A few words can sum of the 2016 NFL Free Agency period for the Denver Broncos — mass exodus.
Defensive end Malik Jackson pursued greener pastures, coming to terms with a mammoth deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars which will make him one of the highest paid players at his position in the NFL.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who many believed to be the quarterback of the future for the Broncos, evaded the prospect of playing in the shadow of Peyton Manning and headed down south to Texas to take the reigns of a Houston franchise that is unquestionably on the rise.
Danny Trevathan, Evan Mathis, David Bruton, Vernon Davis, Ryan Harris and Omar Bolden have also found themselves new homes over the past several weeks. In short, the identity of the 2016 Denver Broncos and their subsequent rosters for seasons to come will have a much different look and feel than they did last season.
The first order of business for the Denver Broncos was to improve their offensive line. The team did just that, acquiring Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung, who will be their starters at right and left tackle for the 2016 season. Additionally, they were able retain Ronnie Hillman and bring in tight end Garrett Graham and defensive end Jared Crick to compete for spots at their respective positions.
Nevertheless, more work needs to be done in order to shape the blossoming identity of the franchise. With just days remaining until the 2016 NFL Draft, coaches, scouts and player personnel representatives will be working endlessly to concoct their final big board, preparations and plan of attack for this years' event.
Who will they draft to help solidify their roster in 2016? Who will become the cornerstones for the future identity of the franchise? That remains to be seen, (and we will know in a few days), but for now, lets take a look at what positions the Broncos may (or in my opinion, should be) looking to add talent to in this years NFL Draft.
Primary Needs for Denver
(1) Defensive Line
Malik Jackson's departure to Jacksonville, as well as the uncertain long-term status of players such as Sylvester Williams, Kenny Anunike and Vance Walker signify a stark need at the position.
Though the Broncos were able to re-sign Derek Wolfe and bring in veteran Jared Crick in free agency, it is essential that they address the position in this years' draft to ensure flexibility and stability in the trenches in the present and down the road. Make no mistake about it: whoever dominates the line of scrimmage consistently in battles on the gridiron most always reign supreme as victor.
In a draft that is widely considered one of the deepest ever for prospects on the defensive line, it seems likely that both a defensive end and tackle will be selected from this special crop of players. In fact, it is reasonable to believe that a defensive lineman will likely be one of, if not the best player available on the board when the Broncos make their first selection in just a few days.
With Brock Osweiler heading to the Texans, the Broncos have a significant void to fill at the quarterback position.
The team acquired Mark Sanchez via trade and for months have been engaged in a high stakes game of poker for the services of disgruntled San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for two months. In his annual pre-draft press conference, John Elway stated that the Kaepernick situation isn't dead, but for now, dormant. Alas, the longer the scenario plays out, the less likely it seems that the former Nevada prospect will be donning orange and blue in 2016.
Evaluating all of Elway's drafts
•Mile High ReportEven though John Elway technically wasn't the GM in 2011, we will give him credit for that draft. How well have the Denver Broncos drafted under his leadership?
Other players such as Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown have been linked to Denver, but I find it unlikely that either of them make their way to Dove Valley.
It is not a question of if, but who and when the Broncos select a quarterback in this years draft. If Paxton Lynch slides out of the Top 10, they have a lot of draft ammunition in this years' draft and next years' to move up for the talented Memphis product. Other eligible prospects such as Connor Cook, Dak Prescott and Christian Hackenberg have been heavily mocked to the Denver over the past few weeks and are on table as options for the Broncos.
If you aren't high on either of the aforementioned signal callers, perhaps the likes of Kevin Hogan, Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel suit your fancy in the mid-rounds of the draft. Either way, don't be surprised if one of the aforementioned quarterbacks is a selection for the team this year.
The back end of the Broncos defense has its starters in T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart, but there is much to be desired for reinforcements behind them. With Stewart set to hit free agency at this coming season's end, it's a virtual lock that the franchise elects to use an early choice on a versatile defensive back who has starting potential.
Recent rumors suggest that the Broncos are highly interested in West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who may end up being a first-round pick despite missing most of his final season with the Mountaineers due to injury. Sean Davis of Maryland and the Clemson due of T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse have also been heavily scouted by the Denver and are in play as early as the second round.
Secondary Needs for Denver
(4) Inside Linebacker
The departure of Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears in free agency leaves a glaring hole at one starting spot on defense, unless you believe Todd Davis, Zaire Anderson or Corey Nelson can adequately fill that void.
While I'm not inclined to bet against any of our beloved Broncos, it's undeniable that an infusion of talent at the position is necessary, especially when you factor in Brandon Marshall being a free agent next year.
This isn't an exceptional class for inside linebackers, but here are a few names to keep an eye on during the draft: Kentrell Brothers, Tyler Matakevich and Scooby Wright. Don't sleep on underrated Clemson 'backer B.J. Goodson. He had excellent production this past season and quietly had some of the best tape of any prospect at linebacker in this years draft class. He would be an excellent fit for what Wade Phillips likes to do on defense.
(5) Offensive Line
Though the team agreed to terms with Okung and Stephenson in free agency, I have a feeling that the team will add a high profile lineman to their squad in this years draft. In his pre-draft presser, Elway stated he believed one of this draft's strengths was in the offensive trenches.
Given such praise, it is probable that the team will go to the well at least once in order to improve a unit that was borderline disastrous for most of the 2015 season. It may not be in the first-round, but I can envision the team spending one of their day two selections on a prospect who can come in and compete for a starting position, especially on the interior of their offensive front.
Other Positions to Consider
Though not pertinent needs, the Broncos would be wise to bring in a running back, wide receiver, fullback and tight end to compete for spots on the roster and help improve an offense that struggled to be consistent last season. Running back would have been a top five need in my eyes, but the re-signing of Hillman gives the team a familiar 1-2 punch at the position and may be a lesser need inside Dove Valley than it is viewed by myself and others.
However, I am all for the team selecting a rusher early who can come in and add a unique dynamic to this years' offense. My preference? Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech. He has all the tools to become an every-down back and top-tier running back in the NFL for years to come.
Feel free to sound of in the comments section and list your top needs for the Broncos in the NFL Draft.