Set It and Forget It: How to Fix the Denver Broncos
OK, OK, “Set It and Forget It” is actually the “Ronco”, not the Broncos, but you try and rhyme something with Broncos. Go ahead, give it a shot, I’ll wait.
Not so easy, right? Anyway, I had one of those Ronco rotisseries, because heck, who doesn’t want automatic rotisserie chicken? Turns out it’s anything but automatic, as the first set of instructions when you took the Ronco out of the box was:
“Set It and Forget It” only after all instructional materials (written and video) have been carefully followed.
And let me assure you, those materials were anything but straightforward. But once you knew what you had to do, it basically was automatic. Just like the Denver Broncos. They’ll need some work in the off season, but if some minor moves are properly taken care of, it should be an automatic trip back to the playoffs.
Actually, the Denver Broncos are in very good shape. The problem is just whether they can keep that shape in 2015.
First, there was concern regarding whether Peyton Manning will return. Recent reports confirm he will, and of course, we discussed previously that the stats demonstrate that he should return.
Next, there are bunch of critical free agents that Denver will have to be concerned with. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, tight ends Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green, and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton are all set to hit free agency. Of course, the Broncos are in decent shape with the 11th most cap space heading into free agency (being at least $25 million under), but that doesn’t mean everyone should be re-signed.
Of primary importance is Demaryius Thomas. The most likely scenario, if the two sides can’t come to agreement, is that Denver will use the franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas so as to redirect resources to locking up Julius Thomas and others. The franchise tag would pay Demaryius Thomas approximately $13 million, but would be a deal if he continues to produce at the level he did in 2014. Even when Manning was subpar in the final games of the season, Demaryius Thomas never let up. Thomas led the Broncos in receiving in the final three games of the regular season (and was the only receiver in those three games to exceed 100 yards) and also led the Broncos in receiving in the ill-fated Divisional Playoff game against the Colts.
As for Wes Welker, there have been reports that he is considering retirement. Truth of the matter is that Welker hasn’t made much of an impact in Denver over the last two years (other than few relatively hit-or-miss Old Spice commercials), in part because he’s had considerable problems staying on the field. Since Welker plays the slot and gets hit often, having multiple concussions over the last two seasons is concerning. And since new Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak generally uses a two tight end set as his base formation, there’s little reason to keep an expensive slot receiver on the roster. Either way, if he doesn’t retire, Denver is likely to let him walk.
Although keeping Julius Thomas would be ideal, it’s not an absolute necessity. Assuming a long term deal can be set, Julius Thomas might stay, but on the other hand he’s apparently made it clear that he’s looking to be one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL. Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green could return, but even if they do, the Broncos would be wise to grab a true “move” tight end to add to the roster. Tamme hasn’t reached expectations since coming over from Indianapolis, and would likely have to take a pay cut to stay. Green is solid, but is better suited to be a blocking tight end rather than a traditional move tight end like Julius Thomas.
With respect to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, although he was effective in the rejuvenated Denver defense in 2014, there’s been little discussion whether he would fit in to new defensive coordinator Wade Philips’ traditional 3-4 defense. He would be a solid hold for the Broncos, but not an absolute necessity.
With respect to acquiring talent, I think the Broncos are better served spending their money on their own free agents and then focusing on the draft for new talent.
Even though the Broncos don’t pick until late in the first round at No.28, that shouldn’t be a problem. If the Broncos decide not to re-sign Knighton, there just so happens to be two excellent defensive tackles that should be available late in the first round of the draft – Jordan Phillips and Eddie Goldman. I prefer Goldman for his versatility on defense and his quickness off the line for his size. Just check out these highlights to see what I mean (thought I admit, it’s painful for me to watch this since one of his sacks was of Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, who proceeded to decline significantly after the highly controversial loss to Florida State):
Another option would be drafting a wide receiver, like Jaelen Strong or Sammie Coates, but honestly, it’s probably better for Denver to develop their 2014 second round pick, Cody Latimer, and figure out what they have in him before investing in more young receivers. Though a good hedge might be Devin Funchess, since he has experience playing as a receiver and tight end and could provide some versatility on the Broncos offense.
So there you have it Denver, keep as many free agents as possible and then target young defensive tackles and receiving options in the draft as needed. All you need to do now is “Set It and Forget It”. Just don’t forget about re-signing Miles the mascot. You don’t want to get on his bad side.