winning the week after Mays went down to a season-ending injury. He’s a hard hitter, but cannot cover. He might be OK in a 3-4 system, but is not a 3 down backer in a 4-3. The way I read the contracts, we are on the hook for $500,000 of his 2013 salary and ⅔ of his signing bonus. So his cap number is $833,333.00. That frees up $3.16 million.
Caleb Hanie. I don’t believe that he’s the answer if Manning goes down. I would cut him. He’s due $1.25 million in 2013 and his cap number is zero.
D.J. Williams is due $6 million in 2013 but Wesley Woodyard has supplanted him as the weakside linebacker and he has made it clear he doesn’t like to play the Mike. With Von Miller as the Sam, that doesn’t leave him anywhere to start and $6 mill is waay too expensive to pay a back-up. He takes a cut in pay, or he’s cut. He’s less than a million in cap money and that’s $5.05 million we can use somewhere else. I would look very hard once he did take a cut in pay at trading him to someone with linebacker needs.
I was in favor of Matt Prater’s new deal last summer. He was a sure-thing kicker with a bazooka for a leg. This year he was a head-case. He missed a bunch of easy kicks during the season, but didn’t cost us a game until Baltimore. His miss was the difference between playing New England for a Super Bowl berth and golfing. I would be talking very intently with his agent about revisiting his $2.5 million salary as well as bringing in an undrafted free agent kicker to camp for competition.
Andre Caldwell was nowhere to be seen this year. His cap number is $100,000 (half of his signing bonus), he’s due to make $900,000 in 2013. If I’m the front office, I’m drafting a WR and we have Gerell Robinson and Greg Orton on futures contracts that I want to see what they bring to the table.
According to my calculations, even without renegotiating Prater’s contract, we just freed up $10.26 million to add to our $20 mill rollover. So we have approximately $30 million to play with. Clady is going to take up about $10 million of that, depending on how they load his contract.
We’ve got our Big Kahuna Peyton Manning and our QB of the future in Brock Osweiler. If they feel they need a quality veteran back-up, then we need to look at someone like Drew Stanton or Jason Campbell. The problem here is that both of these fellows (as well as most other good veterans) is they want to be the starter and not many free agent QBs are going to want to sit back and hold a clipboard for a guy who, before he missed the 2011 season due to neck surgery, was the only guy who was in the running to reach Brett Favre’s iron man record of continuous games started. I understand the FO wanting to have a backup last year in case Manning’s neck wasn’t up to snuff, but I think going forward I would do without 3 QBs on the roster.
I would spend a mid-round draft pick on a big, MaGahee style running back and would look at Chris Ivory in free agency. He’s 25, shown some great ability with the Saints, the only problem with Ivory is he is a RFA and the Saints can match what we offer. That being said, the Saints are 20 million over the cap and will have to do some cutting. There’s been some talk of grabbing Steven Jackson, but the last I read, he was looking seriously at retiring if the Rams didn’t renew his contract and he has a lot of miles on him.
I’d like to see us wait and see if a team offers Tim Tebow a place as a QB. I suspect no one will bite and Denver should then take the opportunity to offer him a position as a running back. I know just stating this I’ve probably lost 90% of Mile High readers, but I’ve thought for some time that he needs to change positions. At 6’3” and 240 lbs, Tebow would make a hell of a running back as well as a wildcat QB if we were so inclined to run the wildcat.
Still ducking behind my computer screen to shield me from all the bullets of outraged Bronco fans, I quickly change the subject. We have 4 TEs in Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green and Julius Thomas. Tamme and Dreessen did very well in the clutch last year and both have 2 years left on their contracts. Green showed excellent blocking skills and some catching ablility. I will be interested to see if Thomas makes the grade, or if they bring in another TE to replace him. I don’t see much change at this position from 2012,
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker made huge strides with Manning this year and I look forward to see how much better they can get. With Willis and Caldwell gone, and Stokley getting old, I hope we draft another receiver. We have Trindon Holliday for return duties as well as I hope we see him more in the passing game. We also have Gerell Robinson and Greg Orton on futures.
As far as free agency goes, Wes Welker is going to want a pile of money and he is getting old at 32. He is also in the Top 5 in the league in drops. Too much money, too old and too many drops. There’s been discussion about bringing Austin Collie in. This makes some sense as he had a great repore with Manning in Indy, but he has had huge concussion problems in the last couple of years. Danny Amendola has been mentioned as well. I don’t know much about him except that he has had injury problems in the past. My preference would be to look at bringing in Johnny Knox of Chicago for a look-see. Our old friend Jabbar Gaffney is available as well.
