Free Agency Thoughts: Denver Broncos


Key Additions: DeMarcus Ware ($10M per year), Aqib Talib($9.5M),  TJ Ward($5.7M), Emmanuel Sanders ($5M)

Key Re-Signings: Andre Caldwell ($1.35M), Winston Justice ($1.2M)

Key Losses: Eric Decker (Jets), Zane Beadles (Jaguars), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants), Knowshon Moreno (Dolphins), Shaun Phillips (Titans)

Major Cuts: Champ Bailey ($10M cap savings)

Free Agency Thoughts:

There was certainly a great deal of turnover in Denver this offseason. Gone are a starting receiver, guard, corner, running back and defensive end, all of whom played pretty well last year for the AFC Super Bowl representatives. The Broncos would allocate the cash by sinking big money to one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL, a top salaried cornerback, and a top level safety.  For the most part Denver has a team built around a one or two year window where, in most cases, an emergency reset button can be hit pretty quickly.

Taking a chance on Ware could pay big dividends or they could end up writing a big check for little. Ware battled injuries all of last season and $16.5 million in guarantees and $20 million in cash is a high number for a 32 year old declining pass rusher. It’s probably a move they needed to make since Von Miller’s status is always going to be a concern, but you just have to wonder how much they regret losing Elvis Dumervil who would have been more economical and played in last years Super Bowl. Signing Ware is probably an admission of the mistake.

Talib, if healthy for 16 games, is better than Cromartie and could be cut after one year if things go really badly. I do think this is a team that should have been in the Revis sweepstakes, but this is a good signing and contract. Ward I think is a terrific signing. He’s a good all around player on a team friendly deal.  Like Talib he could be moved after one season, but I’d be very surprised if there was any downside to his signing.

Sanders is a questionable call.  Decker is a better player, but I think the worry is he would warrant a five year contract which the Broncos had no desire to do, especially with Demaryius Thomas up for an extension soon. If one stays post-Manning it does make sense for it to be Thomas, but I don’t see the lure of Sanders at $5 million a season, even if it’s just a one season trial run.

Overall Grade: B

I like the notion of going for it when you are a team in a position like Denver, but I feel like they could have gone further. When you are already going to risk some cap health in 2015 with these contracts I would have rather done it with Decker and potentially Revis than Sanders and Talib.  Revis would have played no role in 2015, so I understand that one, but Decker should have been retained. The team will likely need to look for some offensive line help in the draft, but they were pretty capped out and could not be expected to do better than they did in lower level signings like Winston Justice and Will Montgomery. Even if things don’t click this year they wont be that compromised so it’s a good set of moves from a contractual standpoint.




  • George Proteus

    I don’t really see how Talib is better than DRC. DRC actually likely had the better overall year last year, they were at least reasonably similar. Otherwise, both were similar draft picks, exact same age with similar production. DRC had the down years Philly, Talib hasn’t played 16 games in a season in his career and ended each of the last 3 injured.

    I simply think Elway way missed the market which was $7-8M for guys like Grimes, DRC and Talib.

    • Kibbles

      Talib is better 1-on-1 against top receivers. Witness the job he did against Demaryius Thomas in the regular season (Thomas’ worst game in terms of total yards and one of just two red-graded games on the year according to PFF). PFF’s grades say that DRC had the better season, but PFF’s grades don’t have a “degree of difficulty” adjustment, so a DE that gets 3 pressures against the worst tackle in the league will grade out higher than one that gets 2 pressures against the best. Both were great last year, but Talib’s PFF grade is hurt by how much tougher his matchups were. In addition to Demaryius, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Jimmy Graham were all shut down by the Patriots early in the season before Talib got injured.

      Talib is also more physical and better in run support.

      • I think Talib has a far higher upside than DRC for all the reasons you mentioned. I’d be more confident in Talib doing high end work than DRC who really had a career season. Talib wont be healthy 16 regular season games but the key is having him ready for the playoffs. When you factor in contract breakdowns where Talib has a one to two year deal versus the Giants paying a fortune and locking in much longer term on DRC, who talked about retiring, its a no-contest in my opinion.

      • George Proteus

        That’s what Talib had… 6 games. 28.9 passer rating against in those games, 121.1 after he returned. He got eaten up after that. It’s nothing new, he’s never been consistent when healthy. And considered his Pb/ 2nd AP were his first, I’d very much question which player is getting their contract off a career year. Or at least 6 games of one. As far as locking in their contracts, their is nominal difference. It almost entirely comes down to Denver paying more money in year one and having to eat less down the road where the Giants have a minimal cap hit this year and more later. Otherwise, it’s simple distribution.

  • billyricky

    I don’t know which Super Bowl you’re talking about, but Dumervil wasn’t there. He was on Denver when Baltimore played, and on Baltimore when Denver played.

    • Kibbles

      The passage is ambiguously written. It currently reads that Dumervil (1) would have been more economical (true) and (2) played in last year’s superbowl (false). I’m assuming Fitzgerald’s intended meaning was that Dumervil would have (1) been more economical and (2) played in last year’s superbowl- i.e. if Denver had not cut Dumervil, he would have played in the SB, but they did, so he did not. Both clauses were meant to be conditional, but it reads as if only the first is.

      As an aside, English is very hard, and and it’s notable how rarely Jason’s meaning gets lost like this. Many kudos for putting out such a huge wealth of quality, well-written analysis.

      • Yes thats what it was meant to read like. Glad you enjoy the site!