Columnist Court Weston will be breaking down the team needs for all 32 NFL teams this off-season. Next up, the Broncos…
1. Running Back – Although Willis McGahee finished 2011 with 1,199 yards and a Pro Bowl appearance, he is not the long-term answer at running back for the Broncos. McGahee is 30, and will be 31 in October. Denver needs to find a young, talented workhorse who will be around for the next five to ten years. It is unlikely the Broncos will take a running back with the No. 25 pick in the draft, but the team could try to land Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Miami’s Lamar Miller or Boise State’s Doug Martin in the second round. Michael Bush, 27, is the best available free agent running back and is likely to leave the Raiders. Denver looks to be in the front running for signing the former division foe. Even if Bush lands on the Broncos’ roster, Denver should find a potential starter in the first three or four rounds of the draft.
2. Cornerback/Safety – The Broncos are plagued with an aging secondary. Champ Bailey (33) remains among the elite corners in the NFL, but he cannot do it all. Bailey essentially shuts down one entire side of the field, yet Denver allowed the 15th most passing yards in 2011. Andre Goodman (33) has been decent, but the Broncos need help opposite Bailey. Perhaps Denver, which owns the most salary cap space this offseason, will attempt to lure Kansas City’s Brandon Carr. A Bailey-Carr tandem would propel the Broncos to the top of the league’s cornerback duo ladder. Additionally, question marks surround consummate pro Brian Dawkins (38) at the free safety position. Denver has some good pieces in place with Rahim Moore (22) and Quinton Carter (23), allowing for a promising future, but that is where the list ends. Adding talented depth at corner and safety can only help an improving Broncos defense.
3. Defensive Tackle – After being dubbed a first-round “bust” in Philadelphia, Brodrick Bunkley was traded to Denver and had a breakout season in 2011, emerging as the Broncos’ best defensive tackle. However, Bunkley is a free agent. Re-signing Bunkley should be the team’s top priority this offseason. It is also likely Denver will take a D-tackle in the first round. Expect the Broncos to land Penn State’s Devon Still or Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy with the No. 25 pick.
4. Middle Linebacker – Denver’s outside linebackers – Von Miller and D.J. Williams – are complete studs, but Joe Mays is nowhere near elite in the middle. With the vast amount of cap space available to the Broncos, they can target anyone they want. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch is arguably the top inside linebacker available this offseason. How scary would the addition of Tulloch to the Denver linebackers be? Extremely. If the Broncos can land the 27-year old, the Miller-Tulloch-Williams trio becomes possibly the most talented linebacking corps in the NFL. Even if Tulloch remains in Detroit, finding an upgrade over Mays automatically gives Denver a top-five linebacking group.
5. Quarterback – It is no secret John Elway and John Fox are looking for a quarterback to challenge Tim Tebow this offseason. It is also no secret that the Broncos are interested in signing the best free agent in NFL history – Peyton Manning. Despite Tebow rallying Denver from a 1-4 start to earning a postseason birth and winning a playoff game, Manning would automatically get the starting spot, and ultimately make the Broncos Super Bowl contenders. Team owner Pat Bowlen says money is no issue and it is apparent Denver is willing to do anything it takes to lure Manning to don Broncos’ blue and orange. If Denver is unable to land the 35-year old, the Broncos will surely take a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft.
Previously: The Pittsburgh Steelers
Next: The Houston Texans