The Denver Broncos enter the 2015 offseason with a ton of questions on the offensive side of the ball. Is Peyton Manning returning? will they be able to re-sign Demaryius and Julius Thomas? and focusing on upgrading their offensive line which struggled a bit in 2014.
So let's take a position-by-position look at which offensive free agents that may interest the Denver Broncos this offseason.
Note: Rankings are from Rotoworld's NFL free agent rankings.
The big question here is the status of quarterback Peyton Manning. If he decides to return next season the Broncos will more than likely stick with the quarterbacks they have. But if Manning decides to retire, that would leave the Broncos with Brock Osweiler. In that case I would expect them to look for a quarterback to compete with Osweiler.
So let's take a look at the top quarterbacks on the free agent market.
- Mark Sanchez
- Jake Locker
- Brian Hoyer
- Matt Moore
- Ryan Mallet
You know the quarterback market is weak when Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker are the top quarterbacks available. Both of those quarterbacks are former first-round selections who have had some success in the league, but they're free agents for a reason. That being said, they will probably find work in the league next season. I think Locker would be a solid fit in Kubiak's offense but, he has accuracy issues and some injury concerns.
Veterans Brian Hoyer and Matt Moore will also be available. Hoyer started for the Cleveland Browns this past season but was eventually benched for rookie quarterback's Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw. Moore has spent the last four years in Miami as the backup quarterback to Ryan Tannehill.
Other options: Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, Michael Vick, Matt Hasselbeck, Colt McCoy, and Jimmy Clausen.
The Denver Broncos appear set at the running back position. C.J. Anderson stepped up his game and took over the starting running back position in the second half of the season. Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson both flashed at times as well. Montee Ball entered the 2014 season as the starter but his season ended after a pair of injuries kept him sidelined.
All four of these backs appear to be great fits in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme so I don't believe the Broncos will look to free agency to upgrade the running back position but, Kubiak look to add "his guy".
Let's take a look at the top running backs on the free agent market.
- DeMarco Murray
- C.J. Spiller
- Ryan Matthews
- Mark Ingram
- Justin Forsett
- Frank Fore
- Shane Vereen
- Stevan Ridley
- Roy Helu
- Ahmad Bradshaw
DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing this past season with a whopping 1,845 yards rushing and added 13 touchdowns. It was a breakout year for the soon to be 27-year-old running back who expects to get paid well this offseason
The explosive C.J. Spiller will be an interesting back to watch on the free-agent market. He will be 28-years old in August and is coming off two disappointing seasons for the Buffalo Bills. He's a big play back but, has only topped 1,000 yards once in his career. Ryan Matthews will be another risky back to look at on the market. Mathews has only played a full season once in his five seasons and will be 28 years old next season.
Mark Ingram had a bit of a breakout season in 2015. He rushed for 964 yards for the Saints offense despite missing three games due to injury. Ingram is only 25-years old and will be an interesting player to watch in the free-agent market. Another guy who will be interesting to watch is Justin Forsett. The journeymen running back had a breakout season for the Ravens under Gary Kubiak. He topped 1,200 yards on the ground and averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the ground. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos will have any interest in Kubiak's former back.
Veteran running backs Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw will probably be late in the offseason signings because of their age. I don't think either will options for the Broncos.
The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will have two running backs on the free agent market. Stevan Ridley suffered a major knee injury this past season. He tore his ACL and MCL and probably will not garner a ton of attention on the market. Vereen will be an interesting guy to watch. He has been a solid back in New England for years, and he doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires.
Other options: Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, Ben Tate, Antone Smith, and Ray Rice.
The Broncos last had a fullback in 2012 when they had Chris Gronkowski on the roster. Since then they have used multiple different guys at that position(Virgil Green and Mitch Unrein) since then. Now that the Broncos have hired Gary Kubiak as a Head Coach it looks like the fullback position will be returning to Denver in 2015.
Let's take a look at the top fullbacks on the free agent market.
- Jerome Felton
- Henry Hynoski
- Jed Collins
- John Kuhn
- Tyler Clutts
Felton has been one of the better fullbacks in the league for awhile now. He was the lead blocker for Viking's running back Adrian Peterson during his 2,000+ yard season. He would be a solid addition to the Broncos run game.
