The regular season is nearing it’s end, meaning the real season – the postseason – is about to kick off.
Win and go home – or stay home – as the 2012 Denver Broncos did with their loss to the Baltimore Ravens last January.
Of course, without wonderfully playing the free agent market, John Elway couldn’t have his team competing for the Super Bowl for the second straight season; building a talented team is paramount.
As the Denver Post explained this morning, the Broncos will have 16 unrestricted free agents this coming March, which some huge names, some backups and valuable depth guys. But knowing just who to keep and who to let leave will be a difficult task indeed.
Let’s take a look at who the free agents are and what the Broncos should do:
Knowshon Moreno – Keep him. Moreno has gone from first round bust to one of the best backs in the NFL hands-down. He’s a triple threat; Moreno runs the rock with emotion, can catch out of the backfield and is a reliable blocker. Above it all, he’s reliable, learning how to hold onto the football ferociously. Yes, he made demand lots of money, but the Broncos need a great back; Moreno’s become one.
Eric Decker – Let him go. Look, Decker’s enjoyed a career year, but is he really that great? Many times this season he’s looked lost and dropped multiple passes, and who can forget his escapades of falling down and fumbles last year? Decker is Denver’s receiving diva – on his own TV show with his wife Jessie James – and he’ll want more money than the Broncos can pay when they have four guys capable of catching 10 or more TDs.
Zane Beadles – Keep him. Beadles is arguably the Broncos most reliable offensive lineman, starting 61-63 games with the team in his four seasons. Last year was his first Pro Bowl, likely the first of many to come. He’s a stellar run-blocker and does well in pass-blocking, too.
Shaun Phillips – Keep him. When Elvis Dumervil left and Von Miller was suspended, there was panic in Denver. Phillips, the 10-year pro, has 10 sacks, which is more than Dumervil (9.5) in Baltimore. He’s been a consistent presence in the pass-rushing department and has proven he still has a lot of football left in him.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Keep him. DRC is the best player in Denver’s secondary. There’s no questioning his ability to lock down No. 1 receivers with height, physicality and speed. He should be the next No. 1 CB in the Mile High City after Champ Bailey retires, which seems sooner rather than later.
Wesley Woodyard – Keep him. He’s made the transition from weakside to middle linebacker this year and done a bang-up job. Woodyard is only the second Broncos player to be named a captain his first five seasons – Hall of Famer Floyd Little is the other – he’s a true leader of the defense. Plus, if the Denver defense finds another middle linebacker, he can move back to weakside due to his versatility.
Robert Ayers – Let him go. Ayers has improved, but he’s never lived up to where Denver thought he would be when he was drafted in the first round. 12 career sacks isn’t nearly enough production, though his 5.5 this year are the most he’s had. Denver needs a more consistent pass-rusher at defensive end and may already have one in Derek Wolfe, if Wolfe can ever get back to the field.
Mike Adams – Let him go. Adams, at 32, is a bit too old to be very effective at safety. He’s decent but not fast enough to cover speedy receivers deep; it’s time to let a youngster take over.
Paris Lenon – Let him go. Lenon is too slow to react and too slow with his feet to make the plays Denver needs from a middle linebacker.
Andre Caldwell – Keep him. Caldwell has been a valuable fifth receiver, with the ability to be a playmaker when his number is called. He’s not consistent, but he should be a good value as their backup pass-catcher.
Chris Kuper – Keep him. Kuper’s been phenomenal for the offensive line when he’s been healthy. Unfortunately, it’s been nearly two years since he was the starting right guard. When he did start, Kuper was a great-blocking and his potential to get back to that level deserves a resigning.
Quentin Jammer – Let him go. The game, much like receivers this year, has passed him by.
Jeremy Mincey – Too soon to tell. Mincey just signed with the team and we haven’t seen him do anything on the field yet. If he can make a play or two, it will likely be worth resigning him, as he should be cheap.
Michael Huff – Let him go. Huff has barely played and the Broncos have both Rahim Moore and Duke Ihenacho to play safety in the near and hopefully distant future.
Steve Vallos – Let him go. When Dan Koppen returns – if he does – the Broncos will have two solid centers with Manny Ramirez and him.
Winston Justice – Keep him. He’s a wily veteran tackle that can and does provide depth in case offensive linemen are injured like they have been this season.
What do you think? We’d love to hear in the comments section below!
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