The Denver Broncos made it to the divisional round with Tim Tebow before losing to the New England Patriots. John Elway and Denver executives decided not to renew the Tebow show for a second season. Instead, Denver went out and signed Peyton Manning, who is coming off neck surgery.
Free Agency Recap
Denver was active when obtaining quarterbacks in free agency. Denver brought in Peyton Manning, and Caleb Hanie as a backup. Hanie is a third stringer, at best, while Adam Weber is a practice squad quarterback. Denver obtained three wide receivers with Jason Hill, Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley. Matt Willis can play on special teams while being a #6 wide receiver on Denver’s roster; Denver also has Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker at wide receiver.
Manning will also be reunited with tight end Jacob Tamme. Joel Dreessen had six receiving touchdowns at tight end for the Houston Texans as the teams #2 tight end. 2011 draft picks Virgil Green and Julius Thomas are project players with upside to develop into starters.
Manning has 10 different targets he can throw to. Denver also has all five starters from last year’s offensive line returning, which helps, too. Chris Clark and Tony Hills can start at offensive tackle if either Ryan Clady or Orlando Franklin get injured at offensive tackle. One of the two could struggle against a team with great pass rushers. Manny Ramirez can be a great right guard for depth, behind Chris Kuper.
Denver can be very dangerous on offense if Manning can stay healthy. Denver brought in defensive tackle Justin Bannan on defense to compete with Ty Warren for a starting job. Denver will likely consider another starting defensive tackle at 25.
Denver has starters and backups for their 4-3 linebacker core who can step in. DJ Williams and backup Wesley Woodyard play right outside linebacker. Joe Mays starts with Nate Irving as a backup middle linebacker. Von Miller and Cyril Obiozor can play left outside linebacker. Denver is really stacked at linebacker.
Denver brought in former Cleveland Browns safety Mike Adams to start over Rahim Moore at free safety. Quinton Carter should retain his job at strong safety. Andre Goodman is no longer Denver’s boundary cornerback. Tracy Porter, who recorded a pick six on Manning for New Orleans in Super Bowl 44, now has that job secured for Denver. Porter will play next to all-pro cornerback Champ Bailey.
2012 Denver Broncos Draft Needs
Defensive Tackle - The Denver Broncos need a starting defensive tackle aside from Ty Warren and Justin Bannan. Michael Brockers and Devon Still are first round talents that may be available for Denver at 25.
Nickel Cornerback - Denver needs a nickel cornerback behind Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter. If Denver can get a nickel corner
Backup Quarterback - Denver needs a backup quarterback. Caleb Hanie is a third stringer who could not defeat Tim Tebow in the regular season, and Adam Weber is a practice squad quarterback at best. Odds are Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins are all gone before Denver picks in round two. If one of these backups is available then that should be the pick. Denver could look to Russell Wilson or Ryan Lindley in round five to compete with Weber for the third string job if they cannot obtain a second round quarterback in this draft class to groom behind Peyton Manning.
Left Guard Depth - Denver needs left guard depth behind Zane Beadles. Beadles is capable of starting. He needs a backup and some potential competition for his starting job after surrendering seven sacks and seven penalties.
Backup Center - JD Walton is the only center currently active on Denver’s depth chart. This needs to change. Its not that Walton was so woeful against the New England Patriots, it’s just Vince Wilfork is that good and can wear down opponents as the game progresses.
Late Round Running Back -Denver has Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and practice squad rusher Mario Fanin.
Some argue that McGahee is a #2 back at best, 2009 first round pick Knowshon Moreno is injury prone, and the other three rushers are practice squad backs, at best. I think that’s a really subjective way to approach Denver’s backfield. While I want to be objective about this backfield, there is no question that Denver needs to spend a late round pick on one more rusher that could compete with these five running backs for a roster spot. Terrell Davis was drafted in the late rounds so Elway may wait for a rusher, hoping to land the next TD in the late rounds.
2012 NFL Draft Strategy
Denver is pretty deep in terms of having starters that can start. Denver needs to obtain a starting defensive tackle in round one, and use the rest of their picks on depth players. Denver needs to try to find second round talents at certain areas of need or move down for more picks.
Playoffs or No Playoffs? Playoffs - Both Denver and Kansas City are stockpiled with defensive starters, offensive lineman and playmakers. Denver has the edge over those two teams as long as #18 is healthy. It really is that simple.
How does Denver respond if they lose the season opener to Pittsburgh and begin the season 2-3? This is a question Denver fans should reflect on.