ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As the Denver Broncos close out the opening week of free agency there are some things that deserve a second look.
When John Elway took his current job as the Broncos chief football decision-maker in 2011, two of the league’s general managers he tried to touch base with early on were Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers and Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens. Both operate successful, draft-driven teams that often take a far more patient approach in free agency than virtually all of their peers – the Packers have not signed a player from another team in free agency this offseason. And while some have said last year’s plunge into free agency for the Broncos was Elway’s go-for-it signature, his other four trips into the bidding, including this year, have shown a far more measured approach is his norm.
Tight end Virgil Green now has the chance he has wanted and it likely means a slight turn-back-the-clock move in the offense. Over his first four seasons with the team he had consistently expressed the belief he could be more of a factor in the passing game if the ball came his way. Elway obviously agrees. When the Broncos re-signed Green last week – he is the first player from Elway’s first draft class to re-sign with the team – Elway lauded Green’s attitude, work ethic and potential. Certainly Owen Daniels is going to get the ball in the passing game as well, but Green figures to be far busier than he has been in the passing game to this point with 23 career receptions. That said there is every chance, even as the Broncos do run more this year, the offense looks a lot more like 2012 than '13 or '14. In 2012 two wideouts were 1,000-yard receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker), the No. 3 wide receiver (Brandon Stokley) had 45 catches as two tight ends – Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme – had 41 and 52 catches respectively. Right now Cody Latimer projects as the team’s No. 3 receiver even if the Broncos take a look at another deep class at the position in the draft with Daniels and Green as the top two tight ends.
The Broncos have said they like Brock Osweiler’s progress as the No. 2 quarterback. They selected him in the second round in the 2012 draft with the idea of getting him ready to take over in the post-Peyton Manning era. But Elway and coach Gary Kubiak, both former quarterbacks in the league, want to keep pushing Osweiler as well as get a read on what they will do after this season when Osweiler will be an unrestricted free agent. So, the fact the Broncos did pursue former Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor last week showed the Broncos were interested in cranking up the heat on Osweiler a bit, too. Kubiak was the Ravens offensive coordinator last season so Taylor would have had a head start in the Broncos’ new offense, but Taylor chose to pass on the offer because he can compete for the starting job in Buffalo.
Tight end Julius Thomas and guard Orlando Franklin were fairly public in their surprise they did not receiver an offer from the Broncos as free agency approached – Thomas also said he had sold his house in Denver in September. This, too, has been the Broncos' way. When the team knows it’s not going to be in the negotiating neighborhood the player wants to be in, it takes a pass. There’s no low-ball, here’s-what-we’ve-got offer, the kind that also raise the ire of a player. There is simply a thanks and a wave. The Broncos were never, at any point, willing to put Thomas at the top of the pay-scale at the position. The team felt Franklin was going to get far more somewhere else and he did. It was the same sort of departure Zane Beadles and Decker had a year ago.