The Denver Broncos ended 2012 in bitter disappointment, losing to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens 38-35 in a double-overtime stunner. Fans overreacted. Media overreacted. But GM John Elway has tasted the harshest dishes defeat can serve, so the Broncos faithful can rest assured his reactions won’t be so short-sighted.
Denver enters the 2013 free-agency scramble in great shape with the most important positions in the modern game locked up: quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback and edge rusher. They also have $16.8 million available over the cap and franchised OT Ryan Clady, who would have been the most sought after left tackle had they let him test the market.
Even if New England let’s WR Wes Welker loose in free agency, he doesn’t fit into Denver’s plans because the Broncos can’t afford to blow that much cash on one position when Eric Decker’s and Demaryius Thomas’ contracts are up after 2013 and 2014, respectively. Besides, Peyton Manning has turned nobodies like Austin Collie and Pierre Garçon into Pro Bowlers, so watch Bubba Caldwell if Denver doesn’t resign Brandon Stokley.
Scratch stars like Chicago’s Henry Melton or Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd off the list because they will—or already have been—franchise tagged.
Denver can’t afford all five of the following candidates, but they will probably give them all a long look as they lure one or two to Dove Valley.
(all stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference)