The Denver Broncos are always aggressive on the free agent market, and this year figures to be no different. With the salary cap expected to increase and plenty of in-house players to take care of, the Broncos figure to be one of the league’s most active and interesting teams yet again, led by GM John Elway who is always looking to make a splash to give the Broncos the best chance to win.
One thing the Broncos really have to look into this offseason is upgrading the safety position, where both T.J. Ward and Rahim Moore were pretty average per Pro Football Focus’ metrics, though Ward heated up at the end of the season and Moore set a career-high in interceptions.
The Broncos have to deal with the fact that Rahim Moore is a free agent this offseason and they have some significant dollars tied up in the secondary. They’ll have to do something again this offseason by either re-signing Moore of giving someone else an opportunity.
Let’s explore those options.
The (Perhaps) Unrealistic: Devin McCourty, Patriots
Fresh off of a Super Bowl win, McCourty might be the top free agent safety on the market and one of the most sought after defensive backs this year. He is a former corner who has translated to the safety spot really well, grading out as the 8th best safety in the NFL this past season.
McCourty is due a pay day, and it remains to be seen whether or not that will come from the Patriots. There were reports back in June of 2014 that the Patriots were working to extend McCourty, but that’s the last we had heard of it. I don’t think he’s important enough to New England or any team to demand the franchise tag, but that’s always a possibility.
McCourty would be a huge get for the Broncos in free agency and is likely atop the wish list of many. For whatever it’s worth, I would have had Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward in this category last year. The Broncos ended up signing Ward on a really team-friendly deal.
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The Best Bang for the Buck: Dawan Landry, Jets
Dawan Landry is already 32 years old, which shocked me when I did some more digging, but he’s still playing at a very high level, ranking right behind McCourty as the 9th best safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
Landry is the lesser-known between he and LaRon, but he has played in all 16 games every single season he’s been in the NFL except for 2008 when he played in just two games.
Durable, effective, efficient, and cheap, Landry could provide the Broncos a veteran player for a cheap price that can provide a high-quality brand of football for a year or two while the Broncos develop someone younger through the draft or currently within the roster.
He had 106 tackles this past season for the Jets.
The Hidden Gem: Da’Norris Searcy, Bills
Da’Norris Searcy played in just 666 snaps this past season, but he was extremely effective in those snaps, grading out at Pro Football Focus’ 18th best safety this past season while picking off three passes (career-high) and allowing a 21.6 QB rating when passes were thrown his way.
Reports indicate that Searcy intends to test the open market, and he should receive a nice deal from some team that did their scouting. It would be nice if the Broncos were that team.
Searcy is just 26 years of age, and seemingly has his best football yet ahead of him. He’s not a big name like McCourty or the soon-to-be-discussed Rahim Moore, but he’s more effective per snap than Moore and has a chance to be a really good starting safety in the NFL if given the chance to do it full-time.
The Veteran With Coaching Connections: Danieal Manning, Texans
Manning will be 33 in August, and his best football is likely behind him at this point, but he is still a really solid player in coverage, grading out as the #30 overall safety by Pro Football Focus this past year (still higher than Ward and Moore).
Manning has played for Wade Phillips in Houston and after a brief time with the Bengals returned to have success with Houston this past season. He played in all 16 games and allowed a QB rating of 67.7 when the ball was thrown his way.
Not to shabby for the veteran.
The Big Names On Last Legs: Antrel Rolle, Giants; Louis Delmas, Dolphins
The Broncos could kick the tires on some big names — they have in recent years — and have actually tried to bring in Delmas once before, but Rolle ranked 81st out of 87 safeties by Pro Football Focus this past season, and Delmas was 51st.
These guys’ best days are probably behind them, though with their talent and natural ability, they might be a better fit in a good defensive scheme with better coaches and players around them.
That’s the optimistic view. There are likely better options available to the Broncos.
The Incumbent: Rahim Moore
Moore ranked 46th on Pro Football Focus’ safety list this past season. YUCK.
That said, he had a career-high four interceptions and coming off of a terrifying injury in 2013, I’d say he looked about as good as he was ranked this past season — middle of the road starting safety.
The Broncos were hoping for a LOT more out of their former second round pick, and due to this year’s relatively weak free agent class of safeties, Moore might price himself out of the Broncos’ comfort range.
If that’s the case, you can expect to have seen the last of him in a Denver Broncos uniform. He might follow John Fox to Chicago, or Jack Del Rio to Oakland, perhaps.
My Selection: Da’Norris Searcy, Bills
I think Searcy has the perfect combination of youth, production, upside, and I also think he’ll be within the correct price range unless the Broncos really want to make a splash. In that case, I could see them going after McCourty and that wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
In fact, it would be weird if John Elway didn’t at least give his agent a call.
I really like what Searcy brings to the table and obviously his production this past year indicates that he is a player on the rise who is ready for a bigger role in the NFL. He could be a really good addition with plenty of upside for the Broncos this offseason.