Top Ten Offseason Moves for Denver Broncos
Top Ten Offseason Moves
With on the field workouts now underway for the Denver Broncos, the majority of the work by John Elway and the front office is now complete. They are always looking to improve and there could still be a signing or two before training camp, but the heavy lifting has been done.
It’s been a very productive offseason for a team that was 13-3, and that’s why it is impressive. It would have been easy for Elway to write off the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens as nothing more than a bad day, and keep the team intact. However he took the opposite approach and set out to make the Broncos better.
Elway, John Fox and the players understand that their window with Peyton Manning as their quarterback is a short one, three years at most, and there is no time to waste. With that in mind, the Broncos focused on two main things as they looked to improve their team in the offseason.
The first was giving Manning more weapons to play with and making sure they could protect him long enough to use those weapons. As great as the offense was in 2012, there were times when they seemed to be stuck in neutral. Having a year together and the new toys should help eliminate many of those struggles.
The second focus was on the defense where the Broncos used both free agency and the draft to improve a unit that was all ready ranked in the top five.
Now Elway turns the players over to Fox and the coaches, with only one acceptable goal; win the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at the top 10 moves of the Broncos 2013 offseason.
10. Quanterus Smith
In what could be one of the steals of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Broncos think they have found a big time pass rusher in Quanterus Smith. Smith is never going to be an all-around player, but in a pass happy league, he brings a much needed skill to the Broncos.
Had it not been for a knee injury, Smith likely would have been a second round pick. He had 12 sacks in 11 games during his senior season, including three versus the University of Alabama. Smith should be ready to go for training camp, and the Broncos are hopeful that he can contribute in his rookie season.
9. Terrance Knighton
Defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio likes his defensive tackles big and Terrance Knighton is that. The Knighton signing was a curious one for some based on his lack of production in 2012, but you have to look deeper than that. When Knighton played for Del Rio with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was a force and one of the best run stuffers in the league.
The Broncos are counting on Knighton to be a part of a rotation at defensive tackle that will clog up the middle, and control the running game. Knighton is one of those signings that no one talks about when it happens, but his worth will prove valuable over a 16 game season.
8. Sylvester Williams
The Broncos were thrilled when Sylvester Williams fell to them in the draft and jumped at the chance to take the big defensive tackle from the University of North Carolina. Williams is the tackle that the Broncos have been searching for since Trevor Pryce left via free agency.
Williams is excellent versus the run and can also rush the quarterback. The Broncos led the league in sacks in 2012, they but still struggled to get pressure up the middle and that’s what makes quarterbacks uncomfortable. Williams will help in that area and be a valuable part of the rotation at defensive tackle.
7. Alex Gibbs
Bringing back Alex Gibbs as a consultant on the offensive line may not be the high profile move of a Wes Welker, but it’s a big one. The Broncos struggled to run the football last season and one of their goals is to improve in that area. No one knows the running game better than Gibbs; he was the running game coordinator when the Broncos were winning Super Bowls with the best ground game in the league.
Gibbs will also get the most out of the young offensive linemen and he will make players like Zane Beadles, JD Walton and Orlando Franklin better. He will also be a valuable tool for rookie running back, Montee Ball. Gibbs understands how the offensive line and the running backs work together, and that message will get across. The fans won’t see him on the field every week, but they will see his influence on the field.
6. Dominque-Rodgers Cromartie
As great as the secondary was for most of 2012, they were exposed a little in the playoff loss to the Ravens. Elway saw the need for another cornerback and signed Dominque-Rodgers Cromartie from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cromartie was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, but struggled in his two years with the Eagles. I believe he was a victim of a lousy scheme and a dysfunctional team. If Cromartie can return to the form he displayed while with the Cardinals, then the Broncos have a steal.
The early signs are positive as Cromarite appears to be re-energized with the Broncos and happy to be around a team with no drama.
5. Shaun Phillips
It’s possible that the signing of Shaun Phillips could end up being the best move of the offseason. The Broncos needed a pass rusher opposite of Von Miller after Elvis Dumervil left via free agency. They looked at several options including Dwight Freeney, but the prices were too high.
Phillips banged on the Broncos door until someone answered and agreed to play for pennies when compared to Freeney. If you look at their most recent play, Phillips has been better than Freeney and he wanted desperately to be a Bronco.
Phillips will rush the quarterback opposite of Miller on passing downs, but Del Rio will also move him all over the front seven to take full advantage of everything he can do. Phillips, unlike Freeney, can play the run as well as the pass and is a great pickup by Elway.
4. Jack Del Rio
Sometimes the best moves are the ones that never happen, and that’s the case here. The Broncos have had a revolving door at defensive coordinator for the past nine years making it impossible to have continuity. That won’t be the case in 2013 as Jack Del Rio returns for his second season looking to build on a solid 2012.
The Broncos were a top five defense last year, and now the players have had a year in Del Rio’s system. Everything should be second nature this year which means Del Rio can add more to the defense.
Del Rio also knows the strengths of every player and how to use everyone of them in certain situations. In short, Del Rio and the defensive players are running the same system for the second straight season. That should lead to a defense that is confident and aggressive.
3. Louis Vasquez
Offensive linemen are not sexy like receivers, running backs or quarterbacks, but they are just as important. There’s a reason that Louis Vasquez was the first free agent signing for the Broncos; he is one of the best guards in football and protecting Manning is always a priority.
Vasquez and Franklin will team up on the right side, and they will be very physical. When the Broncos run the ball, look for them to run to the right. Both Vasquez and Franklin are terrific run blockers, and they have a chance to dominate anyone they play.
2. Montee Ball
It’s not often that a second round pick generates the kind of excitement that Montee Ball has both among the team and the fans. Every now and then a player and a team are a perfect fit, and that appears to be the case here. Ball grew up a Broncos fan, and now he’s a key player for the team he rooted for as a kid.
The Broncos are a pass first team, but they have to run the ball better in 2013 if they are going to win the Super Bowl. Ball’s running style is a perfect fit for a Manning led offense; he runs between the tackles, gets the tough yards and is terrific around the goal line.
The Broncos' biggest struggle on offense came in short-yardage situations; there were far too many times when they failed to convert a simple third and one. If they are able to stay on the field, then more points will follow. Ball is the perfect back to get that done.
In addition to his ability to run the rock, Ball is a more than capable receiver out of the backfield. He does have to improve his pass blocking, but it’s better than people think. It would not surprise me at all if Ball was the offensive rookie of the year in 2013.
1. Wes Welker
On the second day of free agency when most people thought the Broncos were going to be quiet, they made a big splash. They went after and got the best slot receiver in the league. Welker joins Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to make up what is arguably the best set of receivers in football.
The addition of Welker makes the Broncos offense lethal, and defenses are not going to be able to cover everyone. As good as Decker and Thomas were last season, they did not have the inside threat of a Welker. Defenses are going to have to decide who they want to double team.
If teams try to take away Welker, Thomas is going to have single coverage on the outside and he will win that matchup every time. If defenses double Thomas or Decker, then Welker is going to have field days in the middle of the field.
The Broncos offense was very good in 2012; the addition of Welker makes it potentially record breaking.
It would be an understatement to call the Broncos' offseason a success, but as we all know games are decided on the field. Elway and his staff have done their job so now it is up to the coaches and players.
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