QB Brady Quinn, RB LenDale White, OT/G Maurice Williams, DE/DT Jarvis Green, DE/DT Justin Bannan, NT Jamal Williams, ILB Joe Mays, ILB Akin Ayodele, CB Nate Jones.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Demaryius Thomas, QB Tim Tebow, G/OT Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, WR Eric Decker, CB/KR Perrish Cox, C Eric Olsen.
RB J.J. Arrington, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Tony Scheffler, G Ben Hamilton, C Casey Wiegmann, DE/DT Kenny Peterson, ILB Andra Davis, CB Ty Law.
2010 Denver Broncos Offense:
It took only two years, but Josh McDaniels transformed Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler into Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas and Marquez Branson. God help the Bronco fans who decide to jump off the Rocky Mountains if Denver's season goes into the crapper.
Will it go into the crapper? If last season's finish is any indication, it most certaintly will. Denver began the year 6-0, but went just 2-8 following the bye. After scoring 22.2 points per game in the first six contests, the Broncos went on to average 19.3 points the rest of the season - a number inflated by a 44-point output at woeful Kansas City.
It's hard to imagine Denver's offense rebounding in the wake of Marshall and Scheffler leaving for Miami and Detroit, respectively. The Broncos played without those two in the season finale, and the weak-armed Kyle Orton tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Apparently, Jabar Gaffney isn't a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
McDaniels drafted Demaryius Thomas to take over that role. While Thomas can't run routes or catch the ball consistently, his weaknesses will be masked in Denver's offense. It'll be interesting to see how McDaniels plans on utilizing Thomas and Eddie Royal. Last year, McDaniels foolishly used Royal as a decoy deep threat even though he's a natural slot receiver. Will Thomas take over as the deep threat, or will he be inserted into Marshall's former role? If the latter is the case, will McDaniels once again waste away Royal's talents? Common sense suggests otherwise, but McDaniels is far from conventional.
And speaking of screwing things up, McDaniels eliminated Denver's renowned zone-blocking scheme in favor of a more traditional system. This really hurt left tackle Ryan Clady's development. Clady had a stellar rookie campaign, but was guilty of eight sacks and eight penalties in 2009.
Aside from solid right guard Chris Kuper and right tackle Ryan Harris, Clady's issues are the least of Denver's worries up front. Left guard Russ Hochstein, 33 in October, wasn't very effective last season. The center position, meanwhile, will be manned by rookie J.D. Walton. As the Bills learned last year, just because you have a highly touted rookie playing in the interior of the offensive line doesn't mean that you're going to have success there.
If the Broncos plan on snapping out of this current 2-8 funk, Knowshon Moreno will have to come up big in his sophomore campaign. Moreno is very talented, but hit a rookie wall last year. With better conditioning and a more favorable blocking scheme, Moreno should have a big 2010 season. Of course, it would help if Denver had a quarterback who would make defenses respect the pass.
2010 Denver Broncos Defense:
Talk about bad timing - the Broncos developed a solid defense the year after Josh McDaniels banished Jay Cutler and changed the offensive line's blocking scheme. Denver finished 12th in points allowed, seventh in yardage surrendered and third versus the pass.
Two players were primarily responsible for the latter ranking. Rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil, thriving in Mike Nolan's new 3-4, collected a whopping 17 sacks in 2009. Dumervil's pass-rushing presence was prominent in Denver's eight wins; 13 of his sacks came in victories, while only four occurred during the team's eight losses.
Dumervil's pressure really helped an old secondary, namely Champ Bailey who had a phenomenal season. Corner Andre' Goodman, and safeties Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill also played well at times, but there is some concern now with Goodman and Dawkins, who will be 32 and 35, respectively, by October. It's safe to say that neither defensive back will perform as well in 2010.
Denver's secondary also has major depth issues. The short and slow Alphonso Smith struggled last year, losing his job to the decrepit Ty Law. Smith will compete with rookies Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson for nickel duties. Cox should win the job.
Amazingly, the defensive backfield is the Broncos' strongest unit as a whole. Dumervil is arguably the top pass-rusher in the NFL, but there is no one on the other side to create any sort of havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Second-year Robert Ayers is currently penciled in as the strongside outside linebacker. Ayers is not a good fit for the 3-4; he played well against the run last season, but didn't offer anything in terms of a pass rush. He will likely be a liability in coverage this year if he has to play extensively.
The Broncos don't really have anything at inside linebacker. D.J. Williams is a dynamic talent, but he was a bit lost in his first season in the 3-4, as he was overwhelmed against the run at times. Andra Davis, who excelled in that department, is no longer with the team. Mario Haggan and Akin Ayodele will compete for Davis' old job in a battle that will have no winners.
