The conclusion of March and the beginning of April also coincides well with when less attention is paid toward free agency and more attention is paid toward the draft. I’ll have some thoughts on what steps to consider for the latter likely next week, but for the former I figured that since my 17-point 2016 offseason plan back from February was largely focused on free agency, it would be a good time to review it, to see what I got right and wrong, and what the Broncos may have done right or wrong.
1. Get a timely answer from Peyton Manning on whether he wants to play in 2016.
Status: Achieved, via option A (retirement)
I think there’s little disagreement that Manning made the right decision for all involved, with no drama involved. I will, however, admit that I was quite wrong in pushing for a much earlier decision, and it’s something I probably would not have said if I understood the personal dynamic between Elway and Manning better.
2. If you go with Brock Osweiler, try to offer him a contract similar to Nick Foles.
Status: Failed, but understandably so
It’s clear that many of us misjudged just how much Osweiler could get on the market, and obviously, when a team desperate for a quarterback like the Texans offers the kind of deal they did, the Broncos were wise to let him go. This should also give the Broncos the 97th overall pick in 2017 via the compensatory system. It’s certainly not bad to turn an insurance policy taken out on a 2nd round pick into a 3rd round pick, after all.
3. Cut Britton Colquitt.
The Broncos have been able to narrowly make do with their cap space while still having Colquitt on the books, but this is one of the few points of disagreement I still have with the Broncos. $4 million is just too much to pay a punter with all of the other needs the Broncos have had. There’s still a chance for this move to happen–I just hope it does.
4. Retain Von Miller.
Status: Achieved, via option B (franchise tag)
The exclusive franchise tag was placed on Miller, which secures his services for 2016. But everyone should want Miller taken care of in Denver for far longer. I’ll likely write a piece later on how the Broncos should now approach an extension with Miller that will deviate from my previous projections.
5. Do something with DeMarcus Ware’s contract.
Status: Achieved, via option B (pay cut)
The Broncos secured a $3.5 million pay cut that Ware can earn back from incentives. I preferred to possibly save as much as $6 million against the 2016 cap, and would have likely preferred to set up a void year to push $2 million more of Ware’s guarantees into 2017, but I can’t complain much about what the Broncos did here, since it is a good thing if they can fit in all of Ware’s cap liabilities while he is still on the roster.
6. Place ERFA tenders on Matt Paradis, Todd Davis, Brandon McManus and Bennie Fowler
This was completely expected–the only very minor drama was that news on this didn’t exactly emerge from any major sources.
7. Place a first round RFA tender on Brandon Marshall.
Status: Achieved, for now, at a lower value (second round tender)
So far, it appears that the second round tender has done its job in keeping other teams away from agreeing to an offer sheet with Marshall. The restricted free agency period ends on April 22, but it’s hard to imagine any team opening up their wallet at this point in the offseason to be able to pry Marshall away. However, I feel that I was quite correct in advising that the Broncos could have a holdout on their hands after seeing what his peers are getting. If the Broncos are serious about keeping Marshall for the long term, it may be in their best interest to negotiate an extension for Marshall later on in the offseason.
8. Place a second round RFA tender on CJ Anderson.
Status: Achieved, but in a way few expected (ROFR tender and then matching an offer sheet from the Dolphins)
We all know the roller coaster ride this turned out to be. But all in all, this goal was achieved better than could have been projected. The long term status of Anderson is answered, and while they’ll pay a lot in Year 1 it will be very easy to part ways afterward.
9. Let Malik Jackson walk.
Yeah…there’s no way the Broncos should or could have paid him over $14 million a year. Take your 2017 3rd round compensatory pick and be quite content.
10. Try negotiating an extension for Danny Trevathan, but don’t break the bank.
Status: Achieved by not breaking the bank.
Good on Trevathan for getting over $6 million a year from the Bears, and I wish him well there. As I expected, his deal should earn the Broncos a 5th round compensatory pick in 2017.
