NFL Nation: Mike Adams

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Camp preview: Indianapolis Colts

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.

Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.

Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.

Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.
Here is the latest Steelers mailbag. If you have a Steelers' question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail. And away we go ... @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think Le'Veon Bell could get 300-plus carries this season but not much more than that even if he plays every game. The Steelers say they are committed to running the ball this season, and I don't think that's just lip service from offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. However, I doubt that the Steelers lean as heavily on Bell as they did last season because of the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer. Bell will start at running back but the other two will get touches as well. I like that approach because I think it will extend the number of productive seasons Bell has in the NFL. That's probably not good news for fantasy football owners who covet Bell, but he will still be a prominent part of the offense and the Steelers will put his receiving skills to good use too. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think he will because I expect Mike Adams, who may be the Steelers' most physically gifted offensive tackle, to benefit as much as anyone from offensive line coach Mike Munchak's tutelage. Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert got most of the first-team snaps at left tackle and right tackle, respectively, but the real competition along both the offensive and defensive line won't start until training camp. Adams has said he wants the opportunity to start whether it is at right or left tackle and I'd like to see the Steelers give him a shot at unseating Gilbert. I thought Adams played well at right tackle when he made six starts there as a rookie and he could be the future there if the Steelers don't sign Gilbert to a long-term contract before the start of the regular season. @ScottBrown_ESPN: Still pretty quiet on that front but I think the Steelers will re-sign Brett Keisel though it might not be until right before the start of training camp. He would be a terrific mentor for second-round pick Stephon Tuitt and Keisel's presence would allow the Steelers to bring Tuitt along slowly. I agree too that Keisel still has something left, and he could play in a rotation with Cam Thomas and Tuitt with the limited snaps keeping him fresh throughout the season. I know the Steelers are committed to getting younger on defense but Keisel would contribute both on and off the field. I think if defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has his way Keisel will be back for one more season. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think Cortez Allen gets a new contract and that the Steelers let Marcus Gilbert play out the final year of his rookie deal. Allen is the only long-term starting cornerback on the roster right now and the Steelers can't afford to lose him. I think the two sides can reach a deal that is good for both and ensures that Allen is a Steeler well beyond the 2014 season. As for Gilbert, I just haven't seen enough from the former second-round pick to warrant the Steelers locking him up with a long-term deal. Much like outside linebacker Jason Worilds, I think the Steelers want to see more from Gilbert and will take their chances on getting a deal done after the season if he fits into the team's long-term plans. If Gilbert walks after the 2014 season the Steelers have Mike Adams to plug in at right tackle. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I believe that is the case since players are allowed in the building during the span that bridges the end of a season and the start of the team's offseason program. It would make sense too for the coaches to be available to rookies or first-year players who may have questions about the playbook. That availability, however, is limited in the sense that coaches take lengthy vacations not long after the conclusion of offseason practices since it is really the only extended break from football they will get all year. The building is mostly empty too since a lot of players travel somewhere to continue working out, often ratcheting up their training regimen to get ready for camp.
INDIANAPOLIS -- New Indianapolis Colts safety Mike Adams was part of the Denver Broncos team that reached the Super Bowl last season.

But there Adams sat, waiting for a team to sign him during the offseason. He waited. Waited some more. He waited so long that anxiety started to set in. Adams, 33, had never been out of work this long during his 10-year NFL career.

Adams’ phone finally rang last week when the Colts put safety Corey Lynch on injured reserve.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsVeteran safety Mike Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year career.
"The pieces are in place and we have a chance to hoist (the trophy) at the end," Adams said. "That’s my goal. I came here to win. That’s Chuck Pagano’s philosophy and that’s what they want to do here. That’s what it all boils down."

Adams has gone from being unemployed to having a chance to be one of the Colts' starting safeties when they take on his former team, the Broncos, in the season opener on Sept. 7.