The defensive line, quite frankly, is garbage. Nose tackle Jamal Williams is 34 and played all of 45 snaps in 2009 before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. Both defensive ends, Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green, were acquired this offseason. Bannan has been a solid reserve for the Ravens, while Green was abysmal as a starter for New England last year.
Denver's stop unit has loads of problems, and the 30.5 points per game it surrendered in the final four weeks of the 2009 campaign was no fluke. But perhaps the biggest issue is the departure of Mike Nolan. Nolan is an outstanding defensive coordinator who was let go because he couldn't mesh with McDaniels (shocker). It's unlikely that his replacement, Don Martindale, will be able to live up to what Nolan accomplished last year.
2010 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 17-15 as hosts the past four seasons. Is the Mile High magic dead? It certainly appeared that way when the Raiders and Chiefs came into Denver and beat the Broncos in must-win games in Weeks 15 and 17.
After a rocky rookie campaign, Matt Prater pieced together a great 2009 season, nailing 30-of-35 field goals.
Punter Mitch Berger was let go, meaning that Britton Colquitt will have the job in 2010. Colquitt has never attempted a punt in his NFL career.
Eddie Royal scored on two special-teams touchdowns last season. Unfortunately, the Broncos also surrendered two returns themselves, which gives them a total of seven in the past three years. That's not good.
The Broncos could begin the year 2-0, as their first two opponents are the Jaguars and Seahawks. However, their next four foes are the Colts, Titans, Ravens and Jets. Denver also has three straight road games (Chiefs, Cardinals, Raiders) in December before closing against the Texans and Chargers at home.
2010 Denver Broncos Analysis: No one should expect anything from the Broncos in 2010, as this is a transitional year for them. Josh McDaniels has hitched his wagon to Tim Tebow, who likely won't set foot onto the football field for non-gadget plays until 2011.
The 2010 Broncos feature a weak-armed quarterback, an inexperienced No. 1 receiver, an offensive line transitioning into a new scheme, and a defense that could be worse than the unit that surrendered more than 30 points per game in the final four weeks of the 2009 season.
Denver fans need to be prepared for the worst - and things won't get better anytime soon unless Tebow is the savior his faithful fans expect him to be.
Josh McDaniels has turned Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler into Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas and Dick Quinn. What a disaster. Bronco fans are so loyal, so you can only feel sorry for them.
I'm not going to discuss the Tebow pick because I would be a fool to doubt him. Instead, I'll berate the other first-round pick. The only reason Thomas was drafted in the first round is because he's big and can reportedly run fast. That's it. He can't run routes and he can't catch the ball consistently. The Broncos should have just gone into random gyms across America and signed every big, athletic guy who claimed to run a 4.45.
I'm also penalizing the Broncos for the 2009 Alphonso Smith selection. That was a year ago, but the decision to draft him is the reason why they didn't have two first-round picks to begin with.
I actually liked a lot of Denver's mid- and late-round choices. J.D. Walton was this class's No. 2 center. He fills a need and was a bargain in Round 3. Eric Decker might be better than Thomas. Perrish Cox is a promising corner as well.
What it comes down to though, is whether or not Denver has really improved itself via the 2010 NFL Draft. I can't say it has.
Overall 2010 NFL Draft Grade given on 4/26/10: C-
2010 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
22. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Josh McDaniels drafts a guy who can't run routes or catch the football. Seems like a very natural fit. Poor Broncos fans. (Pick Grade: F)
25. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
I can't bash this pick. Jimmy Clausen would have been the smart choice, but I am not going to make the mistake of doubting Tim Tebow. I'll be very surprised if he busts. He's going to kill himself to prove everyone wrong. (Pick Grade: Can't grade - biased)
45. Zane Beadles, G/OT, Utah
Filling a need is good. Obtaining a Round 3-4 prospect in the middle of the second round? Well, maybe the Broncos just had him rated higher than everyone else. Can't penalize them too much for that. (Pick Grade: C)
80. J.D. Walton, C, Baylor
Hey, Josh McDaniels made a great pick! J.D. Walton was a second- or early third-round prospect and fills Denver's biggest need at center. (Pick Grade: A)
87. Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota
Amazingly, Denver's third-round receiver might be better than their first-round receiver. If Eric Decker is healthy - and he does have his injury concerns - this is a solid pick. (Pick Grade: B)
137. Perrish Cox, CB/KR, Oklahoma State
Josh McDaniels makes a great pick in Round 5 because Perrish Cox was considered to be a third-round prospect. Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman are getting long in the mouth (as Emmitt would say), so the Broncos needed to find a successor. (Pick Grade: A)
183. Eric Olsen, C, Notre Dame
Josh McDaniels drafts his backup center! Actually, this is a solid pick; the Broncos literally had nothing at center going into the 2010 NFL Draft. (Pick Grade: B)
225. Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California
Syd'Quan Thompson was once considered by some to be a second-round prospect - until people realized that he's a short and slow corner. Thompson knows what he's doing, but short and slow corners seldom succeed in the NFL. Still, the Broncos are getting great value in the middle of Round 7. (Pick Grade: A)
232. Jammie Kirlew, DE/OLB, Indiana
I'm surprised Jammie Kirlew was drafted. Another pass-rusher to get after Philip Rivers is nice. (Pick Grade: C)
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
Nathan Overbay, TE, Eastern Washington
When the Broncos defeated the Patriots and sat at 5-0, Josh McDaniels looked at the media during his post-game press conference with a wry smile and said, "Looks like the people in this building were a lot smarter than everyone else." McDaniels had reason to gloat; everyone believed the Jay Cutler-Kyle Orton trade was an abomination and that Denver was doomed for a horrific season. Well, they were; we just didn't know it yet. The Broncos finished the year on a 2-8 slump, which included home losses to Oakland and Kansas City in the final three weeks. Looks like the people in that building weren't so smart, eh Josh?