11. Extend one—but not both—of David Bruton or Omar Bolden.
Status: Likely to be failed
Bruton signed a well-earned deal with the Redskins, and Bolden is rumored to have interest from the Bears. This will change, of course, if Bolden is ultimately retained, but if he isn’t then the Broncos are still going to have to look for help at safety depth.
UPDATE: Bolden has indeed signed with the Bears. So this goal has now been completely failed.
12. Give Ryan Harris another 1-year deal.
The Steelers signed Harris to a deal worth almost $2 million per year. That’s more than I would have offered him, so once again, good on Harris for getting a better deal. Michael Schofield might be able to cover the swing tackle position, but there’s still some question there.
13. Consider another 1-year deal for Antonio Smith if the cap room is there.
Status: Hard to say
There’s a good chance that Smith may retire, and there is lack of cap room to bring back a long time veteran like him, so it’s tough to call this a failed goal. On the other hand, with the departure of Jackson there is still some uncertainty at the defensive end position across from Derek Wolfe, so there may still be work to be done beyond Vance Walker and Kenny Anunike.
14. Let Evan Mathis, Vernon Davis, Andre Caldwell, and Ronnie Hillman all walk.
Status: At least half achieved, and likely more so later
Mathis and Davis have respectively signed deals with the Cardinals and Redskins. All has been silent on the Caldwell front, an indication that he’s likely not returning. It sounds like the Broncos haven’t ruled out bringing Hillman back but that also strikes me as unlikely. All in all, a fine job in knowing when to let guys walk.
15. Be patient with altering Ryan Clady’s contract.
Status: Achieved, in a way that makes us all proud of John Elway
I was quite insistent in demanding that nothing be done with Clady’s status until a sufficient replacement for him could be found. That replacement was found in Russell Okung, a player I’m quite happy with, especially on the terms that Elway secured him on, despite plenty of panic from we observers due to early and misleading media reports. The Broncos are also still exercising due patience with Clady in hopes of finding a trade partner for him.
16. Right tackle is the only position the Broncos should potentially address in free agency at a value higher than $4M APY.
The name of this new right tackle, Donald Stephenson, was not exactly one that many expected, and I still have some concerns that they may have overpaid for him. But for the time being the Broncos deserve the benefit of the doubt with Stephenson, and it won’t take much effort for him to be better than Michael Schofield.
17. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to restructure Chris Harris or Demaryius Thomas to get a little more 2016 cap space.
Status: Undetermined, but likely not needed
By letting Osweiler, Jackson, and Trevathan all walk, and with the prospects of a trade for Colin Kaepernick looking bleaker, it’s unlikely that the Broncos will need to take out a mortgage on future cap years, which certainly is not a bad thing. By parting ways with Clady and (hopefully) Colquitt, the Broncos should have more than enough room to sign rookies, basement bargain veterans, and extensions.
Other unforeseen moves
There wasn’t much here, but a note should be made about Louis Vasquez, Owen Daniels, and Aaron Brewer all being cut on the same day. The Broncos have high expectations for Jeff Heuerman to effectively replace Daniels, and long snapper is not exactly a position to sweat about. But Vasquez’s departure does create a void at right guard that does need to addressed somehow.
By my count, around 11-13 of my suggested goals were achieved, with only 2-3 goals failed. Unfortunately, one of those failed goals consists of the quarterback position, and while Mark Sanchez is OK for step 1, there is more work the Broncos need to do at that all-important position. But all things considered, my forecast for the Broncos in the turbulent month of 2016 matched quite well with how the team has weathered the storm. Other than quarterback, the only “holes” created from damage in the free agency period are at right guard, right defensive end, long snapper, backup safety, and swing tackle. That’s not a massive secondary list by any means.
A lot of clickbait has been generated on the supposed “deconstruction” of the Super Bowl champions, but it would not be wise to suggest too much of a falloff from 2015 for 2016. As always, we can give plenty of credit to Elway for doing an excellent job.