"Bottom line is I want to compete for a job," Adams said. "I want to earn these guys' respect. I’m going in (Year 11). Its’ a different locker room, new system I have to learn. I want to earn that. I don’t want it given to me. I told coach and I told the (general manager Ryan Grigson), 'I appreciate you telling me I don’t have the job. I appreciate that.' I was the underdog my whole career. I love competing and proving people wrong."

Safety has been a legit concern for the Colts since long-time fixture Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco on the first day of the free agent signing period in March.

The Colts didn’t address the position during free agency or the draft. They constantly talked about having confidence in Delano Howell, who has been working with the first team during the offseason workouts.

But Howell lacks experience on a defense that was too inconsistent last season. The same goes for Sergio Brown, David Sims and Colt Anderson.

Enter Adams.

He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The question about Adams is how much does he have left in his tank at the age of 33. He admits his age might have caused teams to shy away a little bit.

"I feel like I’m 26,” he quickly says. "You're going to see the way I move. Once guys see my film. I was talking to the GM and he said, 'I had to watch your film' and he said, 'You’re 33?' and I was like, 'yeah I am 33,' but when you watch the film it doesn’t look like I’m 33."

Adams is versatile. He can also play cornerback, nickelback or be the dime.

Now he has to see if he’s versatile enough to get the number he wants. Adams, who currently has No. 42, has worn No. 20 throughout his career, but cornerback Darius Butler has that number.

"I’ll have to sweet-talk him," Adams said. "Have to take him out to dinner; wine and dine him."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).

PITTSBURGH -- ESPN analyst Todd McShay labeled Bradley Roby as "a classic boom or bust" player in the 2014 NFL draft.

And that was before a report surfaced that the Ohio State cornerback faces a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired.

Roby already had some baggage when he declared for the draft following an inconsistent junior season at Ohio State, one in which he missed the opener because of a suspension.

The latest incident, which occurred last Sunday in Columbus, could cost Roby a chance of going in the first round. And he may experience something similar to what happened to former Buckeyes offensive tackle Mike Adams two years ago.

Adams, a first-round talent, slid to the Steelers in the second round, in part because he failed a drug test at the combine. Could Roby, whom the Steelers recently hosted for a pre-draft visit, fall to them in the second round in two weeks?

It's hard to imagine the Steelers considering Roby at No. 15 overall because the pick would be fraught with risk. But Roby's physical skills are undeniable, and he may be too talented for the Steelers to pass on him in the second round if he lasts that long.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Roby as the 39th-best player in the draft, and McShay said, "I actually think he might be the most athletic corner in this draft."

But McShay also issued a caveat emptor when it comes to Roby, who is 5-foot-11, 194 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

"I'd be real nervous to pull the trigger on him because I don't know what I'm getting," McShay said. "It's a young man that has some growing to do. I think he's got to become more focused and there's just a lot of inconsistent tape on him.

"He's a wild card. He could be the best defensive back in this class five years from now or he could wind up being another first-round cornerback that doesn't pan out in the league because he didn't need to do what he had to do mentally and from a preparation standpoint."
When he was behind center for the Denver Broncos, John Elway was a 30-something player, was one for quite some time in fact. He was a Super Bowl starter as a 37- and a 38-year-old as the Broncos won back-to-back titles in the final two years of his playing career.

So he knows the value a productive, respected, proven veteran player can bring to a team, on the field and in the locker room.

But as an executive charged with spending Pat Bowlen’s money wisely and keeping the Broncos relevant in the Super Bowl chase every season, Elway has been particular about handing out the team’s biggest checks in free agency to the over-30 crowd.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/James D. SmithJohn Elway on signing pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware: "We feel like he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
In fact, three trips into free agency in his current job, the list is essentially two -- Peyton Manning and now DeMarcus Ware -- and Elway is pretty clear on why he made them exceptions to the rule.

“I like to get Hall of Fame players with chips on their shoulders," Elway said.

In 2011, Elway’s first year in his role as the team’s chief football decision-maker, the Broncos only dabbled in free agency, sticking with short-term deals for the likes of Marcus Thomas, Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario.