We’ve got Orlando Franklin at RT, we lock up Ryan Clady long-term at left tackle, Zane Beadles at left guard and Chris Kuper at right guard. J.D. Walton at center with Koppen and Phillip Blake as back-ups. Justin Boren (G) Quentin Saulsberry (C) and Paul Cornick (T) were signed to future contracts. We have Phillip Blake and Manny Ramirez as back-ups at Guard. I would look at King Dunlap of Philidelphia as a back-up tackle and draft someone at guard. Depending on how Kuper’s offseason surgery and rehabilitation goes, I would take a serious look at Donald Thomas of New England. He’s 27 and hasn’t got a lot of playing time behind Logan Mankins and Dan Connelly, but when he’s played, he’s done well. Not having been a starter, he should come at a decent price.
This is our biggest hole on defense. Brooking is too old, Mays sucks, and Nate Irving and Steven Johnson haven’t shown they can handle the position. I hope this is the year Irving breaks out and grabs the bull by the horns, but you can’t count on that. I would look at drafting a guy in the first two rounds for this position.
But just to make sure I have a guy who can do the job I would be looking hard in free agency. Brian Urlacher is done. Stick a fork in him. He’s old, and he had a terrible year on a very good defense. I like Dannell Ellerbe, but the Ravens will probably franchise the guy and he will cost a bundle either way. Brad Jones is probably the best ILB available, but Green Bay isn’t going to let him go and he will command big bucks. Chase Blackburn might be a possibility but he’s 30 and he might not be much of an upgrade over Brooking.
We shored up our run defense in 2012. What had been a gaping hole for running backs turned into one of the top defenses in the NFL. We resign Kevin Vickerson, and draft another DT. We have Unrein, Siliga, and Malik Jackson for rotation. Free Agents like Henry Melton are going to command some serious money. Someone a few weeks ago mentioned signing Richard Seymour and I like this move. Bring in Seymour for a modest amount and let him push up the middle of the line while Derek Wolfe bulks up. I see Wolfe as a DT, as he has most of his success there, but that may be a season away still.
We have Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Derek Wolfe, and Jeremy Beal (Jason Hunter is a FA). We are pretty set at DE. Our problem isn’t getting a rush on the outside, it’s the rush up the middle that is killing us. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing us look at Osi Umenyiora. He getting up there at 31, but might be a relatively cheap FA pickup and could give us another pass rushing piece on the board.
Yeah, Champ is getting old. But as Bronco Mike’s post on Champ showed, he’s still a Top 10 cornerback. Do we need to address cornerback. Yes, I think so. I’d like to see a draft pick this year as well as some free agent help. Chris Harris is a fantastic nickel and a pretty good #2, but we need to look to the future. I hope we can resign Tony Carter, but he may ask for more money than he is worth and that leaves us short (as we have already not resigned Porter). We have Omar Bolden as back-up and Mario Butler on futures.
Out of Pro Football Focus’ top 20 in first downs allowed, there are 4 who are free agents: Sam Shields, Adam Jones, Robert McClain and Chris Houston. Shields and McClain are RFAs and I guarantee those teams will be matching almost any offer they get. Adam Jones played nickel for the Bengals and is, of course, the infamous PacMan Jones of Las Vegas strip club fame and he’s turning 30 in September. He’s got his head screwed back on, but I’m not sure we would take a flyer on him. The guy I’d like to see us take a look at is Chris Houston of the Lions. He’s 28, and is pretty good. He would come at a better price than Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and others. Greg Toler of Arizona might be another worth looking at.
We’ve got Mike Adams and Rahim Moore as starters and Jim Leonard and David Bruton as back-up. Quinton Carter is coming back from IR and we have futures with Blake Gideon and Duke Ihenacho. I don’t think Mike Adams is the answer, but he’s got just one more year on his contract and some of the young bucks might beat him out. He’s playing a $2 million a year with roster bonus and his cap number is $1 million. I think we let him play out his contract to see whether the young bucks have got what it takes to take his job. Besides which, if the mainstream media is right, we’ll have Champ Bailey at safety next year… Not!
I thought we were set at kicker at the start of the year after Matt Prater signed a four year, $13 million deal. Matt’s 2012 was all guaranteed, but going forward he’s due to make 2.5 million and his cap number is 2.25 million (3 of 4 years worth of $3 mill signing bonus) if cut, so we’re kind of stuck with him. Maybe we should have kept Steven Hauschka (who incidentally is a free agent this year). I would like to bring someone in, free agent or undrafted free agent to compete with Headcase Prater and give him a go.
I was relatively happy with Britton Colquitt this year. He did alright for us in the punting game. He was 3rd in the league in net punting, but could have dropped more punts inside the 20 for my taste. His brother Dustin is a free agent this year as well, but is 3 years older (31), not nearly as good in net punting but had the 2nd most punts inside the 20.