It’s almost impossible to put a miserable Super Bowl performance like the one the Denver Broncos had behind you completely, but heading into the offseason and beginning preperations for the 2014 seasons, there are a lot of decisions and changes to be made, from sticking to Peyton Manning and which free agents to hold on to or not.
The Broncos aren’t a young team, but they weren’t meant to succeed in just one season. Peyton Manning is still playing at an elite level and if it wasn’t for injuries, the Broncos would have had a more impressive defense and offensive line to possibly help them out in the Super Bowl. This team isn’t done just because of one bad game, and there’s still an open window to contend.
The Broncos have 16 free agents, and according to John Elway, they are going to let all of them test free agency in order to get a better value for their future contract. Obvioulsy, some of this is plain talk and if they know they can sign a key player from the group of wide receiver Eric Dekcer, running back Knowshon Moreno, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, guard Zane Beadles, defensive end Shaun Phillips, safety Mike Adams and linebacker Paris Lenon for a price they like, it’s going to happen.
Other free agents are going to be linebacker and defensive captain Wesley Woodyard, defensive end Robert Ayers, wide receiver Andre Caldwell, cornerback Quentin Jammer, defensive end Jeremy Mincey, safety Michael Huff, guard-center Steve Vallos, offensive tackle Winston Justice and cornerback Marquice Cole.
So who stays and who goes? DRC might stay, even though he’s going to be looking for big money. He made $5.5 million next season and will look for more money. The Broncos should have around $12 million in cap space before the players they begin cutting and renegotiating deals. That’s good to make some changes, but not too much, which means they’ll have to be careful. One area they can go to is Champ Bailey, who makes $10 million next season, and might be open to a reduction in his salary or get cut.
Shaun Phillips is another player the Broncos should hang on to; he did well without Von Miller next to him, and although he’ll be costing more than the $1 million he made this season, he should be even more productive with a top pass-rusher playing next to him.
Who not to keep? Eric Decker put up big numbers and will look for something along the lines of $6 million a season on a long-term deal. He isn’t worth that kind of money, and flourished because of the talent around him. The same goes for Moreno who had a good year, but Montee Ball should be able to step up and comes at a much cheaper price.
The Broncos main priority should be the secondary and especially safety. After that comes the offensive line and skill positions, but secondary before everything, especially when someone like Decker can be replaced in the ultra-deep Draft class when it comes to receivers. They probably don’t have the money to attract a top cornerback or safety in free agency, but using their top picks (two out of three) on that issue will probably help them be ready for a season just as successful as the last one, at least in the regular season.