Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Timothy Wright (81) runs with the ball as San Francisco 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner (31) defends during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Safety Donte Whitner May Be Broncos' Most Realistic--And Best--Option

The Denver Broncos are going to have an exciting offseason filled with change, a lot of which fans won’t like at first, but a lot of the change that we’ll see could really pump up the Broncos and give them the new look they need in order to win the Super Bowl next season.

One area where Denver needs to upgrade is in the secondary, and getting Rahim Moore back will be a huge step in the right direction, and anything Quinton Carter can contribute will be great, but the Broncos might have to make safety a priority in free agency, since they are running out of time with Peyton Manning at quarterback and need to win now.

Rookies can come in and give you  major contributions, but it might be wise for the Broncos to go with the veteran route and use a rotation at safety that includes 2013 starter Duke Ihenacho, who proved to be a valuable asset as a former undrafted free agent.

With Moore, Ihenacho, Carter, and David Bruton, the Broncos have a group of four safeties who could easily make an NFL roster, but Mike Adams is a free agent and Omar Bolden seemed to struggle this past year. It’s probably also safe to say the Broncos won’t be bringing back Michael Huff next year, a player signed out of necessity rather than as an upgrade.

If there’s one thing we know about John Fox, it’s that he loves his defensive backs, and the Broncos need a tough, physical presence and a veteran guy at the back end of their defense. Some might argue that guy is Champ Bailey, but I think the Broncos can find other unique ways to use Bailey similar to the way Green Bay used Charles Woodson at the end of his career.

My proposal is this–for the Broncos to sign hard-hitting safety Donte Whitner, a Pro Bowler who has most recently been with the San Francisco 49ers.

Whitner will occasionally get in trouble for an illegal hit, but like I’ve been saying all offseason so far, the Broncos need a guy who is going to come in and bring toughness, a guy who isn’t afraid to be a little bit reckless in the defensive backfield.

This is almost all purely speculative, because a lot would have to fall into the Broncos’ favor, but re-structuring Champ Bailey, re-signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and adding Donte Whitner would give the Broncos an enviable secondary, on paper at least.

You’d have DRC and Chris Harris on the edges, with Champ Bailey playing the ‘Woodson’ role as a nickel CB/S, and then you’d have Rahim Moore and Donte Whitner at the safety spots with guys like Duke Ihenacho and Kayvon Webster as backups, youngsters who have a lot of valuable experience.

As far as physicality goes, the Broncos don’t have it in the defensive backfield. Rahim Moore was vastly improved as a tackler, and Chris Harris is a great tackler, as is Champ Bailey, but the Broncos never had all of those guys on the field at one time, and if they did it wasn’t for long.

Denver needs to add more physical play to its secondary, guys who are instinctive and can hit. Donte Whitner is going to be 29 this season and likely will be seeking one more long-term contract to cap off his career. He’s in his prime right now and playing great football, but the problem is he is a couple of years older than the top two safeties on the market, Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. Both of those players want to break the bank as the highest paid safeties in the league.

After what we saw Dashon Goldson get with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Whitner will want a lot of money, but the Broncos can’t really give him a prime time, overpaid free agent deal. Yahoo! Sports recently ran an article that says Whitner’s value may be around a minimum of $7 million per season, but that’s pretty optimistic, even as well as he’s played.

Approaching the age of 30, I could see Whitner getting a very favorable contract from a safety-needy team, but the Broncos made it clear when John Elway came in that they weren’t going to overpay in free agency for non-Superstars.

The highest paid players from last year’s free agent crop were Wes Welker and Louis Vasquez, both of whom made around $6 million.

After making it to and getting crushed in the Super Bowl, the Broncos’ weaknesses have been exposed. It just so happens that Donte Whitner would fill a gaping one.

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