I know it feels premature, but I thought there was no better way to use the bye week than to mock up an offseason for our Denver Broncos. I thought this would be a quick, easy and fun endeavor. However, I was mistaken. The Broncos have some incredibly difficult decisions to make, plenty of holes to fill, and not a lot of money to do it with. Elway has preached a strategy of building through the draft, but so far, he has largely built through FA. This offseason, however, it is readily apparent that this won't be financially viable forever. As you all know, this offseason, we have UFAs that inculde Decker, Moreno, Beadles, DRC, Woodyard, and Ayers. Next year, that includes Rahim Moore, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Big Vick, Knighton, and Orlando Franklin. That doesn't leave us with a ton of wiggle room, especially when we are viewing ourselves as Super Bowl contenders, and therefore attempting to retain talent. So, without further ado, here's my offseason.
The Current Roster:
*Woodyard should be blue
This of course, is all guesstimate, but with a cap number of around 126 million, we would then add an estimated rollover total of 7 million to get a cap of 133 million. With operating space and rookie contracts, lets assume we're working with around 125 million dollars loosely. According to over the cap (which is where I get most of my cap info), we should be looking at around 109 million to begin the offseason.
As stated above, I want the team to build through a younger and cheaper core while remaining talented enough to chase a super bowl. I also want to make sure I have enough cap space long term to sign Thomas and Miller. I think we need tons of defensive help, especially at DE, LB, SS, and CB if all three of DRC, Champ, and Harris are not retained. On offense, I want an interior offensive lineman, and either Moreno and Decker or someone to replace them.
Clearly, I want some room to maneuver, so my first move is to approach Champ. In this scenario, Champ agreees to a 4 million dollar paycut, which, IMO, is more than market for Champ. Peyton Manning, in some sort of restructure/paycut, helps us get three million off of his cap number this year. That's 7 million less. I then cut Chris Kuper, saving me roughly 4 million, and Jacob Tamme, saving me roughly 3 million. I then trade Joel Dressen for a 7th round pick (to NE? ATL? someone), which saves me 2.5 million, and cut ties with Quinton Carter, saving me 650k. Those cuts save me 10 million. That leaves me with 92 million on payroll, and therefore 33 million to spend.
Retaining our own guys:
Non-UFAs: First up come the Exclusive Rights Free Agents, followed by the Restricted free agents.Our ERFAs are Tony Carter, Duke Ihenacho, and Trindon Holliday. I excersize my rights on Ihenacho and Carter, letting Holliday slip through our grasp. Add KR to the list of offseason needs. Both of our RFAs, Unrein and Harris, should be retained as well. I estimate this whole group costing around 6 million.
UFAs: First and foremost is Eric Decker, Reality TV Star, Strong Believer in passer's interference, and our strongest receiver. Decker, as reported in the Post, will likely warrant a deal approaching 40 million, putting him out of our grasp. Have fun in Carolina Eric! Knowshon, as great as he has been, is likely going to be too pricey for a RB as well. Thanks for the memories! This brings me to Wesley Woodyard, defensive captain, and current backup? I'd love to keep him around, he's good in coverage, a great leader, and epic STer. With his late season demotion, I'd say something like 3 yrs/11 million sounds about right. With Decker and Holliday gone, that leaves us with two WRs on the roster in Decker and Thomas, so at this point, resigning Caldwell is a must. 1 yr @ 1.5 mil should bring Bubba back. Ayers, who has played better this year, also gets brought back on a 1 yr/ 2 million deal. Of course, there are still a few big names unsigned: Zane Beadles, Shaun Phillips, DRC, and Mike Adams to name a few. I figured I only had the money to resign one or two, and looking at the market, our roster, and the individual players, I decided to resign DRC at 3 yrs/22 million, and let the rest walk. So, all in all, I retained DRC, Harris, Unrein, Ihenacho, Ayers, Caldwell, Woodyard, and Carter. This all costs me 20 million year one, leaving me with 13 million to spend, and a depth chart looking like:
Free agency: My first priority was to go out and improve our Offensive line as much as possible, as that is harder to do through the draft. I identified Alex Mack, the Center from Cleveland, as the best and likeliest target, and signed him to a reasonable 4 year/26 million dollar deal, with 6 million in year one. I don't trust Ihenacho as our only SS option, and with Adams gone, we need a vet. So, I signed James Ihedigbo from Baltimore to a 2 yr/ 7 million dollar deal to come start for us. To replace Moreno's veteranny presence, I signed Rashard Mendenhall, who the Broncos wanted last year, to a dirt cheap 1 yr/500k deal. Similarly, Tandon Doss is brought into compete at WR for 750k. That's 11 million in spending there, and I'll leave the rest for rollover.
