The NFL is on the cusp of the free agent spending frenzy. In a few short hours many teams will spend wisely while others will shell out big money, and the latter rarely wins the Super Bowl.
The Denver Broncos have been wise with their money since John Elway took over. He has signed one big free agent in each of the last two years, but has mostly scored great, cap friendly deals on other productive free agents. It is prudent for teams like the Broncos to wait about 48 hours and then snag the good values. However, there is one “big splash” type player they should target early along with resigning one of their own.
The first priority is to bring back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Unfortunately, the Green Bay Packers over spent on Sam Shields and drove the cornerback market higher than originally thought. DRC will be expensive, but he was very valuable last season and without him the Broncos will be in dire need of help in the secondary. They should definitely think twice about signing him to a long-term deal unless they have a way out if he decides to quit playing. I think they will bring him back.
The big ticket signing from the outside should also come in the secondary. The Broncos need a safety, but I would be very surprised if it was Jairus Bird. He will be too expensive and whether anyone likes it or not the Broncos are high on Rahim Moore. Bird plays free safety and unless Moore has a setback from the Compartment Syndrome he suffered last year he will be the starting free safety for 2014.
However, the Broncos could use an upgrade at strong safety. They should target TJ Ward because he is young, will come cheaper than Bird and tackles well. He is not as good in coverage as Bird, but few are. He is adequate in coverage and will be an upgrade to Duke Ihenacho. I like Ihenacho, but the team should not take the risk that he will be significantly better by 2014. Ward should not break the bank and I think the Broncos will make a push to sign him.
The Broncos then need to attempt to sign Karlos Dansby, Geoff Schwartz, Charles Tillman and Jacoby Jones on short deals. All of these signings must be cap friendly and for one year only. In the case of Jones I could see a two-year deal, but that is maximum. Dansby would step in at middle linebacker and be an upgrade to anyone currently on the roster. Schwartz would replace Zane Beadles.
Tillman is a bit of a risk, but if the Broncos could get one decent year from him he would be valuable in an area of need. Jones would be inexpensive, replace some of Eric Decker’s production and take over for Trindon Holliday in the return game. All the signings would bridge the gap between this year’s rookie draft crop and their 2015 production. There has been little to no rumors about the Broncos targeting these players, but they have made signings in the past that were a bit of a surprise.
Finally, one signing that may happen that I am not particularly excited about is Jared Allen. I can see the benefit in signing him however. His motor runs non-stop and he would provide a more consistent pass rush than Shaun Phillips. He may give a discount to play for a contender.
His mentoring of Quanterus Smith would also be very valuable. I am very high on Smith and I think his quarterback pressure by the end of the year will be second best on the team after Von Miller. Allen’s mentoring would help Smith develop more pass rush moves and build him into the Broncos’ starting defensive end of the future. Signing Allen is risky, but if done with the right terms then it wouldn’t hurt. The Broncos need to wait and see what he commands in the market. The reality may be that no teams want to take the risk on an aging defensive end. He may come cheaper than expected.
These moves, if all done in a cap friendly way, would enable the Broncos to make another serious run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy without mortgaging the future. Breaking the bank on any of them would not be wise. The Broncos will still be a Super Bowl contender even if they don’t make any big splash signings.