Last week, I talked about the players under rookie deals who will become unrestricted free agents next season and how the Broncos might approach them.
This week, I want to look at other players who will hit free agency of some type, and what the Broncos may do with them. I had planned to discuss veterans who were to become free agents, but that’s a short list, and I’ll get to the reasons why.
Along with veterans, I will discuss a few players who are set to become either restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents and what the Broncos may do there. Although the 2015 season hasn’t started, it’s a good idea for any team to plan ahead for what might need to be done, then adjust accordingly based on how players perform.
Now, the reason why this will be about more than just veterans set to become free agents, is because there aren’t that many veterans the Broncos will want to retain. Briefly going over some of the more notable names:
* David Bruton: He’s the only veteran I would expect the Broncos to seriously consider retaining — and that doesn’t mean he’s a high priority. Bruton will be 28 next year and is clearly best as a depth and special teams player. That would mean he wouldn’t be costly to re-sign. With that said, the Broncos might expect to find other players who can fill his role just as easily. So while the Broncos would be interested in retaining him, they won’t go out of their way to do so.
* Chris Clark: Whether or not he sticks around next year depends on how well he performs this season. If he doesn’t work out at right tackle, he won’t be back in 2016. If he holds the position down well, and the Broncos aren’t convinced Michael Schofield can be the starter, then he could be retained. However, there’s no way the Broncos will extend him for more than two years, as he’ll turn 30 next year. In fact, if he does stay, a one-year deal is far more likely.
Those are the only two veterans I can see the Broncos have interest in re-signing. Players such as James Casey, Antonio Smith and Ryan Harris are clearly short-term signings who the Broncos won’t push to retain. Steven Johnson would fall into this category, but I suspect the Broncos won’t see him as a priority, unless he really impresses this season.
So the good news is the Broncos don’t have a lot of veteran free agents they absolutely must retain. The focus can turn to extending younger players.
That brings me to the restricted free agents. Let’s look at the more notable players:
* Brandon M. Marshall: He broke out last season and the decision to tender him as an exclusive rights free agent this season was a no-brainer. Another quality season from Marshall means the Broncos will likely consider the second-round tender in 2016. If he has a Pro Bowl-type season, they may be tempted to put the first-round tender on him. I can’t see them going with the original-round tender if he excels in 2015, because if that were to happen, it’s easy to see teams line up to sign him to an offer sheet the Broncos can’t match, because the Broncos would get no compensation. The second-round tender will cause some teams to reconsider, as they must weigh whether or not giving up a draft pick to sign Marshall is worth it. Of course, a Pro Bowl season might convince teams it’s worth a second rounder, which is why the first-round tender might come into play.
* C.J. Anderson: He broke out last season as well. The difference between Marshall and Anderson, though, is that Anderson plays a position in which it’s not that difficult to find productive players. Running backs don’t carry as high a priority as they used to. With that said, a quality season from Anderson likely gets him a second-round tender. I don’t see a first-round tender coming, though, as the Broncos will likely believe that, if teams want to give up a second-round pick to sign Anderson, they’ll take the pick and look to the draft for a back to pair with Montee Ball or whoever else they have.
* Ben Garland: He’ll be 28 years old next season, but if he has a good season, the Broncos will tender him. The tricky part will be deciding whether it’s worth risking the original-round tender, in hopes that most teams seem him as somebody who only fits a pure zone-blocking scheme, or go with a second-round tender in hopes of getting a pick in return. Remember, because Garland was an undrafted player, an original-round tender means the Broncos get no compensation if somebody signs him. Of course, this depends on how well Garland plays. If he doesn’t perform to expectations, the Broncos won’t tender him.
There are a few other players I believe will become restricted free agents, but those are the three I see as the ones the Broncos hope will be key players in 2016.
As for exclusive rights free agents, the one who stands out is Todd Davis. Reports were that he impressed in offseason activities, and if he continues to impress, an ERFA tender will come his way.
Another possibility is Matthew Paradis, who was waived last year after training camp, then spent the season on the practice squad. Even though he was a sixth-round draft pick, his practice squad status makes him an ERFA next season, provided he makes the team this year. If he makes the roster and impresses as a depth player, the Broncos will tender him, as it wouldn’t cost much to do so.
We’ll know more once the season gets underway. To think training camp is just two weeks away, and we’ll have a lot more to talk about, I’m sure.