The Denver Broncos recently took a huge step, signing Chris Harris Jr. to an extension. The defense is all the better for it, and Bronco fans have voiced their pleasure at this move all over the world of social media. With the playoffs approaching, and the 2014 season drawing to a close, most fans are focused on the next few weeks, and hoping for a deep run in the playoffs. Of course, with contract extensions and the like, it is hard not to be curious about what the Broncos are going to do in the offseason.
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Peyton Manning has one of the best receiving corps in the history of the NFL. Demaryius Thomas has climbed the ranks, and is often mentioned in the elite class of receivers like Calvin Johnson and AJ Greene. Julius Thomas has also become one of the first players mentioned at his position, along with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Emmanuel Sanders has quickly become Manning’s go to receiver, moving the chains and making great catches all over the field. Wes Welker is still reliable, but has not been the same this season.
Demaryius and Julius are both in the elite category at their positions, and will demand top dollar in the free agent market.
That being said, three of the Core Four have contracts up at the end of the season, and John Elway is going to have some decisions to make. Perhaps the easiest move to make is Wes Welker. He is clearly not going to demand the same large contract he received when he left New England. Denver could resign him, or let him go. It would have the least impact on the field, and be a nice boost to the cap if Denver were to simply part ways with the often concussed slot man.
The big discussion this season has been the Thomas’s. Demaryius and Julius are both in the elite category at their positions, and will demand top dollar in the free agent market. It is likely that Elway will use the franchise tag on one of these two, and make a big contract offer to the other. It seems probable that Demaryius will get the contract in the offseason, and Julius will get the franchise tag. Either way, these two players are the most important free agents of the offseason for Denver.
The Broncos spent much of the 2014 offseason signing defensive players, attempting to fix the problems of the 2013 defense. With the Harris contract extension it is important for Denver to focus on Terrence Knighton. Knighton is the anchor of the defensive line, and is going to be in high demand by other teams. In order to keep Pot Roast in orange and blue, there will probably have to be some sacrifice to make cap room. Letting go of Welker, or signing him to a reduced contract would help. Jacob Tamme is a two million dollar cap hit that could be let go with little consequence. Elway and the Broncos will need to do some restructuring, but signing Knighton should be as much of a priority as signing DT and Orange Julius.
The unexpected issue that the Broncos will face is Brandon Marshall. His play has earned him a contract, and Denver will probably have to make a decision about him. As of now, his number is low, but his priority has rapidly increased as the season has progressed. Someone is going to pay him. The question with Marshall is, whether or not he is essential to the Broncos future success. Danny Trevathan will be back from injury, and could soften the blow of losing Marshall if that were to happen.
Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) carries the ball against Denver Broncos outside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Quite frankly, the front office has a lot of work to do in the offseason. Peyton Manning has a limited number of seasons left in the tank. Last offseason saw the Broncos take a win now approach. That does not have to change after the 2014 season, but the job gets more difficult every year.
Nov 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) checks off at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports