The Denver Broncos have been surprisingly active in free agency in 2013. After signing Peyton Manning in 2012, it was widely assumed the Broncos would have a quiet free agent period and look to build more through the draft, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, you could argue no other team in the league has made a bigger splash than the Broncos.
They started with a bang, signing former Chargers guard Louis Vasquez to a four year contract, and followed that up by bringing in defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, inside linebacker Stewart Bradley, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Then, they stole away slot receiver Wes Welker from the New England Patriots at a relatively cheap price (especially considering contracts other WRs were given).
The Broncos had an agreement with defensive end Elvis Dumervil on a new contract that would save them $4M in cap space, and a fax machine blunder cost the Broncos almost $5M in dead cap money, and it cost Dumervil likely at least $2M on the open market.
Dumervil fired his agent, and over a week later, there is still no resolution (at the time of this posting) to this messy situation. The Broncos are trying to bring Dumervil back at a reduced price, but he’s putting out feelers to teams like Baltimore and Miami who are also interested in his services.
The Broncos have a couple of alternate plans in place (Dwight Freeney and John Abraham) in case Dumervil bolts to another team, so they aren’t worried about this situation but if Dumervil comes back, it will only fortify an awesome offseason for the Broncos.
Denver’s top remaining needs include and are not limited to running back, defensive end, and defensive tackle. The team could use depth at wide receiver, safety, corner, and linebacker, particularly on the inside. The biggest question marks facing Denver’s draft strategy right now are whether or not they would be willing to pass on a top need like DE or RB and take a position that could pay dividends down the road like CB or WR.
With Denver’s cap situation, they are right up against it and adding shorter, reasonably priced contracts was a very wise decision for John Elway. It allows the team to add talented veterans at smaller prices and have cap space each year. The team is looking at renewing contracts of Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas after the next couple of seasons, as well as giving left tackle Ryan Clady a long-term deal.
The Broncos have some very important decisions to make in the coming drafts, especially with their cap positioning. Peyton Manning passed a physical this offseason that guaranteed him $40M over the next two seasons, but that’s the price you pay for elite quarterback play.
If I had to rank the Broncos’ top needs as of right now (pre-Dumervil decision), I’d say they look as follows:
1. Defensive End/Pass Rush
2. Defensive Tackle
3. Power Running Back
Without any further delay, here is a seven round mock draft that I think could really help the Broncos in their case for a Super Bowl in the 2013/14 season.
1. First Round, 28th overall: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The Broncos have been in need of a big-name defensive tackle for quite some time. Jesse Williams is still relatively new to the game of football, but what he brings to the table that John Elway, John Fox, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will love is his intensity. Williams has an incredible motor and his athletic ability is off the charts. He is a space eater in the middle who can free up the linebackers and make plays himself. I think this would be a fantastic pick for the Broncos, who have excellent defensive coaching and could make Williams a star in this league.
2. Second Round, 58th overall: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Lattimore’s health is a big question mark, but this is a risk the Broncos can afford. Last year, they spent a second round pick on Brock Osweiler, a guy who has no potential of contributing unless Peyton Manning would for some reason be unavailable to play. The Broncos realize that Willis McGahee is not getting any younger or more durable, and Knowshon Moreno showed he could be a very capable starter before getting injured in the playoffs, and the team could use a guy who projects as a “thunder” back to Ronnie Hillman’s “lightning”.
3. Third Round, 90th overall: John Simon, DE, Ohio State
The Broncos have shown some interest in Simon, who could be a good replacement for Dumervil should he leave, or at least a guy who can give a ton of effort in terms of rushing the passer. He has a motor that never quits and is an offensive tackle’s nightmare. If you take a play off, this guy assuredly will not do the same, and he will make you pay. He doesn’t have a wide variety of pass rush moves, but he gets the job done and has elite strength. I think he’s the type of guy the Broncos would love to work with.
4. Fourth Round, 125th overall: Josh Evans, FS, Florida
Evans is a guy I really like in the middle rounds, and I think he has starter potential in the NFL. The Broncos’ safety woes are well-documented, though I think they have a solid core of players at the position with Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, Mike Adams, and David Bruton, but there is room for one more in the rotation. Evans is a guy who hits like a ton of bricks and he has very solid overall athletic ability. I think for the Broncos, he’d be someone who could crack the rotation in his first season, and potentially emerge as a starter over Quinton Carter who missed last year with an injury, and Mike Adams who struggled down the stretch.
5. Fifth Round, 161st overall: T.J. Barnes, DT, Georgia Tech
Barnes is a mountain of a man at the defensive tackle position with good athletic ability and strength. Like I’ve said before, that’s what the Broncos really like in their DL is for them to be big, strong, and coachable. I think Barnes has that capability and he could be a really nice find in the mid-rounds.
6. Seventh Round, 234th overall: Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa
The Broncos could use some depth in the secondary, and if Hyde is available at this point, I think he’s a huge bargain. The Broncos have been able to find some hidden gems in the secondary even in the post-draft free agent pool, and Hyde could be a guy that has starting potential. He didn’t show great speed at the Combine, but his ability to contribute on special teams should get him drafted, along with his size and instincts.