Hynoski has spent the last four seasons with the New York Giants and has been a solid lead blocker for them. Jed Collins spent this past season with the Detroit Lions.
John Kuhn has spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and has become a bit of a fan favorite to Packer fans. He's a two-time Pro Bowler(2011,2014) and a First-team All-Pro in 2014, and Second-team All-Pro in 2011.
Other options: John Connor, Will Tukuafu, Jackie Battle, and Montell Owens.
The Denver Broncos have a big decision to make at the wide receiver position this offseason. Star receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to be a free agent this offseason, and the two sides reportedly haven't talked since the beginning of the season. At the very least I expect the Broncos to Franchise Tag Thomas.
Let's take a look at the top receivers on the free agent market.
- Dez Bryant
- Demaryius Thomas
- Randall Cobb
- Jeremy Maclin
- Torrey Smith
- Michael Crabtree
- Kenny Britt
- Cecil Shorts
- Eddie Royal
- Nate Washington
Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both expect to be Franchise tagged this offseason so neither will hit the open market. I also expect the Packers to re-sign or tag Randall Cobb.
Jeremy Maclin had a bounce back season after suffering an ACL injury in 2013, and could be a steal in the free agent market. He totaled 85 receptions for 1,318 yard's and 10 touchdowns.
Another interesting receiver to watch is Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith. He has been Joe Flacco's deep threat for the past few seasons and could cash in this offseason.
Michael Crabtree could be this offseason's Hakeem Nicks. Crabtree hasn't been the same since suffering an injury in 2013, and could be a cheaper option. Another receiver who could be a bargain is Cecil Shorts. He has never played more than 14 games in a season but, has been productive at times.
Veteran's Eddie Royal and Nate Washington figure to receive a short-term deal this offseason.
I don't see the Broncos being interested in many of these guys after they tag Demaryius Thomas and having Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer in the fold.
Other options: Wes Welker, Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, Denarius Moore, Leonard Hankerson, and Miles Austin.
The Denver Broncos top two tight ends are hitting the free agent market this offseason. The big name on the market will be Julius Thomas. Thomas has totaled 108 receptions and 24 touchdowns the past two seasons, and will be top tight end on the market this offseason.
Joining Thomas on the free agent market is teammate Virgil Green. While Green does not have the stats that Thomas has, he has been just as important to the success of the Broncos. Green has become one of the better run blocking tight ends in the league. The intriguing part of Green is that he is an athletic freak. He blew up at the Scouting Combine prior to him being drafted by the Broncos. He showed that he can be a weapon in the passing game if called on.
Let's take a look at the top tight ends on the free agent market.
- Julius Thomas
- Jordan Cameron
- Charles Clay
- Jermaine Gresham
- Niles Paul
- Rob Housler
- Virgil Green
- Owen Daniels
- Lance Kendricks
- Tony Moeaki
Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron are the top two tight ends on the market this offseason. However, both have some big questions. For Thomas, it will be injury concerns, ineffective blocking, and if he is just a product of Peyton Manning. For Cameron, it will be injuries. He has suffered three concussions in a two-year span, and that could scare away some teams. Especially in today's NFL where concussions are taken seriously.
Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay should cash in on a decent sized contract this offseason. He's an athletic pass-catching tight end who should come cheaper than Thomas and Cameron. He's not the greatest blocker but will excel in the passing game.
Gresham hasn't lived up to his first-round billing but, has been solid in doing what he's been asked. He's an above average run blocker and while he doesn't make flashy plays he is a chain mover. He could be a solid addition to a team.
Niles Paul had a breakout season of sorts for the Redskins this past season. He totaled 39 receptions for 507 yards this season and started seven games while starter Jordan Reed was injured.
Owen Daniel's is one free agent who may end up in Denver when it's all said and done. Daniels has spent his entire nine-year career with Gary Kubiak(8 years in Houston, 1 year in Baltimore) so it would only make sense if he followed Kubiak to Denver. I could see Daniels and Virgil Green being the Denver Broncos starting tight ends next season.
Other options: Lee Smith, Matt Spaeth, Dante Rosario, Jacob Tamme, Daniel Fells, Ed Dickson, David Ausberry, and Luke Stocker.