In 2012, the Broncos dove in for Manning for a $96 million deal that included a pile of guaranteed money when Manning was ready to turn 36 following four neck surgeries. That has worked out with back-to-back 13-3 seasons and back-to-back division titles with some NFL single-season records tossed in.

The rest of the deals in 2012 were largely short-term, low-impact contracts. Tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen received three-year deals. Tamme turned 27 just after signing his deal, and Dreessen was 29 when he signed. The 30-and-over crowd of Keith Brooking, Jim Leonhard, Dan Koppen and Brandon Stokley received one-year deals.

Safety Mike Adams was 30 when he signed and received a two-year deal. Adams, however, had played in at least 15 games in five of the previous six seasons before arriving in Denver. The rest, players such as Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer, both 30 or older, received one-year deals without signing bonuses.

In 2013, the Broncos’ biggest contract in free agency (four years, $23.5 million) went to guard Louis Vasquez, who was 25 when he signed his deal and went on to be named All-Pro. Terrance Knighton received a two-year deal, as did Wes Welker.

This past week, the Broncos were one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, but they still largely stuck to the younger-is-better plan when the big money was in play. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety T.J. Ward are 27 (Sanders turned 27 this week), and cornerback Aqib Talib is 28.

“It’s not [win] for now. We want young football players who are going to be here for a long time," Elway said. “... The age thing is big."

But in Ware, the Broncos saw a durable, high character player with 117 career sacks who has been a team captain and performed over the long haul. Ware, who soon will be 32, received a three-year, $30 million deal from the Broncos.

For that deal not to sting the salary cap, however, Ware simply has to play at least two of those seasons and be a major contributor. But the Broncos like that Ware’s preparation is unquestioned and that he has missed just three games in his career -- all in 2013.

“With 117 sacks, yeah, we feel like he’s got a lot of football ahead of him," Elway said. " ... We think he's going to perform at a high level, and with the way he practices, prepares and his knowledge of the game, he's going to help us on a lot of levels."

Elway the player made a career of taking risks with the ball and often turning those opportunities into history. Elway the executive has been more prudent -- a guy looking down the road, avoiding the franchise-crushing confines created by a we'll-worry-about-it-later approach to the salary cap.

“You have your wish list," Elway said. “We’re fortunate enough on our wish list we were able to X off a lot of guys on our wish list and [they] were able to come here. ... We want to plug in the right guys, the guys that make sense for us as an organization and guys who can be here and help us win for a long, long time."

Safety market thins for Redskins

March, 12, 2014
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The Washington Redskins need to find two starting safeties, which could be tougher after the first day of free agency. There is always the draft, but they will still need to add a veteran -- or two -- capable of starting. They could always re-sign Reed Doughty as a backup/special-teamer. Or perhaps bring back Brandon Meriweather on a one-year deal.

Here are six safeties of note still on the market:

Clemons
Chris Clemons: Miami is letting him walk and signed bad-kneed Louis Delmas. Part of the problem is that Clemons wasn’t viewed as a free safety, and it sounds as if that is what the Dolphins wanted. The Redskins could use him more in the box. He’d be an upgrade.

Thomas DeCoud: Atlanta, which needs secondary help, cut DeCoud after a rough 2013 season. He’s also probably best in the box.

Mike Adams: Again, Denver struggled in the secondary and decided to let him leave, signing T.J. Ward instead. Adams is rather average.

Nate Allen: Philadelphia selected him with the second-round pick obtained in the Donovan McNabb trade with Washington. The Eagles let Allen walk and signed Malcolm Jenkins. I can’t imagine Allen is the answer. He’s better against the run.

Roman Harper: He’s 31 and coming off a knee injury that cost him nearly half the season. That is a tough combination. But he’s a two-time Pro Bowler best used in the box. Here is what ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett had to say about him in a recent article: “I think Harper still has some gas left in the tank and should land somewhere as either a starter or a rotational guy. He’ll fit best as a true strong safety who plays closer to the box in run support, occasionally blitzing and covering tight ends in short space. If used the right way, I still see Harper as an asset. And his experience and leadership will only enhance his value.”

