Free agency in the NFL is right around the corner, so it’s not too early to start talking about what the Broncos need to do in a month or so in order to get this team back to the Super Bowl in Arizona next year.
My personal opinion is this: The Broncos need to make re-signing star cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie their highest priority this offseason, regardless of his past with other teams.
DRC matured a lot as a player in his year with the Broncos, especially after his flop in Philadelphia. Getting with John Fox and Jack Del Rio as well as new defensive backs coach Cory Undlin was a huge help for DRC, who enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, ranking in the top five of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback rankings for 2013.
If DRC was ever out of the lineup, it was noticeable for the Broncos. He has great size, length, and straight line speed, and he’s entering the prime years of his career.
The Broncos need to get this guy locked in to a long-term deal to save themselves the trouble of looking to striking gold in the draft to find a youthful replacement for Champ Bailey.
With Bailey set to make a base salary of $9 million in 2014 along with a $1 million roster bonus, Denver is going to have to do some fiddling around with their cap at the position in order to make re-signing DRC work as well as getting another piece to go along with Rahim Moore at safety.
The highest paid cornerback in the NFL is Darrelle Revis, who has proven to be the best corner in the NFL consistently over the last four or five years, even coming off major knee surgery. Revis is making a ridiculous $13 million per season, which is too rich for most teams but the Bucs apparently were willing to shell out the cash.
DRC isn’t going to get that kind of money, but he could certainly be in line to make $8 million annually and the Broncos need to find a way to make that work.
The first order of business is getting Champ Bailey to re-structure his contract in order to save some cash. Bailey’s $9 million base salary won’t fly, so the Broncos are going to have to see if he can at least cut that in half. If Bailey is unwilling to re-structure his deal, he may have to play elsewhere as sad as that may sound. A decision on his future will come soon, as he is due a roster bonus by the start of the league’s new year.
Hypothetically, it would make a lot of sense for the Broncos to simply swap the numbers on Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie’s annual checks.
Either way, I think if the Broncos could prevent DRC from even hitting the open market, it would be to their benefit. Star corners like that do not grow on trees, and losing a key defender like that would be detrimental to Denver’s Super Bowl aspirations.