[dropcap]O[/dropcap]h the off-season… It is the most boring time of the year, at least until free agency begins. You’re either depressed because your team was man-handled in the Super Bowl after a record-breaking regular season, celebrating because your team man-handled someone else’s team in the Super Bowl, or just waiting for free agency and the NFL Draft. No matter who you’re a fan of, there’s a lot of hope for every team this time of year… unless you’re the Oakland Raiders. At this time of year teams address their biggest needs to consider in free agency and the draft. The following are what I consider the Denver Broncos’ biggest needs this off-season:
If you haven’t heard the latest public service announcement: Champ Bailey is old. He’s over the hill old. The time will soon come for him to hang up his cleats, turn in his playbook, throw away his mouth guard and auction off his jockstrap. He may even become a salary cap casualty this off-season. Furthermore, we don’t know how long Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) will remain in Denver. Rumors swirled pre-Super Bowl that retirement was a possibility. He quickly refuted those rumors. Still, it could be just one more go-around with DRC in a Broncos’ uniform. On top of Bailey’s imminent departure and DRC’s uncertain status is the ACL recovery of arguably the Broncos’ best cornerback, Chris Harris. Ramifications of such serious injuries aren’t really known until the player gets back on the field. It is quite plausible that he won’t be as effective as he used to be, but only time will tell.
Nevertheless, the Broncos need a cornerback. With the 31st overall selection in May’s draft, the ideal pick would be someone like Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Though, odds are he won’t last into the thirties, or even late twenties. Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett are more likely to be available when the clock starts for the Broncos. If they have already been drafted, Denver may take a chance on Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson or Ohio St. cornerback Bradley Roby or consider drafting another position. ESPN Denver’s Cecil Lammey recently reported that the Broncos may even be interested in trading up for Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, who probably won’t last after the mid-twenties.
At the core of the Denver Broncos’ defensive line is Von Miller, who tore his ACL during the 2013 campaign, causing him to miss the entire postseason. Defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton came on strong during the second half of the season and metamorphosed into the Broncos’ most intimidating defensive player. Aside from Miller, who is coming off a serious injury, and Knighton, who is asking for a restructured contract, Denver really doesn’t have any big names or threats on their defensive line. If a prospect like Auburn defensive end Dee Ford were available, they might have a hard decision to make. Lammey also reported recently that Denver may be interested in trading up for Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, though that would probably be more difficult to accomplish as Mosley is considered by many to be a Top 10 pick.
We all want the happily ever after ending, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case for Eric Decker and the Broncos. It’s really a shame since Decker had a ridiculous 32 touchdowns over the last three seasons and at one time even made Tim Tebow look like a somewhat capable QB. Assuming he packs his bags and even with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, the Broncos will need to fill a void, but not necessarily in the first round. Wide receiver is relatively deep this year, with as many as six possibly going in the first round. While it’s highly unlikely for Denver to spend their first round pick on a wide receiver, or on an offensive position, there will be some good-sized pass-catchers available in later rounds, including 6’4” WR Martavis Bryant out of Clemson and 6’2” WR Donte Moncrief out of Mississippi.
Peyton Manning may not seem human, but he is… at least I’m pretty sure he is? At maximum one has to believe he has three years left. Brock Osweiler hasn’t necessarily shown flashes of brilliance and leadership. I’m not saying to draft a quarterback in the first round by any means. Selfishly, I’d like to see them take a chance on Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith with their second round pick. The Broncos haven’t possessed a legitimate dual threat quarterback since Jake Plummer. I’m not counting Tebow because he was really just a running threat. I love the guy, but he can’t throw a football very well.
If the Broncos do draft a quarterback, they would be under the tutelage of arguably the greatest professional quarterback of all-time. So, there’s that. Denver has one of the best young receivers in the game in Thomas and a budding, young running back in Montee Ball. Drafting a quarterback would give the Broncos a lot of hope and a bright future.
Denver Broncos Team Needs: Conclusion
While the Broncos do have offensive holes to fill, the majority of their concerns are on defense, as was evident to the world on the evening of February 2, 2014. That’s where most of their focus will probably be come draft time, especially in the first round.
Of course, these needs don’t all have to be met in the draft. Free agency commences on March 11. The Broncos need several key players to resign or let go, including Decker, DRC, RB Knowshon Moreno, OL Zane Beadles, S Mike Adams, DE Robert Ayers and more. What happens with these players will obviously influence Denver’s decision-making during free agency and the draft.