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AFC West Update – Denver Broncos (2013: 13-3, Lost Super Bowl)

Denver came off of its record setting regular season to blaze a path through the AFC playoffs.  It met a juggernaut of a defense in the Super Bowl and put up a measly 8 points.  Their biggest concerns heading into the offseason are all on defense. (No surprise there).  This team needs to get more physical on both sides of the ball and needs to add players that have reckless abandonment for their own bodies.  They need to upgrade the secondary and add help along the middle of the defense.

They moved quickly during the free agency and signed hard hitting safety T.J. Ward from Cleveland.  Mike Adams is 33 and is a free agent, Duke Ihenacho played well but wasn’t consistent.  He could eventually develop into a starter.  Rahim Moore redeemed himself from his 2012 playoff performance against Baltimore.  Ward is a nice season last year in Cleveland (112 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions).

Also in the secondary, the Broncos released long time veteran Champ Bailey.  As much as he was a fan favorite, he was consistently burned on deep routes not only this year, but also in 2012.  At 36, he is not the same caliber player he once was.  His move also frees up $10M in the cap.  The Broncos moved quickly and filled his position with rival New England’s Aqib Talib.  Talib is a very solid #1 corner and should provide an immediate upgrade.  All eyes now, are on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  If they can get a deal done and re-sign him, that secondary will be a very formidable force to run or pass against.

The last major move the team did was sign former Cowboys stud DE, DeMarcus Ware.  Orginally Jared Allen was expected to come to town, but the surprise release of Ware quickly changed the minds of the Broncos front office.  When Ware is healthy, he is one of the best, if not the best pass rusher in the league.  He turns 32 in July so this may be a last chance for Ware to get it done.

The Broncos also tendered CBs Chris Harris (coming off a playoff torn ACL) and Tony Carter (had an ankle injury).  Both plays have the option to sign with another team, but the Broncos would be compensated with a draft pick.  Because both players are coming off an injury, and Harris may not even be ready by the start of the regular season, expect both to be back for 2014, but only serve as a back-up.

Eric Decker is the big name leaving town, he signed a deal with the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!  The big argument that I keep hearing about Decker, is that he is a product of Peyton Manning and is nothing more than a soft #2, solid #3 WR.  He did catch a few touchdowns from Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, but I wouldn’t mention that too loud in New York.  Decker has had spurts where he turns into Mr. Butterfingers or trips on the football field sprinkler system.  The Jets want him to help speed along Geno Smiths development, only time will tell if this move was worth it.

There are still several big names out there for Denver that have yet to make any decisions about coming back for another chance at a ring or try their luck with someone else.  Wesley Woodyard is a leader on the team and played most of the season through an injury he suffered because a silly play by a rookie.  Already mentioned Rodgers-Cromartie, but his return is a must for Denver.  Knowshon Moreno had a career season and wants to be paid, only problem is the running backs are not the featured element of this offense.  While a solid back is required, they believe they can get the same output from backups Montee Ball (as long as he hangs on to the ball) and Ronnie Hillman. One of the more underrated players (in my opinion) is Defensive End Shaun Phillips.  Coming off a 10 sack season, and turns 33 in May, Phillips will most likely be in competition for the #2 position behind recent signee D. Ware.  I think he is still better than anyone else currently on the roster and without pressure from the other side, teams will be able to double-team Ware and limit his production.

With a free agency buzz slowing down, and the draft right around the corner, the biggest need now is at the Inside Linebacker slot.  An upgrade of Woodyard is needed, so look for this team to target a linebacker with their pick in the 1st round.  If a deal with Rodgers-Cromartie cannot be reached, look for a Cornerback to be targeted in round 2.  In the 3rd round, look for a Wide Receiver target to replace Decker.  This team is loaded with talent with J. Thomas, D. Thomas, Welker…but if never hurts to add a talent especially if that talent is cheap to purchase.


-Joseph Yslas ---- Follow me on Twitter @J_Salsy

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