Since we are seeing the list of street free agents growing, I wanted to toss out some general thoughts about who the Broncos would likely consider, in terms of positions of need.
We have already seen some familiar names cut and more are likely to come. What I want to do is sort out specific positions, rather than naming names, to get an idea of what the Broncos will be looking for.
Because I talked about quarterbacks yesterday, I won’t go into that again, but look at other positions in which a street free agent could come into play.
3-4 defensive end: One point to keep in mind about what the Broncos will want for this position is somebody who works best as an interior defender, not an edge rusher. If you are looking for an edge rusher, that player will be a 3-4 outside linebacker.
We must remember that 4-3 defensive ends tend to be edge rushers first, although a few are primarily interior defenders. But that means when we consider those who are listed as “defensive end” among free agents, we have to ask whether that player is better as an interior defender or an edge rusher. If it’s the latter, you aren’t looking at a potential replacement for Malik Jackson; you are looking at somebody who might replace DeMarcus Ware should he be cut.
So before suggesting somebody as a replacement for Jackson, make sure the player you are looking at is more of an interior defender who can bring a pass rush. That’s what Jackson is, so if the Broncos can’t extend Jackson, that’s who they need to consider as his replacement.
One brief point on 3-4 OLB: I imagine the Broncos’ first choice would be to get DeMarcus Ware’s cap number reduced. But if they have to cut him, they’ll want a SFA to come at a lower cap charge and on a two-year deal at the longest, because they certainly want Shane Ray to be the starter by 2017. That may rule out the “big names” among SFAs, who may want a deal similar to what Ware got when he signed with the Broncos and be committed to as the starter for more than a year.
Inside linebacker: This is where the Broncos can be more flexible because inside linebackers aren’t really specific to schemes. However, they definitely want players who are good in coverage. That may be why the Broncos aren’t likely to prioritize bringing back Danny Trevathan, who isn’t bad in coverage, but it’s not his strongest suit (run defense is). Compare that to Brandon Marshall, who has played well in coverage.
For any street free agents who come to your mind, consider how they do in coverage. If they are good in that area, they are worth a look.
Running back: The main thing to keep in mind is the Broncos want a back who can be paired with CJ Anderson, not somebody to carry the load, and they’ll want somebody who can pass protect and catch passes. More to the point, the Broncos are highly unlikely to pursue any RB who isn’t a street free agent, because the top names could certainly affect the Broncos’ compensatory pick count.
I would imagine the Broncos will take their time in finding a veteran running back, although if a street free agent who has plenty left in the tank and is healthy could draw their attention quicker. But most street free agents won’t be like that.
Wide receiver: This could be where the Broncos sign somebody inexpensive to replace the players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. But they will certainly wait until the market settles down before doing so. I believe the WR signing period will be a case of “who makes the first move for the top WR” and then those dominoes will fall, leaving those who will have to take lower-cost deals.
Additionally, the Broncos will want a wide receiver who can return punts and kicks. They’ll probably see the player as somebody who provides competition for younger players.
Offensive line: It’s possible the Broncos could sign an SFA offensive tackle if they are unable to get Ryan Clady to reduce his cap charge. Such a player would obviously have to come in at a lower cap charge than Clady and might have to take a one-year deal. Of course, the player needs to be a good fit for a zone-blocking scheme. The one thing to keep in mind is the market for offensive tackles will be dry, so I imagine the Broncos really want Clady to get his cap charge reduced, rather than look elsewhere.
At offensive guard, I think it’s more likely the Broncos consider unrestricted free agents, because they would be OK with signing a player to a deal that they might think Evan Mathis could get elsewhere, assuming he plays next year. They could still potentially get seventh-round compensatory picks from David Bruton, Ronnie Hillman or Vernon Davis, so the Broncos would be OK with not gaining a sixth-round comp pick that could come from Mathis.
If you want to know who the street free agents are, you can visit Over the Cap for its free agent list and select “SFA” to narrow the list down.