Denver Broncos Free Agent Wish List: Running Backs
The Need for a Big Back
One of the goals for the Denver Broncos this offseason is to add a running back, preferably a bigger back that can get the tough inside yards. As good as the Broncos offense was in 2012, they really struggled in third-and-short situations. In the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, there were numerous short-yardage situations that the Broncos could not convert. If only one of those is converted, the Broncos probably move onto the AFC Championship Game.
There was the situation right before halftime when the Broncos had the ball inside the Ravens 35 yard-line with under three minutes to go. They were leading 21-14 and faced a third-and-1. If they convert that, then the worst thing that happens is they go into the break with a seven point lead and get the ball to begin the second half.
It’s very possible that the Broncos go on to get points off of that drive if they get that first down, and go into half with a two score lead. Instead, they did not pick up the first down, missed a long field goal and the Ravens used the short field to score a game tying touchdown right before half.
In a game that was full of plays and situations that changed the momentum, the three minutes at the end of the first-half was huge. A first down there and the events at the end of the game probably never happen.
If the Broncos are going to bring someone in to upgrade that position, it is going to have to be through free agency. The NFL Draft is deep in some positions but bigger running backs is not one of them. However there are some options in free agency and here are a few.
Jonathan Dwyer is a young running back who has been behind other backs while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He got his chance to play in 2012 and played well. Dwyer’s best days are in front of him but he is a restricted free agent and because the other backs for the Steelers are also free agents, they could make it very tough for anyone else to sign him. Dwyer ending up with the Broncos is a long shot at best.
A restricted free agent means that their current team has the right to match any offer. Even if the player’s current team does not match the offer, the signing team must give up a draft pick in order to sign that player. That’s why restricted free agents are sometimes harder to sign.
The New Orleans Saints are very deep at running back and Chris Ivory has been buried on that depth chart. Ivory is the perfect fit for the Broncos and could be an option. He is a big back who is great in short-yardage and would not mind sharing time with a guy like Ronnie Hillman. Ivory, like Dwyer, is a restricted free agent but the Saints may not go to great lengths to hang onto him.
Michael Turner is no stranger to the AFC West, having played many seasons for the San Diego Chargers. Turner who was recently released from the Atlanta Falcons has said that he wants to play for a team that can win a championship, and the Broncos fit that bill. Turner is older and is no longer an every down back, and would also be a nice compliment to Hillman. Turner’s name has been linked with other teams and seems like a long shot for the Broncos.
The name that has been linked to the Broncos more than anyone is former New York Jets running back, Shonn Greene. There are many who are horrified by the idea of Greene coming to the Broncos, and I don’t understand why. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of the past three seasons including last year. If Greene can run for 1,063 yards as he did in 2012 on a terrible team with no passing game, imagine how effective he can be with Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
Finding the right free agent is not always about signing the best player, it is about signing the right player for the right situation. Greene would fit very well with the Broncos. Don’t be surprised if that is the first free agent signing for John Elway a week from now.
The most intriguing name on the market is Steven Jackson and there have been reports that he has already contacted the Broncos. In a perfect world Jackson would be the guy the Broncos sign, and they will explore the possibility but it is going to come down to money.
Jackson is only 29 and if he is seeking one more big contract, then the Broncos will stay away. However, if Jackson is willing to take less to play for a contending team, then it could be a perfect fit. Jackson would make the Broncos offense almost impossible to stop. If teams loaded the box with eight defenders to stop Jackson, then Manning would eat them alive. If defenses played the pass, then Jackson would run all day. It’s fun to think about if you are a Broncos fan, but just don’t get too excited - it’s not a long shot, but it is also not likely.
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