Denver Broncos free agents: To sign or not to sign, that is the question

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Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

To Sign or Not to Sign, That is the Question.
Whether Tis nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of overpaying,
Spoiling a key player with outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a Sea of Troubles,
By opposing them and letting them test free agency,
To die, to sleep no more, and by a sleep to say we end,
As the Broncos tryeth to get back to thy Super Bowl.

That bootleg soliloquy is of course based off of Hamlet’s famous monologue. I wonder if William Shakespeare, as brilliant as he was, would be good at managing an NFL salary cap? It is no easy task. Free agency begins on March 11th, less than a fortnight away. It is when everyone scrambles to improve their roster, and when NFL teams start to take shape.

So the Broncos brass has some tough calls to make, because they have 22 free agents. Will they all be returning in 2014? Negative. There are always new faces in new places when the free agent dust settles. That’s just the nature of the business.

With 17 million dollars and change to play with as of right now, here are some particularly notable free agents the Broncos must decide to either bring back or release to the market.

So fire up that British accent, and let’s ask the Broncos this…

To Sign or Not to Sign, that is the Question.

Eric Decker

Pros: He’s big (214 lbs.), tall (6’3”), and has great hair. He has good rapport with Peyton Manning, and has flourished the last two years in Manning’s cross hairs. (172 catches, 2,352 yards, 24 TD’s) He made some real sick catches last season, and has been a reliable target for the most part.

Cons: Sometimes he trips over his own feet, has been known to give up on routes and occasionally pleads for a pass interference call as opposed to going for the ball. He also has some problems with drops every now and then.

It’s going to be very difficult to resign Decker just based on his predicted price tag. He might garner around $10 million a year, and I would surmise the Broncos don’t want to cut that check. It really depends on whether he wants to continue his career in orange, or cash in some green with a team that has deeper pockets at the moment and a more pressing need at wide receiver.

Knowshon Moreno

Pros: He had a career year in 2013 (1038 yards rushing, 10 TDs) and finally lived up to the expectations that were placed on this former first round pick. He is adept at picking up the blitz, talented at catching the ball out of the backfield (60 receptions in 2013), and rarely fumbles (two fumbles in 2013, zero lost). He always jumps right back up after being tackled, which Peyton and his hurry-up offense appreciate. He also has the ability to cry gigantic tears that are awesome to watch in slow motion and high definition.

Cons: He is not that punishing of a back, has been injury prone in the past and is not known for rattling off game-breaking runs. Before this season, he was pretty much viewed as a first round bust, but saved his skin this year with his breakout season and his workmanlike running style.

Whether or not Knowshon comes back really depends on other suitors’ perception of his value. If another team pays Knowshon big bucks, there will be nothing the Broncos can do. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball in the second round in 2013 and Ronnie Hillman in the third round in 2012, so they already have two younger, cheaper running backs on their roster. The only way the Broncos keep Knowshon on the squad is if they get him at a bargain.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Pros: He became an indispensable part of the Broncos secondary this season and at times, was a legit shutdown corner. With Champ Bailey aging and regressing, he was looked to be the Broncos premier corner, and he produced.

Cons: He does not have blazing speed and isn’t an amazing tackler (only 25 on the season). Although his coverage was excellent, he only managed three interceptions.

DRC took a gamble by signing a one-year deal with the Broncos, as if he was auditioning for a future contract. Well, he passed with flying colors and if the Broncos are smart, they will now give him a multi-year deal. He shouldn’t cost too much (around $5 million a year I would guess), and was a vital proponent of the Broncos secondary.

Zane Beadles

Pros: He’s a big boy (6’4”, 305 lbs.) that is in the prime of his career (27 years old.) He has started 62 of 64 games in his four seasons and had avoided any serious injury. A solid overall guard that can both run block and pass block, he was a pro bowler in 2012.

Cons: It’s tough to nitpick this offensive lineman because he has had a solid run with the Broncos. The only critique would be the complete failure of the offensive line in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks consistently caved the pocket, suggesting Beadles did not have a great game.

Offensive linemen are more important than people realize, as they form the foundation of every offense. They are also more expensive than people think. Ryan Clady (left tackle) is the Broncos 2nd highest paid player (10.5 million/year), and Louis Vasquez (right guard, 5.9 million/year) is among the top five most expensive Broncos. So unless the Broncos pony up another hefty contract for this hefty lineman, they might have to find a cheaper starting guard through free agency, the draft, or their current roster.

Other standout players for the Broncos in 2013 that are set to be free agents are Shaun Phillips, Chris Harris, Mike Adams, and Robert Ayers. The Broncos signed Phillips at a bargain of $1 million for the year, and since he recorded 10 sacks, his cap number will most likely go up.

It could be argued that Harris was the best defensive player for the Broncos, playing in more snaps that any other defensive Bronco until his injury. He was only making a little over $500,000 and with the contributions he was making, he will definitely get a bigger deal, from either Denver or another team.

Safety Mike Adams was beat out in training camp by Duke Ihenacho, but when Rahim Moore went down, Adams was thrown back into the fire. He performed well, but was not a game changer. The Broncos will need to decide to keep this veteran safety or not, because they are quite thin at this position.

Ayers was a former first round pick of Denver in 2009. He never lived up to the first round hype but he has steadily improved as his career as moved forward (5.5 sacks in 2013). With both him and Phillips free agents, the Broncos will need somebody to help Von Miller pressure the opposing team’s quarterback.

So as we creep towards the free agent frenzy that will ensue on March 11th, John Elway and company have some tough decisions to make, and some contractual numbers to crunch.

To sign or not to sign, that is the question.

To read more of Zach Cohn’s writing, log on to www.thecohnzone.com


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  • Scott Diamond

    Sick breakdown! Now that Champ is released, DRC may be that much more a priority. Beadles is one for sure, I feel like Decker and Moreno will be headed for greener pastures but with Peyton those positions can literally be plug and play with a couple of cheap veterans. Philips may cost but something tells me he will get paid in Orange. Let the games and bidding wars begin! Parting is such sweet sorrow!