With the recent signings of tight end James Casey, defensive lineman Antoine Smith and trade for center Gino Gradkowski, the Broncos have finished their free agent moves and will be working endlessly around the clock in preparation for the draft. Listed below are my thoughts on the positions the Broncos could still improve upon to help their 2015 Super Bowl aspirations and keep the team competitive long-term.
1) Offensive Lineman
The Broncos added Shelley Smith and Gino Gradkowski in hopes to bolster their offensive line, but they seem more like stop-gap solutions at left guard and center rather than long-term solutions. While many fans disappointed in the play of Manny Ramirez and Chris Clark in 2014 thought they would be put to pasture as potential cap casualties, they remain on the roster and it seems like the new regime is giving them a clean slate and opportunity moving forward.
John Elway and Gary Kubiak have been adamant in support for 2014 draft selections Michael Schofield and Matthew Paradis who will be given the opportunity to compete for starting positions, but Denver would be wise to go out and snag an offensive lineman early in the draft improve their trench play in 2015 and beyond.
2) Defensive Lineman
Antoine Smith was an absolutely fantastic value signing for the Broncos, re-uniting him with Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar and he will undoubtedly have a positive impact for the team’s defensive efficacy in 2015. Vance Walker was a quality under-the-radar signing who has the ability to make plays in a spot role with the squad. It is important to note that neither give the team longevity for the future, but serve as signings that will help the Broncos short-term.
The Broncos don’t have much depth on their defensive front. Sylvester Williams and Marvin Austin are slated on the interior, with Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe the likely starters at defensive end for the Broncos. The last three mentioned are all free agents after this season, so it is paramount the Broncos invest an early selection in a difference maker capable of playing inside out.
3) Inside Linebacker
The ranking of inside linebacker as a top five need for the Broncos comes from three points.
- How effective will Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall be on the inside in Wade Phillip's 3-4 defense, as both are prototypical weakside linebackers on 4-3 fronts.
- Will the Broncos be interested in shelling out big money to both players next off-season, as both of them are scheduled to be free agents.
- Moreover, the recent news that Marshall had foot surgery and may miss time makes drafting an inside linebacker paramount. There is no doubt the two are quality players, but both have had their fair share of injuries which is a cause for concern.
The Broncos have interview several inside linebacker prospects and I have a hunch that one might be selected with their top three selections in this years draft given the aforementioned.
4) Free Safety
Darian Stewart as brought in to replace Rahim Moore and there has been chatter that the Broncos may have interest in moving Bradley Roby or Kayvon Webster from cornerback to safety to get the most out of their defensive backfield. I’d prefer to keep Denver’s cornerback stable as is — as it is one of the best in the entire league and have the team use a selection on a player capable of manning the free safety position if Stewart is unable to be effective in 2015.
Unfortunately, this is not a great class for safeties, but there are options there for the Broncos. Don’t be surprised if the team takes a look at a versatile defensive back who has experience at corner and safety that demonstrates sound coverage and has the athletic ability to be the centerfielder of Phillip’s 3-4 defense.
5) Pass Rush Specialist
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are prime to wreak havoc once more on opposing lines and quarterbacks, but outside of those two players the Broncos do not have much in the way of proven commodities who can get after the passer. There is no doubt the Broncos will use the franchise tag on Miller next off-season if they cannot formulate a long-term deal, but it always helps to have a variety of options at your disposable in case of injury or other circumstances that can happen throughout the course of the season.
The Broncos don’t need to invest a top three round selection on a pass rush specialist, but with the plethora of selections they do have, getting someone in the mid-rounds would be beneficial for the squad.
Don’t Be Surprised If . . .
The Broncos take advantage of the depth in this years wide receiver class.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are one of the best duo’s in all the NFL and there is hope in Dove Valley that Cody Latimer will make a huge jump in his second season with the franchise and become an integral part of the teams offensive plans in 2015. Andre Caldwell and the slough of names behind him aren’t impressive options for the future, and if the Broncos can’t strike a long-term deal with Demaryius by the July 15th deadline, they will need to have a fallback plan in place to help off-set any potential losses that they may incur next off-season. The Broncos would be wise to look for a wide receiver who also has the ability to make an impact in the return game as well.
Add another running back to the stable of stallions.
This is one of the deepest running back classes in recent memory. The team has C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman as their trio, but the latter two have not lived up to their early draft status. With Hillman's pending free agent status and the need for a depth rusher to compete against Jeremy Stewart, I envision the Broncos using a mid-to-late round selection on a player such as John Crockett or Zach Zenner to bolster their stable for the coming season.