QB Kyle Orton, QB Chris Simms, RB Correll Buckhalter, RB LaMont Jordan, WR Jabar Gaffney, WR Brandon Lloyd, OT Brandon Gorin, DE LeKevin Smith, DE/NT Ronald Fields, DT Darrell Reid, ILB Andra Davis, ILB Nick Greisen, CB Andre' Goodman, FS Brian Dawkins, FS Renaldo Hill.
RB Knowshon Moreno, DE Robert Ayers, CB Alphonso Smith, FS Darcel McBath, TE Dick Quinn, FS David Bruton, G Seth Olsen, WR Kenny McKinley, QB Tom Brandstater.
QB Jay Cutler, QB Patrick Ramsey, QB Darrell Hackney, RB Tatum Bell, RB J.J. Arrington, RB Ryan Torain, RB Selvin Young, RB P.J. Pope, RB Anthony Alridge, RB Michael Pittman, WR Darrell Jackson, WR Glenn Martinez, TE Nate Jackson, TE Chad Mustard, OT Erik Pears, C Tom Nalen, DE Ebenezer Ekbuan, DE John Engelberger, DT Dewayne Robertson, DT Josh Shaw, OLB Boss Bailey, OLB Jamie Winborn, OLB Louis Green, ILB Nate Webster, ILB Niko Koutouvides, CB Dre Bly, CB Karl Paymah, FS Marlon McCree, SS Marquand Manuel, S Herana-Daze Jones.
2009 Denver Broncos Offense:
You know the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Well, Josh McDaniels apparently lives by a different mantra: "If it ain't broke, make it worse. And if it is broke, don't fix it. Oh, and make sure you surrender future first-round picks so you can draft crappy players who don't fit your system."
I've been covering the NFL for nearly 10 years on this Web site, and I've seen coaches, GMs and owners do really stupid things - but not nearly as dumb as the stuff McDaniels pulled this offseason. From attempting to downgrade the quarterback position with a system player, to pissing off the franchise player, to alienating the fan base, to pissing off the franchise player even more, to actually downgrading the quarterback position by trading a top-notch signal caller for peanuts, to giving away a possible top-five pick for a nickel corner, to neglecting to fix one of the worst defenses in the NFL, McDaniels must have set a record for ineptitude.
Jay Cutler is gone and Kyle Orton is here. The few Denver fans who backed this silly Cutler-Orton deal are just about to see the difference between an elite talent and a system guy with no arm. Sure, Cutler threw a lot of interceptions last year (18) - way mo than Orton's 12 - but Cutler's interception percentage (2.9%) was pretty identical to Orton's (2.6%) because Cutler was forced to throw a ton, thanks to his horrifically inept defense. Orton has never been asked to play in shootouts or come from behind. Orton has always had a very capable defense at the very least in Chicago, so I'll be shocked if we don't see his pick total soar to about 20.
If the downgrade at the quarterback position wasn't enough, there's a chance Brandon Marshall could be suspended for a few games. The ultra-talented wideout (104 catches, 1,265 yards, 6 TDs) was arrested in March and is being charged with misdemeanor battery. We won't know Marshall's fate until August.
But it's not all negative for the Broncos. McDaniels made at least one great selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. Knowshon Moreno has the skills and the talent around him to lead in the league in yards from scrimmage. A three-down back, Moreno will catch a ton of passes from the weak-armed Orton. He also has the luxury of running behind one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL; the front five, led by left tackle Ryan Clady (gave up 0.5 sacks as a rookie) surrendered just 12 sacks in 2008 and allowed a slew of mediocre running backs to average 4.8 yards a pop.
In addition to Moreno and Marshall, Orton will also have second-year wideout Eddie Royal and tight end Tony Scheffler at his disposal. As a mere rookie, Royal caught 91 passes for 980 yards, while Scheffler chipped in with 40 grabs for 645 yards. For fantasy purposes, it kind of makes you wish that the Broncos had someone who could get them the ball downfield consistently, huh?
2009 Denver Broncos Defense:
And now we're at the "If it's broke, don't fix it" part. The Broncos arguably had the worst defense in the NFL last year. They weren't dead last against the run (29th) or the pass (also 29th), but they completely melted down during the stretch, surrendering 112 points in a three-game span that decided their fate.
Instead of adding talent to the stop unit, McDaniels spent the entire offseason attempting to downgrade the quarterback position, changing the defensive scheme to an unfamiliar 3-4, acquiring old washed-up veterans and drafting players who don't fit the 3-4.