Ryan Clark: If the Redskins had a young free safety worthy of grooming, I’d consider Clark as a mentor. But he’s 35 and the Redskins don’t have that player (I don’t view Bacarri Rambo as that guy).
The Denver Broncos are in need of some help at linebacker and -- with enough salary cap room to take a look at a proven veteran player at the position -- they are on linebacker D'Qwell Jackson's travel itinerary in the coming days.

The Broncos are selling the prospect of a Super Bowl team with Peyton Manning at quarterback, but they will have plenty of competition for Jackson.

Jackson
The 30-year-old Jackson was released, in large part, by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday because he had a $4 million roster bonus due March 16. Jackson had signed a five-year contract extension with the Browns two seasons ago when current Broncos' pro personnel director Tom Heckert was the team's general manager.

Jackson also played alongside Broncos safety Mike Adams during Adams' tenure in Cleveland. Adams is one of the Broncos' 16 unrestricted free agents this year.

Two league sources said Thursday Jackson was expected to begin what was initially described as a five-team tour on Friday. But the Tennessee Titans are first on the list and have to be considered the leader for Jackson before he even steps on a plane. Jackson's former defensive coordinator in Cleveland, Ray Horton, is on Ken Whisenhunt's staff in Nashville and is expected to play much the same scheme there as Horton ran with the Browns.

The Broncos are scheduled to get their chance Monday and project Jackson as a middle linebacker.

The Broncos are poised to give plenty of attention -- in both free agency and draft -- to the team's defense. At linebacker alone, Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon are free agents and the team has six defensive backs who are either restricted or unrestricted free agents. And Jackson fits the profile Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway believes free agency should have.

“With free agency, we're always trying to get ourselves in a position where when we go into the draft -- we don't have a glaring weakness where we are reaching for somebody in the draft,'' Elway said in recent days. "So I think it's important for free agency, in my opinion, to try to pick up the places where you think you have glaring holes and fill those holes and then when you go to the draft be able to draft the best players that you hope are going to have great careers in the NFL.”

Jackson, who will turn 31 in September, has had five 100-tackle seasons in his career. He missed all but six games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons because of torn chest muscles, but has started 16 games in four of his seasons.

He was a second-round pick by the Browns in the 2006 draft.

Steelers all-in on Big Ben

February, 19, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Another public affirmation of the Steelers' commitment to Ben Roethlisberger provided more proof that the team plans to go all-in on its franchise quarterback.

Kevin Colbert's comments Wednesday about the organization needing to do its part to help Roethlisberger dovetail with recent ones the general manager made about the Steelers having to surround Big Ben with as much talent as possible to maximize his remaining years.

And they again point to the Steelers fetching the tall wide receiver Roethlisberger has long coveted or a game-breaking one early in the 2014 NFL draft.

The offense around Roethlisberger is mostly set, but it could use another wide receiver, especially if Emmanuel Sanders, who started opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown last season, signs elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent.

A draft class that is deep, in general, looks particularly strong at wide receiver. And the Steelers, picking at No. 15 overall, could have their choice of wide receivers after Clemson's Sammy Watkins -- from rangy ones such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin -- to smaller but polished ones such as Southern Cal's Marqise Lee.

The Steelers theoretically could help Roethlisberger by taking a left tackle with their first pick. But it's not a glaring need after the way Kelvin Beachum played in 11 starts last season, and the Steelers have invested two first-round picks and two second-round picks since 2010 on their offensive line.

It's time to let new offensive coach Mike Munchak, one of the best hires of the offseason, to get the most out of those players, particularly tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert.

Any number of positions on defense also could be addressed with the first-round pick, and even if the Steelers target a pass-catcher at No. 15, they might find North Carolina's Eric Ebron too tempting to pass on if he is still available.

