Brian Dawkins is one of seventeen unrestriced free agents on the Denver Broncos' roster. (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

The Denver Broncos Unrestricted Free Agent Primer/Grammy Awards Mash-Up


In the wake of Sunday’s Grammy Awards and just prior to NFL free agency, let’s divide the Denver Broncos’ seventeen unrestricted free agents into Grammy-themed teams to better understand their individual value to Broncos.

Team Whitney Houston: If you wrote a song and traveled back in time to any year between 1985 and 1995 with the sole mission of ensuring it turned into a platinum hit, who is the first person you call?  Easy.  Whitney Houston.  Who turned “The Star Spangled Banner” into a stirring sensation?  Who could take a Dolly Parton song of any magnitude and do what she did on “I Will Always Love You”?

Fast forward to the present.  If your sole mission is to build a championship team, who are the first people you call?  Your own unrestricted free agents that are going to be a lockdown, sure thing mega hit.  Call them!  Get them in the studio Dove Valley now!

K Matt Prater: I like my kickers to have two things: ice water in his veins and tribal band tattoos.  Prater has both.  Not to mention the fact that his leg is a cross between a Howitzer and a Moonraker laser AND he’d continue playing at a mile above sea level.  Franchise him, offer him a long-term deal, just keep him in Denver.

SS Brian Dawkins: I want to pretend that his neck isn’t hurt to the point the his career may be in jeopardy.  I want to imagine that his appearance in the Pro Bowl means that he’s ready for more than just a friendly game of touch football.  The Broncos secondary was visibly better when he was on the field able to contribute.  Leadership?  No doubt.  Toughness?  Of course.  His neck?  I hope so.  An aside: there are only two athletes that have earned the lifetime achievement award of having their name and number as my computer password.  Dawkins20 and Helton17.  If that doesn’t establish value then I don’t know what does.

DT Brodrick Bunkley: He had a quietly solid year.  Could it be that the Broncos will have a solid defensive front in 2012?  Think about it for a moment.  Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers on the ends and Bunkley, a healthy Ty Warren, and a high-round draft pick in the middle.  I could be convinced.

TE Daniel Fells: Fells had some outstanding catches in 2011.  As the Broncos look to develop last year’s picks Julius Thomas and Virgil Green, Fells would be a great all-around tight end to have back in the mix.

LB Mario Haggan: I can see this move for depth, but I can also see him coming back to play middle linebacker if the Broncos decide not to offer a contract to Joe Mays.  He proved he can step into a roll last year against the Minnesota Vikings when he returned an interception for a touchdown in the place of injured Von Miller.

OL Russ Hochstein: This move is easy for multiple reasons.  Signing him would provide veteran depth on one of the youngest offensive lines in the league, it would give the Broncos a lineman who can play anywhere on the line, and he can serve as insurance in the event that Chris Kuper hasn’t fully recovered from his nasty injury at the end of last season.

Team Dave Grohl: Let’s travel back in time once again to the early 90’s and prevent Nirvana from disbanding (I’ll leave it at that).  Would we even know the name Dave Grohl?  It’s easy to forget that he started out as Nirvana’s drummer before fronting the Foo Fighters and turning into a session-artist machine.  The lesson?  Sometimes things need to drastically change before you can realize your full potential.  I love these free agents, but they may need a change of pace before they can shine.

QB Brady Quinn: Quinn is a leader and a class act.  Did you see him on the sidelines serving as peer quarterback coach to Tim Tebow?  Quality.  Remember the Quinn-led lockout workouts before the season?  He’d be a great backup to Tebow, but he’s more than earned the right to pursue a starting position elsewhere.

WR Eddie Royal: This is the toughest of the seventeen to call.  I love Royal in open space and in the return game.  In that regard, he’s exactly what the Broncos need and you can’t deny he’s a fan favorite.  The question mark is Royal as the number one/number two guy where he hasn’t shown as much consistency to be a playmaker.  If the Broncos bring him back to play to his strengths, the move to keep him makes a ton of sense.

LB Wesley Woodyard: Woodyard is the very definition of an underrated player being undrafted out of Kentucky in 2008.  But how does a non-starter and team captain lead the team in tackles and remain a non-starter, and how long can that relationship continue that way?  More than ability, this is the real question the Broncos will have to address with Woodyard.  Will he make the leap as a player and if not is everyone comfortable with him as a quality depth guy?

Team Nicki Minaj: I am not sure what to make of Nicki Minaj.  As much as I enjoyed her verse with Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Justin Vernon on “Monster”, I thought her persona at the Grammys could be pulled off by anyone with access to a costume closet, a little angst, and a grandfather.  It’s not that she can’t be a shock artist, it’s just that Lady Gaga’s meat dress and egg hatching gig play the part so much better.  This group of free agents are players that fit a role, but might be replaced through the draft or through other free agents.

DT Marcus Thomas: He filled in very well for Warren after he was hurt, and if the Broncos elect to bring Thomas back as a result of that effort he could challenge for a starting spot.  I think the question of his return has nothing to do with last season, however.  How do the Broncos think Warren will respond to missing the last two seasons?  How high do they plan on drafting a defensive tackle?  I think those answers determine where the team lands on Thomas.

LB Joe Mays: If the Broncos look to upgrade at linebacker, it will not be at the expense of Miller or D.J. Williams.  Mays is a suitable player at middle linebacker, but do the Broncos want to upgrade?

DE Jason Hunter: It’s always nice to have depth at positions that have struggled like the defensive line for the Broncos.  The question of signing, again, falls more on another player than it does squarely on Hunter himself.  Namely, does Ayers take his late season momentum and fulfill the expectations that come from being a first-round draft pick?

FB Spencer Larsen: After ending the season on injured reserve, the Broncos opted to not even use a true fullback in their formations.  What the Broncos decide to do with their offensive scheme will determine if he’s back in Denver.

Team Maroon 5/Foster the People/Beach Boys:  What did each band of this wholly awkward supergroup collaboration have in common?  You’ll never see them all on the same stage again!  Did America really need this self-indulgent wow-fest that featured 2 full drum kits, 3 bassists, and 4 dozen guitarists?  While these free agents are nowhere near the uncomfortable level of underwhelming that the MaroonBeachPeople were on Sunday, I don’t think you’ll be seeing this group of guys together again either.

CB Jonathan Wilhite: Speed is the name of his game, but with the Broncos looking to upgrade at cornerback through the draft is there a place for him on the roster with other young players such as Chris Harris, Cassius Vaughn, Tony Carter, and Syd’Quan Thompson?

OL Manny Ramirez: An offensive lineman who can provide depth.  He won’t start here, but being familiar with the Broncos’ offense could be enticing to the team.

TE Dante Rosario: Rosario profiles as a depth guy with the Broncos almost certainly looking to focus on the development of their young tight ends.

DE Derrick Harvey: Harvey saw limited action in 2011.  While he has the pedigree of being a former first round draft choice and will be reunited with former coach Jack Del Rio, will it that be enough to entice the Broncos to keep him for another year at a position that needs depth and upgrades?

NFL free agency signing begins on March 13 at 2 P.M. MT.  Teams can assign franchise tags as early as February 20.

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Tags: Brady Quinn Brian Dawkins Brodrick Bunkley D.j. Williams Daniel Fells Dante Rosario Denver Broncos Derrick Harvey Eddie Royal Free Agency Jack Del Rio Jason Hunter Joe Mays Jonathan Wilhite Marcus Thomas Mario Haggan Matt Prater Russ Hochstein Spencer Larsen Tim Tebow Von Miller Wesley Woodyard Whitney Houston