Good defenses can get to the quarterback, defend the pass and stop the run. The Broncos couldn't do any of those last year. As mentioned, they were pitiful versus the rush and pass. Meanwhile, their sack total stood at a pathetic 26, as no player had more than five sacks (Elvis Dumervil and Ebenezer Ekbuan). Unfortunately, Ekuban is gone, while Dumervil and the disappointing third-year Jarvis Moss (four career sacks) have to transition to the 3-4.
With quarterback pressure once again an issue, Denver's secondary could match the YPA it surrendered in 2008 (7.7). Cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman are skilled players, but both will be 31 once the season starts. At safety, the Broncos have Brian Dawkins (36 in October) and Renaldo Hill (31 in November). It doesn't take a football guru to realize that four old defensive backs are going to struggle if the front seven can't get to the quarterback consistently. The Broncos have young secondary players in reserve (Alphonso Smith, Darcel McBath and David Bruton) but the three likely won't be ready for full-time NFL action until 2010.
As you can guess, the team's rush defense once again will be an issue. Denver's new three-man line is comprised of nose tackle Ronald Fields, a marginal player who couldn't even start for the 49ers; 3-4 end Robert Ayers, an undersized rookie who doesn't fit the system; and 3-4 end Ryan "The Magic" McBean, who has participated in just one NFL game. Ouch.
With perhaps the league's worst defensive line, inside linebackers D.J. Williams and Andra Davis will have to take on way too many blockers to make plays. Williams is a really talented player, but he won't have any help. Davis, meanwhile, really struggled in Cleveland last season. The Browns didn't even want to bring him back, yet he's starting for McDaniels. That should tell you how truly awful this defense is.
2009 Denver Broncos Schedule and Intangibles:
Freezing temperatures and thin air should create a hostile environment for opponents, which explains why Denver had an NFL-best 70-18 home record from 1995 to 2005. However, the team is just 13-11 as hosts the past three seasons. Is the Mile High magic dead? It certainly appeared that way when the Bills came into Denver and beat the Broncos in a must-win game in Week 16.
Jason Elam is gone, and it's safe to say that Broncos fans really missed him last year. Matt Prater established himself as one of the league's worst kickers, missing a field goal in all but one of his final nine games in 2008. Going into the 2008 campaign, Prater was just 1-of-4 in his career, so this had "fail" written all over it from the beginning.
Brett Kern averaged 46.7 yards per punt, which is usually a good number, but fairly easy to maintain in Denver. Kern dropped just 13 kicks inside the 20, however.
Eddie Royal couldn't score a punt or a kick return touchdown, but his averages (10.0, 26.1 respectively) were really decent. He could break one in 2009. Unfortunately, the Broncos surrendered two returns themselves, which gives them a total of five in the past two seasons. That's not good.
The Broncos open up against Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas, but things get much more difficult after that. Check out their next seven games: New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, at Washington, San Diego and New York Giants. Denver also has battles at Indianapolis in Week 14 and at Philadelphia in Week 16. Godspeed, Mr. McDaniels.
2009 Denver Broncos Analysis: A year ago, I picked the Broncos to go 9-7, tying them for first in the AFC West. I was excited about the fact that Jay Cutler finally had his condition under control, and I was confident he would establish himself among the league's top signal-callers.
Cutler managed to do so, but was betrayed by his defense in the final three weeks of the season. Cutler was then betrayed by Josh McDaniels and rightfully asked for a trade.
Now that Cutler's gone, the Broncos have a pretty mediocre offense to match their pathetic defense. This team seems destined to finish in the NFL's cellar. Too bad its probable top-five selection will belong to Seattle.
John Clayton said it best: "Josh McDaniels doesn't have a grasp on how to build a team."
McDaniels had a franchise quarterback and shipped him away for what turned out to be Kyle Orton, Robert Ayers, Alphonso Smith and Richard Quinn.
Speaking of Ayers, how does he fit into the 3-4? This is why putting together a logical mock draft is futile; Ayers, a 4-3 guy, could be lost in Denver's scheme. Does he balloon up and play up front? Does he somehow play rush linebacker even though he couldn't get sacks in college? Does McDaniels even know he's running a 3-4?
McDaniels traded both of his third-round picks to move up to No. 64, where he took a blocking tight end. A freaking blocking tight end!
McDaniels also failed to address the defensive line. Denver should once again rank dead last versus the run.