The NFL scouting combine, which starts Thursday, should provide more clarity for the Steelers. They will get an extended look at the underclassmen as a group and will presumably fill in more blanks as they start to assemble their draft board.

It is too early to tell where the Steelers will find help for Roethlisberger in this draft. But it has become clear that giving him the best chance of succeeding in the coming seasons has become as much of a priority for the Steelers as addressing a defense that is in need of reinforcements.

Franchise/transition tags: Broncos

February, 17, 2014
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In each of the previous two years, the Denver Broncos used the franchise tag on an impending free agent they hoped to lock up to a long-term deal but just needed a little more time to cross all the T's and dot all the I's in the contract.

In 2012, it was kicker Matt Prater, who got the tag before he signed a new multiyear deal with the team. Last year it was left tackle Ryan Clady, who was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery when the Broncos placed the tag on him.

Clady, who would have earned $9.828 million on that one-year deal had the tag remained in place, eventually worked out a five-year, $52.5 million contract with the team just before training camp.

But don’t look for the Broncos to use either of the tags this time around. Their most prominent free agents -- most notably running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Wesley Woodyard -- have been productive starters with the team, but none are so deep in the team’s plans that the Broncos would use the tags to have them guaranteed of being on the roster next season.

Decker has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, but the franchise-tag salary on a one-year deal at wide receiver was $10.537 million last year and is expected to be slightly higher this time around.

At running back, the franchise tag was $8.219 million last season, and at linebacker, it was $9.619 million.

The Broncos will make offers to most of their impending free agents, but it’s likely all of their more high-profile unrestricted free agents could get better offers, in terms of overall money, elsewhere.

Decker, Moreno, guard Zane Beadles and defensive end Robert Ayers are among the team’s free agents who, next month, will complete deals they signed with the Broncos as rookies. It will be their first opportunity in the open market. Woodyard, who has been a team captain in each of his six seasons with the Broncos, just finished his second contract with the team, while other unrestricted free agents, like Rodgers-Cromartie, safety Mike Adams, linebacker Paris Lenon and defensive end Shaun Phillips, came from elsewhere.

Part of the issue for the Broncos this time around is securing the players who are set to become free agents following the 2014 season, a group that includes wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas.

Denver Broncos season wrap-up

February, 5, 2014
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video Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 2
Preseason Power Ranking: 3

Biggest surprise: It took 19 games, a pile of league records and a few slices of history along the way, but by far the biggest shock for an organization that believed it had the moxie to win a title was its Super Bowl meltdown. Broncos head coach John Fox had said his team was “calloused" by all it had to overcome this season, including linebacker Von Miller's six-game suspension, five defensive starters eventually landing on injured reserve and Fox's open-heart surgery. But on the biggest stage with the biggest prize on the line, the Broncos had a night when they didn't respond to any of the adversity they faced.

Biggest disappointment: Other than losing in the title game -- “I'm not sure you ever get over that," said quarterback Peyton Manning -- it would have to be the way Miller's season dissolved. After his 18.5-sack season in 2012, the Broncos expected even more this time around. Instead, he was out for the first six games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He came back heavier after the suspension and often looked less explosive according to many personnel executives in the league. He then suffered a season-ending torn right ACL in December. He won't be ready for training camp and may not be full speed by the start of the regular season.

Biggest need: In their past three playoff losses, the Broncos have had a combined one sack against Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. Miller has played in two of those games, albeit with a cast on his surgically repaired thumb to close out the 2011 season against the New England Patriots. They have used their opening pick in each of John Elway's three drafts as the team's top football executive on a pass-rusher -- Miller, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams. It still needs some attention, as does the team's secondary; the Broncos will need to address cornerback and safety as well.