Mid-Offseason Outlook: The O-Line looks solid now, as Mack is one of the best C's in the league, and in my minds eye, I have Vasquez at LG and ManRam pencilled in at RG, for what looks to be a very solid line. Still would love more depth though. I also managed to fill my safety hole adequately. In doing these two things, however, I've created massive holes at KR, and TE, while also leaving myself dangerously thin at WR and DE. This puts a LOT of pressure on the draft.
|Round 1. Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford|
|Round 2: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford|
|Round 3: Jared Abberdabis, WR, Wisconsin|
|Round 4: Kapri Bibbs, RB, CSU|
|Round 5: Chris Davis, CB, Auburn|
|Round 6: Justin Britt, OT, Mizzou|
|Round 7: Kevin Norwood WR, Bama|
Round 7: Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
|Recap: Elway takes his Stanford boys, who he's seen play live, at the top. Skov, rotating with Woodyard at MLB, is a hard-nosed run stopper, plugging up the middle of the field, and has proved he can play with the fast paced likes of Oregon. Murphy is a great Pass Rusher with a good motor, and is a solid run stopper. He slips in immediately at starter, and enables Del-Rio to be freer in his use of Ayers, Jackson, and Wolfe, as he only has to start one of them. Murphy will be a beast across from Von on passing downs. Abberdabis, from Wisconsin, is a big, fast WR, who under Mannign's tutelage, should learn fast. Norwood is another big WR in the Decker mold, who has been relentlessly clutch for Alabama. These two should thrive under Manning, as there is no shortage of youngsters who he's developed (see Decker, Garcon, or Collie). Kapri Bibbs is a remarkable runner, and can compete with Ball and Hillman for carries. He may be raw as a pass-catcher, but he will certainly get his yards on the ground. Young too. Chris Davis is a clutch player, with a big name. He immediately replaces Trindon on Kick Returns, and has proven he can do it under pressure, which is huge for a young returner. Additionally, he provides young, coachable, and raw, CB depth. Britt is a swing tackle/guard. Lyerla, once considered a top talent, is almost undraftable due to being kicked off of his team for cocaine charges. In round 7 however, the Broncos get an immense talent, that, if motivated enough under Peyton and Co., can make him and Julius a duorivaling that of Hernandez and Gronk.
|Chidera Uzo Direbe, DE, CU|
|Corey Nelson, OLB, Oklahoma|
|Devon Gardner QB, Michigan|
|Kaneakua Friel, TE, BYU|
|Andrew Wilson, LB, Mizzou|
|Shaquil Barret, OLB, CSU|
|Andrew Miller, C, Va Tech|
Review: Here, the Broncos add a sorely needed blocking TE, a backup C (other than ManRam), a solid OLB in Barret, and LB and DL depth. Also, likely too raw to be drafted, Devon Gardner would be a great fit for us. As he is too raw for early playing time, he may well think his best bet is to learn from Peyton and Elway, as well as get a shot at a deep playoff run.
All in all, I think that's a definitely contending team. Plus, I think this squad is younger and better prepared for the future. I'd be thrilled with this offseason: it's under cap, keeps us competitive, doesn't hinder us long term, and acquires some real, young, talent, especially considering our draft position.
What do you guys think?
Also, other things I heavily considered/almost did/did and undid:
Clay Harbor as a backup TE, or keeping one of Tamme and Dressen
Resigning Mike Adams
Signing Britt, Maclin, or Nicks to a one-year value building contract under Peyton
Drafting a 2nd Round Cornerback like Roberson, Purifoy, Everett, or Roby.
Signing Jon Asamoah
Drafting Kelvin Benjamin in the 2nd and trading up for Skov in the third