The bulk of NFL free agency has been over for quite some time and the draft is in the books, but there is still one part of the player acquisition season that is open and will be for awhile longer.
Free agency is basically broken up into three different parts. The first part everyone knows about because that’s when teams go after and sign the biggest names usually within the first 48-72 hours after free agency opens. That’s when the Denver Broncos made their biggest free agency move by signing Wes Welker.
The second part of free agency lasts a lot longer usually going from the end of the first week of free agency through the draft. This period is marked by teams signing good players but not the ones that demanded the big contacts right out of the gate. These players usually wait for the market to settle and then decide where the best fit for them might be.
Shaun Phillips is a great example of a second-tier free agent, and he waited until the first wave was over to sign with the Broncos. Once Phillips saw that the Broncos were probably not going to sign Dwight Freeney, he thought there might be an opportunity to join a good team. The Broncos were interested and got a good player at a very reasonable price.
The final stage of free agency is upon us now and it is often referred to as street free agency. These are usually older veteran players who have something left but have a difficult time getting a long-term deal because of their age. The two examples for the Broncos from last season were linebacker Keith Brooking and safety Jim Leonhard.
Both were coming off of injuries and still available when the Broncos opened training camp. Due to injuries at both of those spots, the Broncos signed both Brooking and Leonhard to help with depth. It worked out well, especially with Brooking who started at the middle linebacker position for most of the season.
Street free agents are almost always signed to a one-year deal that is loaded with incentives; there is virtually no financial risk to the team. The idea of these deals is twofold. It’s a way for a contending team like the Broncos to deal with an unexpected injury as they did with both Brooking and Leonhard. The second reason is to bridge the gap if a younger player just isn’t quite ready to play a position full-time.
The Broncos are always looking to improve their team, and it would not shock me if they added a free agent or two from the last wave. They might look at a veteran safety as they did with Leonhard to provide depth behind Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter. Some of the other areas that might draw some attention in terms of street free agents include offensive line depth and inside linebacker.
The Broncos will use every tool to try and get better, and this last wave of free agency will get their attention. It may not be as exciting as the first two days, but contributing players are often found during this time.
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