The Denver Broncos will be entering the offseason with some big decisions to be made along the offensive line. First they need to find themselves a right tackle. Last season they had three different players start there and ended with right guard Louis Vasquez shifting over to right tackle to finish out the season. Also, with Gary Kubiak bringing back his zone blocking scheme back to Denver he will be looking for players that fit his scheme.
Let's take a look at the top offensive tackles on the free agent market.
- Bryan Bulaga
- Michael Roos
- Doug Free
- Derek Newton
- King Dunlap
- Joe Barksdale
- Byron Bell
- Jason Fox
- Jeremy Parnell
- Ryan Harris
The top tackle on the market is Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He's spent the last two years on the IR for the Packers but had a bounce back season for them. He only allowed 3 sacks this past season and the Packers will more than likely re-sign Bulaga.
Michael Roos the longtime left tackle for the Tennessee Titans is contemplating retirement. He has spent the past 10 seasons as the Tennessee Titans left tackle. Even if he decides to return for his 11th season I do not expect the Broncos to have any interest in him.
Doug Free has turned into one of the better right tackles in the game and has experience in the zone blocking scheme. He is 31 years old so he wouldn't command a long-term deal, but his age does make him a risky signing for the future.
If you had to ask me right now who I believe will be the Broncos starting right tackle next season, I would tell you Derek Newton. Gary Kubiak selected Newton in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Since then he has turned into one of the better run blockers in the game and has plenty of experience in Kubiak's zone blocking scheme. This just makes too much sense not to happen.
King Dunlap had a solid 2013 season, but his game regressed some this past season. He isn't much of a fit for the Broncos since he's a left tackle. Tackle Joe Barksdale is another solid run-blocking right tackle but has issues in pass protection.
Two intriguing options are Jeremy Parnell and Ryan Harris. Parnell stepped in and played well for an injured Doug Free late in the season. If the Cowboys let Free walk in free agency I could see them re-signing Parnell. If not he could be a cheaper option at right tackle for the Broncos. Another interesting option is former Broncos tackle Ryan Harris. He played well for the Chiefs this past season and has experience with Kubiak in Houston. I do not believe he's a starter for the Broncos, but he could be teams third tackle.
Other options: Joe Reitz, Eric Winston, Tyler Polumbus, Corey Hillard, and Marshall Newhouse
Like with the tackle position, the Broncos have plenty of questions at the guard and center positions. Starters Orlando Frankin and Will Montgomery are free agents, and starting right guard Manny Ramirez is a poor fit in Kubiak's zone blocking scheme. Louis Vasquez will be moving back to the right guard spot but, the left guard and center positions are currently positions of need for the Broncos.
Let's take a look at the top guards and centers on the free agent market.
- Mike Iupati
- Orlando Franklin
- Rodney Hudson
- Stefen Wisniewski
- Clint Boling
- James Carpenter
- Brian De La Puente
- Rob Sims
- Will Montgomery
- Dominic Raiola
I wanted the Broncos to draft Mike Iupati back in 2010, and I want them to sign him this offseason. He's one of the better run blockers in the game and would be a great addition to the Broncos run first offense. Now he won't come cheap, and he may not be the best fit in a zone blocking scheme, but I really want Iupati on the Broncos.
The other top guard on the market is Orlando Franklin. He transitioned well to left guard but may be an odd fit there for Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme. He has experience at tackle and guard now so I believe Franklin will be a hot commodity on the market.
One player who could interest the Broncos at guard is Clint Boling. He suffered a torn ACL in 2013, but had a bounce back season in 2014. He's a very good run blocker and would fit into Kubiak's offense.
James Carpenter has struggled with injuries in the past and isn't a great fit in the zone-blocking scheme and Rob Sims also struggled a bit in 2013.
My top target at the center position is Rodney Hudson of the Kansas City Chiefs. He's turning into one of the better centers in the league and would fit in very well in the Kubiak's offense. The Chiefs are a bit cap strapped so he could hit the market. My second favorite center in the league comes from another division rival. Stefen Wisniewski of the Raiders is also one of the better centers in the league and would be a solid addition to the Broncos roster. Now the Raiders have plenty of cap space and they could look to re-sign their young center.
Veterans Brian De La Puente and Domonic Raiola and Samson Satele are all some cheaper options the Broncos, but I don't think they will go down that road.
Other options: Jonathan Goodwin, Willie Colon, Joe Berger, Dan Connolly, John Jerry, and Adam Snyder