Broncos cut ILB Nick Greisen
Broncos sign RB Justin Fargas
Broncos waive RB Kolby Smith
Broncos sign RB LenDale White
Broncos acquire LB Joe Mays from Eagles for RB J.J. Arrington and 2012 conditional pick
Broncos claim RB Kolby Smith
Broncos re-sign DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil
Broncos cut OT/G Maurice Williams
Broncos waive QB Tom Brandstater
Broncos claim LB Bruce Davis
Broncos announce retirement of G Matt McChesney
Broncos sign OT/G Maurice Williams
Broncos re-sign ILB Nick Greisen
Broncos sign ILB Akin Ayodele
Seahawks sign G Ben Hamilton
Broncos acquire 5th-round pick from Eagles for TE Tony Scheffler and 7th-round pick (to Lions)
Broncos re-sign QB Kyle Orton
Broncos re-sign TE Tony Scheffler
Dolphins acquire WR Brandon Marshall from Broncos for 2010 2nd-rounder and 2011 2nd-rounder
Broncos re-sign WR Brandon Marshall
Titans re-sign QB Chris Simms
Broncos re-sign G Chris Kuper
Bills sign ILB Andra Davis
Broncos re-sign S Josh Barrett
Broncos cut QB Chris Simms
Broncos acquire QB Brady Quinn from Browns for FB Peyton Hillis, 2011 6th-rounder and 2012 late-rounder
Chiefs sign C Casey Wiegmann
Broncos cut ILB Andra Davis
Broncos cut NT J'Vonne Parker
Broncos re-sign DE/DT Le Kevin Smith
Broncos cut DE/DT Kenny Peterson
Broncos sign NT Jamal Williams
Broncos sign DE/DT Jarvis Green
Broncos re-sign K Matt Prater
Broncos sign CB Nate Jones
Broncos sign DE/DT Justin Bannan
Broncos re-sign G Russ Hochstein
Broncos sign RB J.J. Arrington
Broncos tender QB Kyle Orton
Broncos tender G Chris Kuper
Broncos cut RB LaMont Jordan
Broncos cut C Casey Wiegmann
Quarterback: It's never smart to trade franchise quarterbacks away, and the Broncos paid the price in 2009. They'll probably tender Kyle Orton, but they need yet another franchise signal-caller. Denver fans better hope Josh McDaniels doesn't fall in love with Colt McCoy's girly arm. Drafted Tim Tebow; traded for Brady Quinn
Defensive End: The Broncos allowed 241 rushing yards... to the Raiders! And we all just saw what Jamaal Charles did in the season finale. Denver is having trouble against the run for a number of reasons, including a hole at defensive end. There will be plenty of options in Round 2, including Alex Carrington and Corey Wootton. Signed Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan
No. 1 Wide Receiver: There's a good chance Brandon Marshall will be traded. If so, the Broncos will need a No. 1 receiver because Josh McDaniels hasn't figured out how to utilize Eddie Royal's talents yet. Dez Bryant will be the pick at No. 10/11 if Marshall is dealt. Drafted Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker
Nose Tackle: Ronald Fields began the year fine, but was overwhelmed in some of Denver's bigger games in the middle of the season and down the stretch. Signed Jamal Williams
Center: Casey Wiegmann is a zone-blocking center who no longer fits into Denver's scheme. A Round 3-5 selection will have to be used to fill this need. Drafted J.D. Walton and Eric Olsen
Left Guard: Russ Hochstein replaced Ben Hamilton in the lineup this year. However, Hochstein went on injured reserve in December and will be entering free agency in March. The Broncos need help at guard. Drafted Zane Beadles; re-signed Russ Hochstein
Cornerback: Andre' Goodman is 32, while Ty Law is 52. The Broncos need an injection of youth at corner - let's just hope that they don't trade another first-round pick for a bust nickel. Signed Nate Jones; drafted Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson
Receiving Tight End: Like Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler was too talented for Denver's offense. A pass-catching tight end will be obtained in Rounds 2-5.
