After winning day one of free agency, John Elway and the Broncos were at it again on Wednesday, locking up another huge piece to the puzzle and keeping their names in the mix for some other key players. First and foremost, Elway reached a deal with 7-time Pro-Bowler, and Dallas Cowboys all-time sack leader, Demarcus Ware. Ware's deal is a three-year contract, worth $30 million. After making another huge signing, you'd think the Broncos would be done, yet they are still rumoured to be interested and pursuing Ravens linebacker, Daryl Smith, and Panthers receiver, Brandon Lafell, among other players. How is it possible that they have money to pursue these players? Well, because John Elway is a wizard, that's how; despite signing three of the biggest names in free agency, the Broncos still have around $10 million in cap space for the 2014 season. Broncos manager John Elway continues to be nothing short of incredible in his pursuit of a Super Bowl, and Wednesday's proceedings left Broncos fans with a number of reasons to be happy.
1. Demarcus Ware's locker-room leadership
The signing of Demarcus Ware brings the Broncos another legitimate pass-rusher, but it also brings in a new leader to the locker room. Champ Bailey and Wes Woodyard's departures saw two defensive leaders part ways with the team, and Ware's acquisition might signal a changing of the guard. Ware was referred to as someone who had "outstanding character" off the field and as a "cornerstone in the history of the franchise" in Dallas by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; that speaks volumes of the player that the Broncos signed to a three-year deal on Wednesday. In addition to his overall leadership qualities, Ware may have an impact on one young Broncos player in particular.
Ware, on mentoring Von Miller: "I think the main thing is having somebody that's here that's real for him. And I've been that."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) March 12, 2014
@DeMarcusWare looking forward to working with ya big bro! #sack— Von Miller (@Millerlite40) March 12, 2014
Ware has had a hand in mentoring Miller since his career in the NFL began, and now that he will be lining up opposite Miller in the Broncos lineup, he can have an even greater impact mentoring the young star. Having someone of Ware's caliber and character in Denver to mentor Von, as well as other young Broncos defenders will be huge for the development of the defense.
2. Current Broncos are fired up for 2014
Throughout the process of signing Ward, Talib, and Ware, current Broncos players have been chiming in on Twitter, with a unified message: This is going to be a run at the championship, nothing less. First, it was Pot Roast (@mrknighton94) who welcomed safety TJ Ward to the family with a tweet: "@BossWard43 let's get this ship bruh". Secondly, it was Chris Harris Jr. (@ChrisHarrisJr) in disbelief that his friend and college teammate, Aqib Talib was on his way to Denver: "I had to call my Fam Talib to see if it was real. Lol". And last, linebacker Danny Trevathan (@Grindin_59), after the dust had settled on the end of day two: "Salute! Heard some great news Bronco Country. Let's get this Work!!"
My personal favourite Broncos tweet of the day? Kayvon Webster and Chris Harris Jr. sum up how every Broncos fan is feeling after day two:
Oh yea! RT @ChrisHarrisJr: Ooooooooh NO , it's about to get ugly— kwebb (@kayvonwebster) March 12, 2014
3. Von Knighton WareWolfe
Not only does the newest Bronco, Demarcus Ware make the Broncos' defensive line a serious nightmare for offenses, but he also gives the Denver defensive line the best nickname in the NFL. A few of the MHR writers and commenters collaborated on this masterpiece, and I really don't know how it could get any better. This opinion may be slightly biased, but I don't think there's a single nickname in the NFL that surpasses Von Knighton WareWolfe. The name embodies the absolute nightmare that the Broncos defense is going to be for offenses in 2014 and future seasons.
4. Ware still has potential to be dominant
Some didn't understand why the Broncos wanted Demarcus Ware, who is coming off his worst career season, and recently turned 31 years old. Ware missed a game (three, in fact) for the first time in his 9-year career last season, and registered single-digit sacks for the first time since his rookie season in 2005. However, as was pointed out by Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar, Ware's troubles in 2013 could very likely have been due to a change in position. Up until last season, Ware played a linebacker role, something like the hybrid role that Von Miller plays in Denver; however, last season, the Cowboys decided to line Ware up at right defensive end, and the results were not very inspiring. Ware, who is on the smaller side of the defensive end spectrum (like Von Miller) struggled with injuries in 2013, and was unable to be as productive as he had been in the first nine seasons of his career. A change back to the hybrid role that he performed in his first eight seasons in the league could be exactly what Ware needs to be dominant again.
Two things that will likely change in Denver for Ware: First, the Cowboys had a severely weak pass-rush around Ware; Dallas had twenty players (17 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers) with negative pass-rushing ratings, including four linemen who rated out below -5.0. In comparison to that, the Broncos had eight players (7 linemen, 1 linebacker) with negative ratings, and only two below -5.0. In Denver, Ware will be teaming up with Von Miller (20.0 pass rush rating), Malik Jackson (11.0), and Terrance Knighton (10.5) to wreak havoc upon opposing offensive lines. Increasing the quality of play around Ware severely decreases the pressure on him to be The Guy, and will provide more opportunities to get to the quarterback. The second thing that will help Ware in Denver is that he will not have to play nearly as many snaps (if 2013 was any indication). In 2013, Ware lined up for 648 snaps (4th on the Cowboys); Shaun Phillips played the most snaps of any Broncos pass-rusher (784), but no other Denver pass-rusher played more than Ware's 648 snaps in 2013. With a rotation of Ware, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, and whoever else Elway adds through the draft or free agency, Ware will have a much lighter workload and likely get back to his dominant self in 2014.
John Elway isn't messing around and he's made that quite clear. Wednesday was another huge success for the Broncos, and I have a feeling they're not quite done just yet. As Chris Harris put it, 2014 is about to get ugly, and the revamped Broncos defense is going to make sure of that.