Grading The Denver Broncos 2013 NFL Free Agency Signings
Broncos Poised To Make A Run In 2013
Since the NFL Free Agency period began on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST, there have been a couple teams that made big splashes to bolster their clubs for the 2013 season. The Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins stole the show in the first 24 hours, but since then, the Denver Broncos have made the most noise. It is evident that the Broncos are not failing to prepare for the 2013 NFL season.
Executive vice president of football operations John Elway has had another stellar offseason, and his 13-3 Broncos look as if they are poised to make another solid showing on the field this year. With five notable signings up to this point, the Broncos have substantially improved on the offense and defensive lines, secondary and also at wide receiver.
Since Jan. 5 2011, when Elway took the reigns in Denver, we have seen that he means business and wants to win now. Now, only a couple of days into this free agency period, the Broncos have signed G Louis Vasquez, WR Wes Welker, DT Terrance Knighton, ILB Stewart Bradley and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
These five players will help in various aspects of the Broncos scheme on both sides of the ball, and their contracts will not hinder the Broncos for the future. Each signing has one thing in mind: the Broncos want to win a Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
This free agency period is most likely over for the Broncos at this stage until they decide how to rectify the salary situation with DE Elvis Dumervil. According to the Denver Post, the team stands about $50,000 to $52,000 under the salary cap, so it is assumed that they will address their running back issue in the NFL Draft in April.
Here are my grades for the Broncos five signings up to this point, as well as the moves made to bring back special teams player David Bruton and DT Kevin Vickerson.
"Rant" your opinions on the Broncos free agent signings and how you would like them to handle acquiring a running back.
Louis Vasquez A+
Louis Vasquez was the first free agent signing for the Broncos. He fills a big need on the offensive line at the guard position, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Chris Kuper and his injury history. Not only does he vastly improve the Broncos line, but taking him away from division rival San Diego makes this a bonus signing.
At only 25 years old, Vasquez has been healthy and is also rarely penalized, which would be a welcome relief for the Broncos. He will be able to have a full offseason to adjust to the Peyton Manning lunacy at the line of scrimmage and be a fixture for the next three years at least. Vasquez' contract is worth over $8 million a year with guaranteed money, but he was also the best guard available this year. Elway can still throw a deep route to hurt a rival like no other.
Wes Welker A
After hearing the rage in Tom Brady's voice over the New England Patriots losing WR Wes Welker to the Broncos, this signing becomes even more special. Welker is the best slot receiver to ever play the game, and even at 32 years old, he will still have three or four productive years ahead of him as long as he can keep taking hits. Evidently his two-year $12 million contract was too rich for the Pats, but they also have a history of letting go aging veterans.
Welker, as an undrafted free agent in this league, trails only ex-Broncos WR Rod Smith for most catches by a receiver with that distinction. With 768 catches, Welker should top Smith's 849 sometime in his second season if Manning has anything to say about it. I say second season for the sole fact that Manning also has to dole out catches to a pair of 1,000 yards receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, as well as Welker. This is going to be one scary passing team if offensive coordinator Adam Gase can keep the pace. Greatest Show on Turf II? That is quite possible.
Stewart Bradley C+
Stewart Bradley is a low budget back-up ILB that Elway signed away from the Arizona Cardinals. He has not had much success playing in a 3-4 defense with the Cards, but when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was a productive starter in a 4-3 scheme. Elway has stated that Nate Irving and Steven Johnson will be the frontrunners for the ILB position in 2013, and bringing in Bradley looks like more of an insurance move than anything else.
Bradley, signed for a two-year deal, is a 258-pound linebacker that was taken in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. In five years, he has recorded 207 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions and will push both Irving and Johnson to be on their game.
Terrance Knighton B+
The bane of the Broncos top five defense last season was stopping the run. It is safe to say that Elway has found a way to stop the leaking sieve and plug the gap with 6'3" 330-pound DT Terrance Knighton. Anytime you have a defensive lineman nicknamed "pot roast", there is a good chance that he is an anchor for a sturdy line, which is what the Broncos have now become.
Knighton has played for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and at 26 years old will be a better option than 34 year old Justin Bannan. He was also the lone bright spot on a bad Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line and has an above average pass rush for such a big player. If Knighton is able to stop the run while applying pressure to opposing QBs, then that will open up more opportunities for Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Elvis Dumervil(if he's still around) to work their magic.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie B
The Broncos got burned big time in the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens, and Elway is going to do everything in his power to not allow that to happen again. Last night it was announced that he signed 27 year-old Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a one-year deal, and suddenly the Broncos secondary has an edge again. This move gives Del Rio and head coach John Fox the flexibility to put Chris Harris on the inside of their nickel packages while locking down more of the field.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a better option than injury-riddled Tracy Porter, and he had a productive year last season for the Philadelphia Eagles recording 51 tackles and 3 interceptions. He has never been great against the run, but at $5 million, the risk is well worth it for a cornerback that has only allowed over a 60 percent completion rate twice in his career.
Broncos Re-Signings A
Before the start of free agency on Tuesday, the Broncos announced that they re-signed special teams standout David Bruton. Usually you do not hear of a special teams player making $4.5 million over three years, but Bruton is invaluable in his coverage of punts especially.
The Broncos also have brought back the other beast on the defensive line, Kevin Vickerson, who re-signed for a two-year contract. Between Vickerson and Knighton, it is safe to say that the Broncos will have no leaking sieve on the line as they did in 2012.
Ryan Clady was tendered the franchise tag for a total of $9.28 million for 2013. One of the best tackles in the league will try to work out a deal before signing, but will not be leaving Denver anytime soon.
Other re-signings on one year deals: Lance Ball, Britton Colquitt, Mitch Unrein, Chris Clark, and Tony Carter.
The next order of business for the Broncos must come by early afternoon on Saturday when they decide if they can come to terms with DE Elvis Dumervil. The team and Dumervil's agent has been going back and forth this week ever since Dumervil agreed to take a pay cut to remain with the club. If the Broncos can not resolve this issue, Dumervil's contract will run out and they will have to head in another direction. The only good that can come from a release would be the cap relief they would receive by signing a less expensive Dwight Freeney.
Any way you look at it, the Broncos have had quite a good week and knowing Elway, he will make the room with the salary cap to improve his team even more than he already has.