Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Denver Broncos Analysis visit Fantasy Football Overdose – a fantasy football blog.
The first two days during NFL Free Agency are the most hectic. Rumors started swirling over the weekend and bled into Monday, and then the action heated up when teams could officially start making new additions on Tuesday afternoon.
Two days later, the Denver Broncos have made some splashes, and they’ve also said good-bye to some quality talent. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey was let go earlier last week, while other free agents came off the roster on Tuesday officially and were able to sign with new teams.
With the dust starting to settle a bit, let’s take a look back at Denver’s top additions and top losses through the first two days of the 2014 NFL Free Agency period:
Aqib Talib (Cornerback)
Saying goodbye to Bailey wasn’t easy and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was awesome in 2013, but it’s pretty hard to beat the acquisition of Aqib Talib. He has mental lapses at times, but he’s displayed true shutdown ability throughout his time in the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. He’ll take over as Denver’s top corner and should do well to help turn the Broncos’ shaky pass defense around in 2014.
Denver was initially thought to be in the mix to land Darrelle Revis, but Talib actually comes at a cheaper price (under $10 million a year) and is younger and arguably just as talented. Talib will need to work on his focus and decision-making as he moves forward, but he’s easily one of the best signings of free agency through the first two days.
T.J. Ward (Safety)
Rahim Moore looks to have one safety spot locked down, but Denver knew they had to get a second safety they could trust. They did that and then some by landing Ward, who is a big hitter who excels in run support and doesn’t give up much in coverage. He’s been wasting away with the Cleveland Browns, so it will be interesting to see how much he improves on a good team. Consider Denver’s safety issues resolved.
DeMarcus Ware (Defensive End)
With Von Miller coming back from a knee injury and 33-year old Shaun Phillips a free agent, it has been no secret that the Broncos needed to address their pass-rush. Ware would be considered doing so. Still at least a borderline elite pass-rusher, Ware was cut by the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the week simply because he cost too much money and was struggling to stay healthy. He’s going on 32 and could be headed for his decline phase, but his play is still at a higher level that many seem to believe. After all, he played much of 2013 at less than 100%. Denver locked up Ware with an expensive three-year, $30 million deal.
Zane Beadles (Guard)
Beadles is a solid talent, but he wasn’t playing at the highest of levels in 2013 and was arguably overpaid by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Denver should look to find his replacement in the draft, while it’s also entirely possible they’ll look to promote within.
Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno are the other two big names that are likely to be playing elsewhere in 2014, but haven’t officially signed with anyone just yet. (Editor’s Update: Decker signed a five-year deal with the New York Jets Wednesday night). Moreno has yet to have any concrete suitors. If his market proves stale, it’s still not crazy to think he could return to keep a strong committee going with him and Montee Ball.
Denver wisely tendered restricted free agents Chris Harris and Tony Carter, both of which are corners. Anyone who wants to match the Broncos on Harris would have to give up a second round draft pick, which means both he and Carter are almost certainly safe to stick in Denver. Paired with the huge signing of shutdown corner Talib, these tenders likely mean free agent corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won’t be back with the team.
Denver ultimately opted for Talib’s experience and upside over an aging Bailey and over-priced Rodgers-Cromartie, and on the surface it looks like a fantastic move. Harris should comfortably slide in as Denver’s number two corner if need be, while Carter can be an adequate nickel corner, as he always has been.
While the Broncos have made three big moves and made an effort to keep some solid depth, they still need to think about upgrading at inside linebacker and defensive end. It’s fairly likely that they’ll try to address wide receiver and offensive line holes in the draft.
The biggest takeaway so far is that Denver is clearly serious about getting better on defense. They cut some dead weight, regardless of how difficult it was, and they’ve upgraded in a huge way in the secondary, which happens to be their biggest weakness.
The odd thing is that Denver still got to the Super Bowl last year despite a shaky defense, and it happened because Peyton Manning and the offense were so elite. Then the offense didn’t show up at all in the Super Bowl, and the lack of defense was more exposed than ever. The Broncos clearly need to toughen up on offense, but for all intents and purposes they still have the same key pieces there to get the job done. That wasn’t the case on defense, but with these two big moves, that could be changing – at least on paper.
Moving forward in free agency and the draft, the Broncos still need to upgrade the inside of their linebacking corps and may also want to think about adding depth for their offensive line and wide receiving corps. If they don’t, however, it should merely be a sign that they like other talent already on the roster or that they will fill in the remaining holes with young talent in this year’s draft. Chris Borland out of Wisconsin could be one name to remember to help shore up the inside linebacker spot, while the Broncos could also simply gather up some luxury picks to give them young talent to invest in for the post-Manning era.