Rush Linebacker: The Broncos can do better than Mario Haggan across from Elvis Dumervil. I know Robert Ayers is also in the mix, but he's not a 3-4 guy.
Inside Linebacker: Andra Davis isn't a huge liability, but he can be upgraded. With so many other needs, however, the Broncos will likely let Davis play out the final year of his contract. Traded for Joe Mays; signed Akin Ayodele
Running Back Depth: Depth is needed behind Knowshon Moreno. Correll Buckhalter, 31, is too injury-prone to be relied upon.
Punter: A 42-yard average with only 13 punts inside the 20 isn't what you want out of your punter.
Special Teamers: Denver surrendered two return touchdowns in 2009. Drafted Perrish Cox
2010 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Jamal Williams, NT, Chargers. Age: 34. Signed with Broncos (3 years, $16 million; $7 million guaranteed)
Jamal Williams turns 34 this spring and missed 15 games last year with torn triceps. The Chargers had to cut him because of his massive salary, but he can still be an effective nose tackle.
LenDale White, RB, Seahawks. Age: 25. Signed with Broncos
It's unclear what sparked the LenDale White release in Seattle. He wasn't out of shape and the talent is there, so it must have been some serious character issues. Still, he's a good running back who really excels at the goal line.
Nate Jones, CB, Dolphins. Age: 28. Signed with Broncos (4 years, $13.6 million)
Played well as a nickel corner in 2009. Because no CBA has been reached, Nate Jones is one of the top unrestricted corners on the market.
Jarvis Green, DE/DT, Patriots. Age: 31. Signed with Broncos (4 years, $20 million; $7 million guaranteed)
Jarvis Green is a capable starter in the 3-4 and could be a great backup. However, the Patriots could use an upgrade at the position.
Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders. Age: 30. -- Signed with Broncos
Akin Ayodele, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 30. -- Signed with Broncos
Justin Bannan, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 31. -- Signed with Broncos (5 years)
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs. Age: 25. -- Claimed by Broncos
Denver Broncos Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Jan. 16): No cap.
Elvis Dumervil (RFA), DE/OLB, Broncos. Age: 26. Re-signed with Broncos (1 year, $3.1 million)
Elvis Dumervil led the NFL in sacks with 17. He's a 5-star player in the 3-4, but wouldn't be nearly as effective in the 4-3 because of his struggles in run support.
Brandon Marshall (RFA), WR, Broncos. Age: 26. Traded to Dolphins
Brandon Marshall is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. He's a head case, but he's well worth the trouble. Josh McDaniels just left this site.
Matt Prater (ERFA), K, Broncos. Age: 24. Re-signed with Broncos
Matt Prater hit 29-of-34 field goals in 2009. He's 7-of-9 from 50-plus in his career, though the thin Denver air might have something to do with that.
Tony Scheffler (RFA), TE, Broncos. Age: 27. Traded to Lions
Tony Scheffler didn't do much in 2009 because he's way too talented for Josh McDaniels' incredible offense. Scheffler will resurface once he lands on a team with a coach who understands how to utilize good players properly.
Kyle Orton can't throw an accurate ball longer than 10 yards downfield, but he's a smart game manager who can lead a defensive team into the playoffs (though he can't win once he gets there because he's so limited).
Andra Davis, ILB, Broncos. Age: 31. Signed with Bills (2 years)
Andra Davis is a liability in coverage, but he can start in a 3-4 and play well against the run.
Chris Kuper (RFA), G, Broncos. Age: 27. Re-signed with Broncos (1 year, $2.5 million)
A down year for Chris Kuper, who struggled in Josh McDaniels' new system. Kuper allowed five sacks in 2009.
Russ Hochstein, G, Broncos. Age: 32. Re-signed with Broncos (2 years, $3.5 million)
A solid backup, Russ Hochstein was forced into the lineup for 10 starts and played relatively well.
Le Kevin Smith (RFA), DE/DT, Broncos. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Broncos
Casey Wiegmann, C, Broncos. Age: 37. -- Signed with Chiefs (1 year)
Ty Law, CB, Broncos. Age: 36.
Kenny Peterson, DE/DT, Broncos. Age: 31.
Ben Hamilton, G, Broncos. Age: 33. -- Signed with Seahawks (1 year)
Divisional Rival History: Kansas City Chiefs: The home team always wins. Well, almost always. The host has claimed 14 of the previous 18 matchups. Oddly enough, the visitor won both contests in 2009. 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. The teams split their series in 2009. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have won six of eight, with the two exceptions happening because of poor officiating. In 2008, it was the Ed Hochuli Bowl. Last year, the dirtiest referee in the business, Scott Green, was calling phantom penalties all night.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2010 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)