We’ve been through plenty of new head coaches here with the Denver Broncos in the last decade, so it is rare when a new one says something I hadn’t really heard before in some form or another. That happened last week when Sean Payton was asked if he’ll be looking at free agents when training camp begins or during.
If memory serves me correctly, the typical coach-speak response would have been some form of always building and improving the roster, but Payton chose to discuss the process.
“We had a meeting last night—the last personnel meeting before we get back here for training camp,” Payton said. “We discussed areas. I don’t want to use the term ‘where we are thin,’ but here’s where we’re heavy relative to the current 90-man roster. Here’s where we might be a tick light. This might be what we’re looking for. I would say that exists 365 days a year. It didn’t used to, but it does now.”
The insight into his process is what I found most interesting. We fans use the word ‘thin’ when discussing position groups that are lacking depth or starter-level talent, but Payton doesn’t like that. Although, I would argue ‘a tick light’ is basically the same thing. In any case, he went on to discuss a specific example of how they might target a free agent during the training camp/early season cycle.
“I’ll give you one last example,” Payton continued. “That final cut down from 90 to 53—it happens on one night. There’s a lot of work that’s done leading up to that. You’re watching film, and you have roughly over a day to look at who’s available. We tell our players all the time, ‘You’re not just competing with the depth chart in your room, you’re competing with your room on 31 other teams, as well.’
“We weren’t looking for [Saints tight end/quarterback] Taysom Hill when we found him. We were looking at another receiver for a practice squad position. We kept watching the film. This was 11:30 at night. I finally call [Saints VP/Assistant General Manager - College Personnel Jeff] Ireland in and said, ‘Who is this No. 7?’ He tells me, ‘It’s Taysom Hill.’ I asked him to bring me all of his tape. A day later, we put a claim in, and we were awarded Taysom Hill. That doesn’t stop. The hay is never in the barn, relative to things like that, if that’s a fair answer.”
The process for Payton never ends and it sounds like he is always looking for the best players out there regardless of whether the position is ‘a tick light’ or not. Denver has a fairly strong roster, frankly, but they have lacked cohesion in coaching and lack confidence winning close games. Payton can change that with good coaching and quality roster additions.