And to top it off, McDaniels traded away next year's first-round pick to move up for Alphonso Smith. Smith will play nickel in 2009, while the Seahawks will likely be drafting in the top five next April.
Grade given on 4/27/09: D
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
12. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
With Tyson Jackson and B.J. Raji off the board, the Broncos didn't have many options here. They took the best player available in Knowshon Moreno. Denver's defense will continue to be epically horrific, but once again, Denver didn't have much of a choice. (Pick Grade: A)
18. Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
I don't like this at all. Robert Ayers is a 1-year starter who wasn't nearly as productive as some of the other first-round prospects in this class. Ayers isn't a natural fit for the 3-4. Does he balloon up and play on the line? Do you play him at rush linebacker and get debacled in coverage? Then again, this pick was made by the same man who wanted a system quarterback over Jay Cutler. (Pick Grade: C)
37. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Alphonso Smith is an OK pick. I don't know what the Broncos plan on doing with their defensive line. The reason for the F? Denver gave up a 2010 first-round pick! If it was Denver's choice and not Chicago's, the Seahawks could be picking in the top five next April. (Pick Grade: F)
48. Darcel McBath, FS, Texas Tech
I guess you can never have too many defensive backs, eh? The Broncos needed a free safety to take over for Brian Dawkins in a year or two, but I really have to wonder what they're going to do with their defensive line. (Pick Grade: B)
64. Richard Quinn, TE, North Carolina
Yet another confusing move by Josh McDaniels, who moved up into this selection. You don't take a blocking tight end in the second round, especially when you have huge holes on your defensive line. It's amazing to me that some teams just don't understand the concept of positional value. I don't care if Quinn becomes a very good player; this selection deserves a Z- because blocking tight ends should never go over defensive linemen in Round 2. (Pick Grade: Z-)
114. David Bruton, FS, Notre Dame
Another defensive back, Josh? I like David Bruton, but it's very apparent that Josh McDaniels has absolutely no idea how to put an NFL team together. What are the Broncos going to do with their defensive line? (Pick Grade: C)
132. Seth Olsen, G, Iowa
Adding offensive line depth is never a bad idea. Reaching for prospects and ignoring the defensive line? That's another story. (Pick Grade: D)
141. Kenny McKinley, WR, South Carolina
Josh McDaniels is either really smart by finding these unknown players who are being considered reaches right now... or he'll be fired by Jan. 1, 2011. I'll lay -200 on the latter. (Pick Grade: D)
174. Tom Brandstater, QB, Fresno State
Josh McDaniels finds his developmental quarterback. I have no problem with this draft choice. (Pick Grade: B)
225. Blake Schlueter, C, TCU
No draft value here, but the Broncos needed a zone-blocking center. (Pick Grade: B)
A meltdown for the ages. At 8-5, all the Broncos needed was one win or a single Chargers loss to clinch the AFC West. We all know what happened. San Diego won its final three contests, while Denver lost to the Panthers (30-10), Buffalo (30-23 as 6-point favorites) and the Chargers (52-21). That's a combined score of 112-54. Mike Shanahan was fired soon after.
Browns sign TE Nate Jackson
Broncos acquire DL LeKevin Smith and 2010 7th-rounder from Patriots for 2010 5th-rounder
Broncos cut RB Ryan Torain
Falcons sign OLB Jamie Winborn
Patriots sign S Herana-Daze Jones
Broncos sign WR C.J. Jones
Broncos cut S Herana-Daze Jones
Broncos cut OLB Boss Bailey
Broncos cut OLB Louis Green
Broncos sign WR Brandon Lloyd
Jaguars sign S Marlon McCree
Lions sign S Marquand Manuel
Broncos cut RB J.J. Arrington
49ers sign CB Dre Bly
Broncos cut RB Selvin Young
Broncos cut FB Andrew Pinnock
Broncos sign ILB Nick Greisen
Seahawks acquire a 2010 first-round pick from the Broncos
Broncos sign OT Brandon Gorin
Broncos cut QB Darrell Hackney
Titans sign QB Patrick Ramsey
Bears acquire QB Jay Cutler and 5th-rounder from Broncos for QB Kyle Orton, 2009 and 2010 first-rounders and 2009 third-rounder
Broncos cut RB Cory Boyd
Broncos announce retirement of TE Chad Mustard
Broncos re-sign TE Jeb Putzier
Vikings sign CB Karl Paymah
Broncos sign QB Chris Simms
Broncos sign RB LaMont Jordan
Broncos sign RB J.J. Arrington
Broncos re-sign DE/DT Kenny Peterson
