I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered a bunch of data from www.nflgsis.com and www.profootballfocus.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2015 regular season. Also, www.overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team.
Demaryius Thomas was the big news of last offseason. That situation seemed to weigh on the minds of a large vocal portion of Broncos Country as DT held out early and never truly looked like himself last year. Include me in that list. Yeah, he might have just have a rough year...that happens to even the best players. But his effort looked lackluster at times from what I was seeing.
Nevertheless, the hope for the team has to be that this season he'll be with us for all the offseason activities and will get himself prepared to be a dominant force again in a new chapter for the Broncos. He's still got #1 WR talent (arguably in the NFL...that potential is there). He's a physical freak who has top end speed and dominating size.
Before me, you, and anyone else in Broncos Country throws him into the oven, please keep in mind this guy was putting up numbers when Tim Tebow was at the helm. The only big issue he has to overcome is his penchant for drops. His rate was fairly scary last season, and if he can improve on that, his stats will go back through the roof and our offense will look much more competent in 2016.
...and here's why #tradedt is about the most idiotic thing I've seen in Broncos Country since the Tebow horde. Look up at the line for 2016. See that last column? That dead money hit would still mostly be ours if we traded him away.
He's still a great talent, and he's got a lot to play for. Cheer him on in training camp this year and let's see if he can set a record for TDs or yards this year for us.
Emmanuel Sanders was honestly one of the best signings of John Elway's tenure as GM of your Denver Broncos. Let me pay him the compliment he deserves. Sanders is a damn fine football player. The effort he gives is what you want from every guy on the field (aside from that one run play in the playoffs a couple years back...we can forgive that right?).
Sanders is a superb No. 2 WR. He's a guy who is always a threat to take the top off a defense. He also has the quickness to make the crafty catches needed to move the chains. He's got superb hands as well and is fearless in selling out for a catch.
The only knock on Sanders is his size, but no one should let that scare him/her about his play one bit. Sanders has shown himself to be a very durable player over the years, and he does try to do the little things to protect himself from big hits where he can.
This is a player who I would love to see in Orange and Blue until the end of his career. He's a charismatic leader in the locker room and a quality guy that you have to think everyone on the team respects how he goes about his business on game day.
I think if we keep playing well he'd be interested in sticking around. If things get choppy but he's playing really well, I can easily see us letting him go next year in order to get a compensatory pick (though it would break my heart as a fan).
Bennie friggin Fowler was one of the most pleasant surprises to me last year from our offense. I love this kid's game. He's to me the clear cut #3 WR and has earned every snap he's given. I think he has a bright future ahead of him and is probably the biggest threat to Cody Latimer in the long-term here with the Broncos.
You may not notice it because of his size, but Fowler runs a really nice route. He's consistent, clean, and knows how to get out of his breaks to create space. Couple that with length and great catching ability and you know why this guy earned so much playing time last season.
The only downside I see to Fowler is the lack of top shelf speed. That isn't his bag and it also isn't that big of a deal in the NFL when you have the quicks to create short bursts of separation.
Fowler is a player who I can see being our CHJ or Wolfe next year who signs an early deal to stay a Bronco that is cap friendly, but will set him up to stay here were he's loved and respected.
Cody Latimer is the WR that I really am interested in seeing more out of this year. His rookie year was pretty crap in all honesty. Last year he took a big step forward in my eyes and earned time on the field, was running routes well, and made some solid catches for us.
Latimer looks like a mini-DT in size and athletic ability, but he's not yet shown the type of play you want from a starter at the NFL level. The one good facet we can focus on here is his run blocking. Like Sanders, he's a fun watch in the run game on the outside as he's absolutely capable of executing some poor fool (H/T Joel Dreessen).
That being said, there are definitely good tools here to develop. If he can keep honing the craft of route running, knowing the plays, learning hot reads, etc, then he's going to have a good shot at turning into a solid NFL WR. This part (the learning) appears to me to be his big challenge to date.
To me this is a really great situation for our team and Latimer. He's not costing us a ton of money while our coaching staff works on developing him as a player. We've got two years to see if he can take the steps forward to be a big part of our offense. He has a great situation here in Denver to do that and now he just needs to go put in the work.
Norwood has work to do as a WR if he's going to move up the depth chart. He's got really good quickness especially laterally so he's got the potential to be a really good slot WR if he can get to the point where his route running is better.
And it will have to be exceptional given his size which is a knock against him. He's not tall or long so he'll have to create separation to make an impact on the offensive field. The lack of size also leads to him not being impressive at all in the run blocking game.
Details on the new contract haven't been released yet, but when they do I'll hop back in here and make sure this table updates. I haven't heard any real data on it either, but you have to guess that the one year contract is a low cost vet minimum type deal where he is trying to show the team he's worthy of a roster spot moving forward.
Right now this looks mostly to me like a guy trying to make it as a returner. Time will tell if he can continue flashing like we saw in the Super Bowl.
Andre Caldwell in past years was honestly a whipping boy for my reviews at times. While this past year wasn't pretty from him, I will say that he made some key catches for us through the season and definitely earned his pay last year in our championship run.
Caldwell always seemed to have the speed and quickness that would make him be a player like Sanders, but that's never really materialized. He's had really good speed at times but he's a guy that has trouble at times with drops and that really keeps him from taking a big step forward.
Again, I respect the work he put in in 2015, but I don't see us bringing him back in 2016. There are younger, cheaper options available to us with more upside.
Jordan Taylor spent 2015 on the practice squad and is somewhat famous for being the guy who helped Manning during his recovery work to get back on the field. Manning even mentioned that he's a player everyone should watch out for.
That's high praise indeed from one of the greatest QBs of all time and I agree with it. Taylor's preseason play really flashed for me last year. He was giving great effort and showed NFL skill at times. I remember scratching my head wondering about him not moving up the depth chart. My only guess is that the consistency wasn't there during practice and you have to have that if your QB is going to be throwing to you on game day.
I'm excited to see if Taylor can take strides this season and replace Caldwell on the roster or even move higher up the chain.
Unless a really talented player drops in our lap in the draft, this is a position that I honestly don't feel we need to mess with this year. We've got a really strong core group here who has talent and ability. The focus probably needs to be more on who's throwing them the ball.