Denver Broncos: The Offseason Plan
Stick to the plan
If you are a football fan, today is not your favorite day of the year. The season is over, free agency is over a month away and the draft is over two months away. Unless you are a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, today is not a fun day. However it is never too early to look ahead. Mike Shanahan once said that the Monday after the Super Bowl is one of his favorite days of the year. Why? Because, in reality, it’s the first day of the next season and everyone is 0-0 again. The new league year does not start till March but teams are busy at work all ready trying to ensure that they are the ones celebrating next year.
For one day or at least one article, I get to be John Elway. The following slide show represents what my goals for the offseason would be if I was in charge of the Denver Broncos. The most important thing going into this offseason for Elway and the Broncos is balance. They must balance being aggressive while being smart at the same time.
The natural reaction when a season ends as it did is to overreact but that’s where steady leadership has to rise to the surface. It’s too easy to look at one game as opposed to the big picture. The loss to the Ravens was devastating but it does not diminish the fact that the Broncos are one of the top three or four teams in the league. Big changes are not necessary; on the contrary, big changes would be the absolute wrong thing to do.
There is a lot of talent in place and the Broncos are contenders right now. They also have a good mix/chemistry among their core and that cannot change. The Broncos need to focus on getting better in a few places, while keeping what they have in place. It all goes back to that word, balance.
These are the top five things I would have on my to do list if I was the Executive Vice-President of the Broncos, in reverse order.
Weapon for Peyton
Brandon Stokley has said that he wants to return for another season, and the guess is that the Broncos will want him back. Even if that happens, adding another weapon for Peyton Manning has to be a priority. The attractive name is free agent, Wes Welker from the New England Patriots. I would at least gauge his interest in the Broncos, yes it would cost some money but he would be the perfect fit in the slot with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside. The Broncos only have two or three seasons with Manning and the NFL is a league built on offense, I make the phone call and explore the possibility. If Welker does not work out, then I would look to the draft for a slot receiver.
Most everyone would have this one higher and I understand why but remember overreacting gets teams into trouble. The Broncos need to add another safety, probably in the draft but the solution is all ready on the roster. Rahim Moore is not the most popular person in Denver right now but he did have a solid season, one mistake does not change that or his future. Granted it was a mistake at the worst possible time but Moore is still a part of the Broncos’ plans, and he should be. People also forget about Quinton Carter who missed all of last season with a knee injury, he was the Broncos best safety at the end of the 2011 season. If Carter returns to form, he’s better than anyone the Broncos could bring in. They will add another player or two at the position for competition, but the safety spot is not as bad as people are making it out to be.
The Broncos need to address the middle linebacker position and I would do it through free agency. The Broncos are ready to win now and rookie middle linebackers typically struggle. I would target Ravens free agent, Dannell Ellerbe in free agency. The Ravens have a ton of free agents and have to pay quarterback, Joe Flacco. The chances are very high that they will not be able to sign everyone and Ellerbe would be a perfect fit in the middle of the Broncos defense.
The defensive tackles played well for the Broncos but it is still an area of need, especially since Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson are free agents. I would attempt to re-sign both of those players but my big move would be with Derek Wolfe. My goal would be to move him inside to his natural position while at the same time going after Indianapolis Colts defensive end, Dwight Freeney. If the Broncos can sign Freeney, then they solve two problems. It’s one more elite pass rusher to go along with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. It also solves a lot of the issues at defensive tackle because, again, Wolfe is going to be better than anyone they could bring in. Wolfe also would provide a pass rush up the middle, something the Broncos were missing in 2012. The Broncos will also look to add depth at the tackle position in April’s Draft. Keep an eye on Malik Jackson, though, he had a solid rookie season and will only improve.
The first thing I would do and I would be working on it all ready is sign left tackle Ryan Clady to a long-term deal. Clady had a great season in 2012 and protects Manning’s blind side. If Manning is the most important player on offense, Clady is the second most important player. The Broncos and Clady were close last summer and while there will be some tense moments; I expect this to get done before training camp. If for some reason it does not get done, the Broncos will use the franchise tag on Clady meaning he will play in Denver either way in 2013. However a happy Clady would be in the Broncos best interest.
In addition to re-signing Clady, the Broncos need to upgrade the depth on the offensive line. I expect center Dan Koppen to re-sign and JD Walton to come back healthy. If both of those things happen, Walton would immediately upgrade the depth on the interior of the line. Look for the Broncos to sign a veteran tackle for insurance and to draft a lineman or two for additional depth.
The Broncos are all ready one of the favorites in Las Vegas to win the Super Bowl in February 2014, Elway does not need the splashy move. He only needs to tweak.
Follow me on Twitter @Jemorrone7