Raiders sign OT Erik Pears
Broncos sign DE/NT Ronald Fields
Buccaneers sign ILB Niko Koutouvides
Broncos sign CB Andre Goodman
Broncos sign ILB Andra Davis
Broncos sign DT Darrell Reid
Broncos sign FS Brian Dawkins
Broncos sign FS Renaldo Hill
Broncos sign WR Jabar Gaffney
Broncos sign RB Correll Buckhalter
Broncos cut CB Dre Bly
Broncos cut DT Dewayne Robertson
Broncos cut TE Nate Jackson
Broncos cut ILB Niko Koutouvides
Broncos cut SS Marquand Manuel
Broncos cut Jamie Winborn
Broncos cut DE John Engelberger
Broncos cut DT Josh Shaw
Broncos cut RB P.J. Pope
Broncos cut RB Anthony Alridge
Broncos cut WR Cliff Russell
Broncos cut TE Chad Mustard
Broncos hire HC Josh McDaniels
Broncos announce retirement of C Tom Nalen
Nose Tackle: Every 3-4 scheme needs a monstrous nose tackle clogging the middle of the defense, and that's something Denver doesn't have. Ron Brace is a candidate as a second-round pick. Signed Ronald Fields
Inside Linebacker: The Broncos had issues at linebacker in the 4-3. Now, they're playing in a scheme that requires more talented linebackers. Denver's 12th-overall selection could be used on Rey Maualuga. Signed Andra Davis and Nick Greisen
Defensive End: One of about 5,000 positions of need for Denver's defense. The Broncos really could use someone like Fili Moala or Tyson Jackson up front in their brand new 3-4 defense. Drafted Robert Ayers; signed Darrell Reid; traded for LeKevin Smith; re-signed Kenny Peterson
Free Safety: With Marlon McCree hitting free agency, the Broncos will have to find themselves a new free safety. Denver had to get younger at the position anyway; McCree turns 32 in March. Signed Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill; drafted Darcel McBath and David Bruton
Rush Linebacker: Elvis Dumervil, Denver's leader with five sacks in 2008, will be one of the new rush linebackers. Jarvis Moss will have first crack at the other position, but his 3.5 career sacks don't exactly scare opposing offensive coordinators. The Broncos will look to add a rush linebacker to compete for the job.
Cornerback: Champ Bailey and overrated Dre Bly will be 31 and 32 this spring, respectively. There was very little depth behind them even before Bly was cut. Drafted Alphonso Smith; signed Andre Goodman
Running Back: The Broncos went through seven running backs last year - Michael Pittman, Peyton Hillis, Selvin Young, Tatum Bell, Andre Hall, P.J. Pope and Ryan Torain - all of whom averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry. Credit the offensive line for that; not the runners. Denver could use a talented back like Knowshon Moreno, but the team has so many needs on defense that it really can't afford to spend the No. 12 selection on offense. Drafted Knowshon Moreno; signed Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan
Center: Casey Wiegmann played well in relief of Tom Nalen last year, but he turns 36 in July. Denver needs a center for the future, as second-year Kory Lichtensteiger will likely replace Ben Hamilton at left guard in 2010. Drafted Blake Schlueter
Kicker: Matt Prater started the year off well and emerged as a fantasy kicking star. Unfortunately, he really struggled down the stretch. Following the team's Week 8 bye, Prater was just 12-of-20, and he missed a field goal in all but two games to close out the year. It's safe to say that Denver fans miss Jason Elam.
Special Teamers: Denver surrendered two touchdowns on special teams, allowing 11.8 per punt return and 24.7 per kickoff. This is yet another area that must be addressed.
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Andre' Goodman, CB, Dolphins. Age: 31. Signed with Broncos (5 years, $25 million; $10 million guaranteed)
After a slow start, Andre' Goodman actually played really well down the stretch. Unfortunately, his age is starting to become an issue.
Brian Dawkins, FS, Eagles. Age: 35. Signed with Broncos (5 years, $17 million; $7.2 million guaranteed)
A sure-fire Hall of Famer in about a decade, Weapon X struggled in coverage this year, but was very effective near the line of scrimmage. He's a tremendous leader and the Eagles need him in the locker room.
Andra Davis, ILB, Browns. Age: 30. Signed with Broncos
Andra Davis' days as a starting inside linebacker are probably over, but he'll be a valuable backup somewhere.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Eagles. Age: 30. Signed with Broncos
Correll Buckhalter has an extensive injury history and can't be a starter in the NFL. He's a solid backup.
