Denver Broncos have the greatest free agent class in NFL history

Sayre Bedinger
Super Bowl 50 - Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos
Super Bowl 50 - Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos certainly know a thing or two about really bad NFL free agent signings. They have had quite a few of those, to be certain. With that being said, free agency can be an extremely useful tool if utilized correctly (or if you get lucky). As it turns out, you can laugh at the Denver Broncos' history of signing some poor free agents all you want. The fact of the matter is, this team has also been one of the best in league history when it comes to making great moves in free agency.

I would take that a step further, even. The Broncos may lay claim to the greatest individual free agent class in NFL history, and it's not even the one that includes Peyton Manning in 2012.

Denver Broncos signed a legendary NFL Free Agency class in 2014

When you look at the gold standard of NFL Free Agency, it has to be the Denver Broncos' class of 2014. At least in modern NFL history, it's not really even arguable that this group is the greatest assembled in one single offseason. Let's look at the class overall, and each piece individually.

Denver Broncos 2014 free agents
- DE DeMarcus Ware
- WR Emmanuel Sanders
- CB Aqib Talib
- S TJ Ward

TJ Ward, safety

The first signing in the 2014 NFL free agency frenzy for the Denver Broncos was former Browns Pro Bowl safety TJ Ward. What's important to remember about this year of free agency is that the Broncos were coming off of a crushing and embarrassing defeat in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks, and now John Elway was doing his best to emulate their fast, hard-hitting style of defense. Ward was the first pickup.

And he did not disappoint. In three seasons, Ward averaged 60 tackles per year and was constantly making plays behind the line of scrimmage, getting after the QB, and forcing turnovers. He had an awesome run in the Broncos' pursuit of Super Bowl 50 with 17 total tackles and both an interception and fumble recovery in the Super Bowl win.

DeMarcus Ware, defensive end

People forget just how critical this move was for the Denver Broncos at the time. Everyone remembers the DeMarcus Ware signing very fondly, but what doesn't immediately come to mind is just how badly Von Miller needed Ware in his life back in 2014. Miller was suspended to start the 2013 season for violating the league's substance policy. He then came back from suspension, didn't look himself, and tore his ACL late in the season.

Ware's arrival in Denver was a godsend for Von Miller, and Ware really took him under his wing, showing him the way to be a Hall of Famer on and off the field. The Cowboys released Ware in a salary cap move in 2014 and the Broncos, at the time, were deciding between players like Jared Allen, Michael Johnson, and Everson Griffen in free agency.

It's kind of crazy to think back on that time, isn't it?

Ware did deal with some injuries during his time in Denver, but he went to an other-worldly level in the 2015 playoffs when he racked up 12 QB hits in three games along with 3.5 sacks. The way Miller and Ware played together during that 2015 playoff run was nothing short of legendary, and one of the most memorable stretches of Hall of Fame level play in Denver Broncos history.

Aqib Talib, cornerback

In the 2013 offseason, the Broncos took a shot on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after he was let go by the Arizona Cardinals. Given the potential he had shown early in his career with the Cardinals and the price he commanded, he was a worthwhile risk and it paid off for the Broncos.

In the 2014 offseason, the Broncos had an offer on the table for Rodgers-Cromartie before they shockingly entered the Aqib Talib sweepstakes. At the time, Talib was still considered a very risky move in free agency because of the trouble he'd been in with the league in the past.

After the Broncos signed Talib to a long-term deal, they pulled their offer on Rodgers-Cromartie and the rest is history. Talib made four Pro Bowls in four seasons with the Broncos, scored a whopping six defensive touchdowns, picked off 11 passes, and proved to be one of the biggest difference-makers at one of the most important positions in the game for that stretch of time.

Emmanuel Sanders, wide receiver

At the time, the Denver Broncos pursuing Emmanuel Sanders was some of the most unexpected and welcomed news of the 2014 offseason. The team had lost Eric Decker in free agency, which was incredibly disappointing. It seemed like their goal to replace Decker, for a time, was to sign free agent receiver Brandon LaFell.

It wasn't long before Sanders would begin etching his place in Denver Broncos lore as one of the best receivers to don the orange and blue.

After playing in Pittsburgh, Sanders became more of a focal point in Denver with Peyton Manning at the helm in 2014. He lived up to the free agency hype, although the Broncos didn't really have to pay all that much to get Sanders at the time. He signed a very modest three-year deal worth $15 million total.

What's even better than the bargain the Broncos got here? The fact that they literally pulled Sanders out of a deal with the Chiefs at the time.

Sanders opened up his Denver Broncos career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He played a pivotal role in the team winning Super Bowl 50 and just last year signed a one-day deal to retire a Bronco.

Next. 15 worst FA signings in Denver Broncos history. dark