The Denver Broncos' off-season started earlier than expected in the frigid Mile High air after their heart-breaking loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
The evaluation process starts immediately as John Fox and John Elway attempt to ensure the Broncos stay on track as Super Bowl contenders.
Hoping to keep that roster intact so that they can develop together with Manning at the helm is essential.
Denver can improve yet again through free agency and the Draft in 2013, carefully adding pieces to an already impressive roster.
The Broncos have $18.5 million of salary cap space going into this off-season, but it is important to note that it can’t be ignored that the contacts of core players Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Wesley Woodyard are due to expire after the 2013 season (Thomas in 2014).
The Broncos will most likely be pedestrian spenders in free agency to keep money saved for extensions for Decker and Woodyard. Elway knows that money must be put aside to ensure that the Broncos' best young play-makers remain with the team going forward. So let’s examine the roster situation going into the 2013 off-season and how Elway should go about doing it at every position, player by player.
Peyton Manning, 2013 Base Salary: $20 million: Originally signed a 5-year, $96 million deal in March with some medical clauses built into the guaranteed money in the contract. His base salary for the 2013 and 2014 season is set at $20 million with a total of $78 million owed to him over the next four seasons, including $42 million in guaranteed cash if Manning passes a physical after this season. It’s safe to say that the player that is the sole reason the Broncos are in contention for the Lombardi trophy will return. Future: Starter
Brock Osweiler, 2013 Base Salary: $549, 849: The 2012 second-round pick has been viewed as the future of the franchise. The former Arizona State product was mediocre during reps in the preseason and would have struggled mightily had Manning gone down for an extended period of time. The offensive staff will continue to oversee the tweak in his mechanics (mainly his delivery) that was initiated at the beginning of the year.
Development will continue and should be the favorite to win the No. 2 job in 2013. Now that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has been hired by the rival San Diego Chargers, Osweiler will have a new offensive coordinator to be tutored and developed by next season. Future: Second team quarterback.
Caleb Hanie, 2013 Base Salary: $ 1.25 million: Hanie was unimpressive in the preseason as he battled it out with Osweiler for the spot behind Manning. The Broncos cut him before Week 1 so that they wouldn’t have to guarantee Hanie’s $1 million base salary.
He was brought back and was inactive as the No. 3 quarterback for the rest of the season. John Fox kept a roster spot for Hanie the whole season, so the investment the Broncos put into him won’t be immediately wasted.
The Broncos will most likely keep Hanie as another camp arm though training camp, but most likely they will cut the below average signal caller before the beginning of the 2013 season. Future: Kept through training camp, cut before the season starts.
Overview: Denver is set with its starting and second-team quarterbacks for seasons to come but it is likely the Broncos will add a veteran to compete with Hanie for the No. 3 job. In order to ensure the Broncos don’t turn into the 2011 Indianapolis Colts when Manning was lost for the season and subsequently went 2-14 with three mediocre quarterbacks (Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, Dan Orlosky), it would be advised that a cheap veteran was brought in such as Kellen Clemens or Tyler Thigpen.
There is a small possibility of the Broncos acquiring Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen, who was drafted by Fox, for a conditional sixth or seventh-round pick in 2014. Carolina has lost patience with the former second-round pick out of Notre Dame and a change of scenery would be beneficial.
It would be a cheap move to make to fill a need. Clausen could then compete with Osweiler to back up Manning.