LaMont Jordan, RB, Patriots. Age: 30. Signed with Broncos (2 years, $2.5 million)
LaMont Jordan maintained a 4.5 YPC average in 2008, but at this point in his career, he's nothing more than a backup/committee back.
Renaldo Hill, FS. Age: 30. Signed with Broncos (4 years, $10 million)
Renaldo Hill turns 31 in November. His starting days are over.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Patriots. Age: 28. - Signed with Broncos
Ronald Fields, DE/NT, 49ers. Age: 27. - Signed with Broncos
Nick Greisen, ILB, Ravens. Age: 30. - Signed with Broncos
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Bears. Age: 28. - Signed with Broncos
Brandon Gorin, OT, Rams. Age: 31. - Signed with Broncos
Chris Simms, QB, Titans. Age: 29. - Signed with Broncos
Darrell Reid, DT, Colts. Age: 27. - Signed with Broncos
C.J. Jones, WR, Chiefs. Age: 28. - Signed with Broncos
Denver Broncos Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 8): $34 million
Ebenezer Ekuban, DE. Age: 33.
Despite coming off a torn Achillies, Ebenezer Ekuban managed five sacks in 2008. He had seven sacks in 2006, but missed all of 2007.
Tatum Bell, RB. Age: 28.
If you can keep him away from cash registers and luggage, Tatum Bell can be pretty effective. Bell totaled 117 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 17.
Marquand Manuel, SS. Age: 30. Signed with Lions
Should sign on as a solid reserve somewhere. Marquand Manuel had 83 tackles in 2008.
Kenny Peterson, DE/DT. Age: 30. Re-signed with Broncos (3 years)
A valuable reserve defensive lineman who can play both the 4-3 and 3-4, Kenny Peterson will find a home in Denver's new scheme.
Marlon McCree, S. Age: 32. Signed with Jaguars
An old veteran past his prime, Marlon McCree missed half the year with an ankle injury.
Nate Webster, ILB. Age: 31.
Nate Webster has always been plagued by injury problems. He can be a solid reserve if he stays healthy, which is unlikely. Webster has missed 44 games since 2004.
Dewayne Robertson, DT. Age: 27.
It almost seems like Dewayne Robertson has never been healthy. Robertson has some talent but his knees are shot.
J.J. Arrington, RB. Age: 26.
J.J. Arrington averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2008, though most of that came off of draws. He's a solid change-of-pace back; nothing more.
Ryan Torain, RB. Age: 23.
Selvin Young, RB. Age: 25.
Boss Bailey, OLB. Age: 29.
P.J. Pope, RB. Age: 25.
Erik Pears (RFA), OT. Age: 27. - Signed with Raiders
Dre Bly, CB. Age: 32. - Signed with 49ers
Anthony Alridge, RB. Age: 25. - Signed with Redskins
Karl Paymah, CB. Age: 26. - Signed with Vikings
Michael Pittman, RB. Age: 34.
Darrell Jackson, WR. Age: 30.
Louis Green, OLB. Age: 29.
Jamie Winborn, OLB. Age: 30. - Signed with Falcons
Glenn Martinez, WR. Age: 27.
Niko Koutouvides, ILB. Age: 28. - Signed with Buccaneers
Nate Jackson, TE. Age: 30. - Signed with Browns
John Engelberger, DE. Age: 32.
Chad Mustard, TE. Age: 31. - Announced retirement
Patrick Ramsey, QB. Age: 30. - Signed with Titans
Josh Shaw, DT. Age: 29.
Darrell Hackney, QB. Age: 26.
Cliff Russell, WR. Age: 30.
Jeb Putzier, TE. Age: 30. - Re-signed with Broncos
Cory Boyd, RB. Age: 24.
Andrew Pinnock, FB. Age: 29.
Herana-Daze Jones, S. Age: 27. - Signed with Patriots
Divisional Rival History: Kansas City Chiefs: The home team always wins. Well, almost always. The host has claimed 14 of the previous 16 matchups. Oakland Raiders: Mike Shanahan owned Al Davis. Maybe Davis shouldn't have fired Shanahan in 1989. Oops. The Broncos had won 17 of the past 23 meetings, but Denver also fired Shanahan. Oops. San Diego Chargers: The home team has won 12 of the last 16 meetings, although San Diego has claimed five of the previous six, the lone exception being the Ed Hochuli Bowl.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)