The offseason is about to get into full swing, with the combine going this week, free agency around the corner and the draft not too far off. The Broncos made some news by releasing center Casey Wiegmann and running back LaMont Jordan, moves that change the offseason needs of the team a bit. Center, obviously, is an area that needs to be addressed considering there’s no true center on the roster right now. Still, I think there are other issues that need to be looked at even closer:
1. Wide receiver. Even if Brandon Marshall comes back, I think this is the area Denver needs to concentrate on the most. This is an offense that relies heavily on multiple-receiver sets. If Marshall comes back, Eddie Royal becomes a legitimate threat again and Jabar Gaffney is as undervalued as he appeared to be late last season, so what if the Broncos also have another weapon like Dez Bryant? Bryant will be the top receiver off the board, and if he’s there with Denver’s first selection I believe he should be the pick. He is a game-changer. And even if Marshall returns in 2010, I’d still be surprised if it’s with a long-term contract. Also, I have serious questions about Royal, and as much as Gaffney impressed late in the year, he hasn’t really shown many signs of being a legitimate No. 1-type of receiver through his career. In Josh McDaniels’ offense you need receivers. Bryant, if he slips out to Denver, could be a major impact player.
2. Interior offensive line. You’d think that center would be a bigger concern than receiver, considering the Broncos don’t have one and all. But they will get one, of course, in free agency or the draft or both. Cutting Wiegmann in February indicates there is some kind of plan in place for the position. Denver needs to get bigger on the interior to run a power scheme. Another big question is what becomes of guard Chris Kuper. That might be determined by who is willing to sign the restricted free agent (Kuper is one of the players who will be restricted unless there’s a new CBA at the last minute) and how big his offer sheet is.
The Broncos will have to pick up more than a couple guards and centers. Unlike the receiver position, I don’t think they need a home run player on the interior line like they need a receiver with Bryant’s upside. They’ll pick up a solid veteran or two and that should help, especially if second-year guard Seth Olsen progresses.
3. Defensive line. If Bryant doesn’t land in the Broncos’ lap (and even if he does), plenty of fans want Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. And if he ends up being the pick, it’s hard to argue – he’s a very good prospect. But I still think the defensive line is a bigger need. D.J. Williams and Andra Davis, while getting older, are coming off good seasons. The line wasn’t poor, but seemed to wear down a bit and the Broncos are going to have to find some 3-4 standouts eventually, whether in the draft or free agency.
4. Cornerback. This need could be filled from within if Alphonso Smith has a great second season or Tony Carter develops into a starting-caliber player. If not, the Broncos are left with two cornerbacks on the wrong side of 30 (and Champ Bailey in the final year of his contract) and no legitimate nickel cornerback. Everyone knows that the nickel cornerback is basically a starter on defense, so this isn’t something that can be taken lightly.
5. Quarterback. A very interesting moment will come if Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford is available to the Broncos. Those two seem to be the only quarterbacks worth an early first-round pick. Do the Broncos invest in one of them as a potential franchise quarterback, essentially giving Kyle Orton the Jake Plummer treatment? If one of those quarterbacks slips, it’s a decision that will reverberate through the franchise for years to come.
6. Running back. Not as a starter so much, but for depth. Unless Peyton Hillis comes out of the doghouse, the Broncos are pretty thin at tailback now that Jordan is gone. Having three or four capable backs is necessary, and the Broncos don’t have those numbers.