Friday, February 15, 2008

Team Needs: Denver Broncos

1. Wide Receiver
Brandon Marshall had a breakout season and Brandon Stokley was back to being one of the best slot receivers in the game (ranked 8th in DVOA among receivers with at least 50 passes thrown their way). Javon Walker, on the other hand, contributed little value, has been a malcontent, and is due some big bonuses this off-season—you think the Broncos might want to cut him loose? After a great career for the Broncos, Rod Smith appears ready to retire. That leaves returner Glenn Martinez as the only other option.

2. Middle Linebacker
D.J. Williams gave it a go on the inside last year, but he's clearly a better fit at outside linebacker. Backup Jordan Beck is good on special teams, but not likely to step into the starter's role. The Broncos would be best off filling this hole with their second or third round draft pick, since there's little to choose from in free agency. Although they could look at one of the recently released former standouts, Zach Thomas or Dan Morgan, even then they would need to bring in young blood.

3. Defensive Tackle
2007 fourth-rounder Marcus Thomas has tremendous upside and should continue to improve and be a force in the trenches. Alvin McKinley would provide adequate depth, but as a starter he leaves a bit to be desired. Denver could use a big run-stuffer to play the nose and should look to add one in the third or fourth round of the draft.

4. Safety
John Lynch will turn 37 in August and even if he returns for one more season, it should be in a limited role. Hamza Abdullah, receiving the most playing time so far in his three-year career, was inconsistent, but he showed some promise, can play either safety position, and is only 24. Nick Ferguson is 33, finished the season on IR, and is a free agent. Roderick Rogers and Steve Cargile are practice squad/bottom of the roster guys. The only reason this need isn't higher is because safety tends to be less of an impact position than DT or MLB.

5. Offensive Tackle
With the retirement of Matt Lepsis, who started 133 games over the last 9 seasons, the Broncos have a big hole to fill at left tackle. 2007 third-rounder Ryan Harris and right tackle Erik Pears, who started on the left side for part of 2006 when Lepsis was injured, could be given a shot at it. Even if Harris and Pears adequately man the two starting spots depth is needed.

6. Running Back
Travis Henry is due a $6 million bonus this off-season and if he doesn't renegotiate his contract there's a good chance Denver could decide he's more trouble than he's worth. Selvin Young had a surprisingly good rookie year, but his durability is a big question mark, and it was clear from Mike Shanahan's end-of-the-year presser than Young won't be getting more than 15-20 carries a game at the most. Denver has liked what they've seen out of undrafted rookie Andre Hall, but he, too, has durability questions. Even if Henry returns there's just too much fragility in this unit not to add at least one more back.

7. Quarterback
I know Patrick Ramsey came in and played well against the Lions, but anyone who watched him in Washington and, even more so, in New York, can't be too comfortable with the thought of him as the backup. I like Ramsey, and I'd love to see him put it all together and get another shot somewhere, but from a personnel standpoint, I'd be looking for an upgrade.

8. Defensive End
If they can resign workman-like base end John Engelberger, Denver should have a good rotation involving him, 2007 second-rounder Tim Crowder (who flashed some ability in his rookie campaign), 2007 first-rounder Jarvis Moss (who struggled with injuries but has hit the weight room hard), and young pass-rushing specialist Elvis Dumervil.

9. Punter
Sam Paulescu punted well in the one and only game of his career so far (week 17), but it remains to be seen if he's the long-term answer. At the very least, he's not going to be simply handed the job just yet.

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