Under the leadership of John Elway, the Denver Broncos have been active players in the free agent market. They have had a penchant for signing some of the most coveted players available which helped propel them to a victory in Super Bowl 50 two years ago. With the possibility of having nearly $40 million dollars to spend in free agency, Elway is poised to make several big splashes to improve the Broncos and help their chances at regaining championship contender status in 2017.
Here are some of the players I believe that Elway and the Broncos should target this free agency period, in order to improve deficient spots on their roster and give them a chance to become Super Bowl contenders for the 2017 season and beyond.
Kevin Zeitler, RG - Cincinnati Bengals
It's no secret that the biggest need for the Denver Broncos is on their offensive line. The big prize in this years free agency class is Cincinnati Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler, but it won't be easy for Elway to lure him to Denver. Expect at least a half dozen teams to be interested in his services, with the Minnesota Vikings being speculated as the early favorite to land the savvy veteran.
At age 27, Zeitler has many years of great football ahead of him and is the type of player the Broncos could use to help bolster their offensive line unit. According to ProFootballFocus, Zeitler has only allowed one sack over the past two seasons, and was the fifth best pass-blocking guard in 2016. He is also a mauler in the run game, and would help ignite a Broncos rushing attack that was lackluster this past season.
If the Broncos can't snag him, T.J. Lang of the Green Bay Packers and Larry Warford of the Detroit Lions would be the next two guard the Broncos should consider that would provide immediate upgrades over players currently on their roster
Calais Campbell, DE - Arizona Cardinals
One of the areas where Denver struggled immensely last year was on the defensive line. The units' best player Derek Wolfe missed some time with nagging injuries and almost everyone who played beside him was underwhelming during the 2016 campaign. The Broncos' run defense dropped off sharply in 2016, and if they want to get back to being the cream of the crop in the AFC, they will have to add a high-profile player or two on their defensive trench.
Signing Denver native Calais Campbell should be a priority of theirs. Campbell will turn 31 this season, but is still playing at a high level. Last year, the former Miami Hurricane recorded 34 tackles, 8 sacks and an interception. His addition to the franchise would give the team one of the best 3-4 defensive end tandems in the NFL, as well as a player who can kick inside on passing downs and get after the passer.
Brandon Williams, NT - Baltimore Ravens
The Broncos have a tremendous void at the nose tackle position for the upcoming season. The team opted not to pick up fourth-year defensive tackle Sylvester Williams' fifth-year option last offseason, and he is set to hit free agency in a few weeks. Brandon Williams is arguably the best nose tackle on the market, but may not even get their if the Ravens choose to designate him as their franchise player.
In his four-year NFL career, Williams has accumulated 156 tackles, 4.5 sacks and forced several fumbles. He isn't a pass rushing threat, but the perfect player that can command double teams and free up Denver's linebackers to make plays on the defensive side of the ball. If Williams isn't available for the Broncos come free agency, they should turn their focus to former first-round pick Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs to improve the position.
Riley Reiff, OL - Detroit Lions
Offensive tackle, in particular right tackle, is a glaring need for the Broncos. I don't think fans are interested in witnessing turnstile Donald Stephenson fail mightily next season, and I believe there is a decent chance he is cut sometime this offseason. Fortunately, there are a few players in free agency that could help the team out right away.
2017 FA OL the #Broncos should consider: Kevin Zeitler, Ricky Wagner, Riley Reiff, Larry Warford, T.J. Lang, Ron Leary.— Christopher Hart (@topherhart) December 26, 2016
Riley Reiff isn't an elite offensive lineman, but would be a significant upgrade over Donald Stephenson at the right tackle position. He has also played well and started many games for the Lions at left tackle, which makes him even more desirable with the Broncos having to make a tough decision as to whether or not they pickup their team option on current left tackle Russell Okung.
Ricky Wagner of the Ravens is also an option for the team, who is expected to hit the free agent market as they have made it clear they prioritize keeping the aforementioned Brandon Williams with the team long-term. From a contract standpoint, I believe that Reiff and Wagner could command an annual salary of roughly $7.5-8M dollars a year.
Pierre Garcon, WR - Washington Redskins
I'm expecting to get a lot of flack for this listing, but I'd like you all to hear me out before throwing me out to the wolves. First and foremost, I am aware the Denver Broncos have invested a serious amount of coin at the wide receiver position with contract extensions to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders over the past several years. Yet, that doesn't mean they don't need an additional playmaker at the position.
One player that I’d like to see the #Broncos consider in free agency is (WR) Pierre Garcon. Great hands, terrific route runner, productive.— Christopher Hart (@topherhart) February 19, 2017
Let's face it — Cody Latimer is a bust, Jordan Norwood is replaceable and the long-term upside of Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor (who should be retained as ERFA's) is tenuous at best. Outside of Thomas and Sanders, there isn't really much to write home about at the position. In the event either of those two went down with injury, the Broncos would be in serious trouble and their passing attack would suffer significantly. That's why I advocate bringing in a versatile, veteran presence at wide receiver and Pierre Garcon fits the bill.
Garcon will be 31 in August, but is still putting up fairly productive numbers, has great hands and is one of the best route runners in the league. His addition would give the Broncos a competent third receiver on their roster capable of stretching the field and making big plays and another target for whomever starts at quarterback next season.
What players would you like to see the Broncos bring in during the free agency period? Sound off in the comments section and give us your personal Broncos free agency plan!