Team MVP: Manning, with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards passing for an offense that set an NFL record with 606 points, was the league MVP and was the Broncos' as well. Manning's drive, preparation and no-nonsense approach pushed the team past every bump it faced during the regular season, and he powered the franchise into its seventh Super Bowl. But cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Danny Trevathan deserve special mention for being the defense's most versatile and productive players outside the glare of the team's offensive fireworks in the regular season. Trevathan and Harris were consistently the guys asked to do more in Jack Del Rio's defense.

 

Broncos' D will need an A effort

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
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Wesley Woodyard, Danny TrevathanDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesHow will Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan and the Denver defense impact Sunday's result?

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The most prominent storyline of Super Bowl XLVIII, at least beyond what Richard Sherman said, what Marshawn Lynch didn't say and just how much wobble is in the average Peyton Manning touchdown pass, has been the Denver Broncos' No. 1 offense and the Seattle Seahawks' No. 1 defense.

It has been the classic matchup of league best on league best and the first of its kind since Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the league's No. 1 defense, defeated the Oakland Raiders (the No. 1 offense) to close out the 2002 season.

But how a Broncos defense battered by injuries throughout the season responds against Seattle's power offense with Lynch at running back, the mobile Russell Wilson at quarterback and wide receiver Percy Harvin playing in just his third game of the season, will have a lot to say about how things go for the Broncos. In fact, it may have everything to say about whether or not the Broncos get to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

"We feel like we need to be the defense we know we can be," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "We've been better as the season has gone on, we've adjusted some, overcome some and now we feel like we're ready to play our best football."

The Broncos have four defensive starters on injured reserve -- cornerback Chris Harris Jr., defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, defensive end Derek Wolfe and linebacker Von Miller -- and they have not always played with the consistency defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio would have liked because of it. But after holding opponents to fewer than 17 points only once in 14 games, the Broncos have held opponents to 17 points or fewer in four consecutive games. The total includes both of their playoff wins -- 24-17 against the San Diego Chargers and 26-16 over the New England Patriots.

"In spite of all the things that could have derailed us, we stayed on point, stayed on message, continued to grind, continued to believe," Del Rio said.

Del Rio has used a variety of lineup combinations until settling on the current one that includes Woodyard, an every-down player for much of the season, now playing in the specialty packages. Del Rio also has put Paris Lenon at middle linebacker in the base defense to go with Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving at the other two linebacker spots.

The combination gives the Broncos a little more bulk against opposing run games, especially one such as the Seahawks'.

The return of Champ Bailey, who played just five games in the regular season because of a left foot injury, has given Del Rio more options of late in the coverages the team can play and stabilized things, even with Harris Jr. having torn an ACL against the Chargers in the divisional round. After initially returning to the lineup, playing in the slot as part of the nickel defense (five defensive backs), Bailey will likely start on the outside against the Seahawks and then move inside to the slot if Seattle goes to a three-wide receiver look. In the nickel, Bailey would likely face Harvin or Doug Baldwin.

[+] EnlargeJack Del Rio
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty Images"I don't want to hear a reason that we can't," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "I want to talk about how we're going to get it done."
And the Broncos have gotten enough from Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson and Terrance Knighton in the pass rush to at least try to work past Miller's injury, a torn ACL he suffered in Houston in Week 16.

"We think we can play the way we need to, we know we have to if we're going to win this game," Bailey said. "We don't think too much about the injuries. We would love to have those guys because you always want your best out there. But [Del Rio] isn't going to let you talk about that anyway and we wouldn't want to."

Said Del Rio: "I don't even want to hear it, I don't want to hear it from our staff, I don't want to hear a reason that we can't. I want to talk about how we're going to get it done. I don't spend a lot of time entertaining how we can't. I understand that we can and want to figure out exactly how we can get it done. It's a little bit of scheme, it's a little bit of technique, there's a little of mentality you've got to build. It can be pretty good if you put it all together and everybody buys in."

While the Broncos' record-setting offense and the Seahawks' bone-rattling defense have parked themselves in the headlines this week, Sunday's game may well be decided by what Seattle's offense does against Del Rio's defense.

"We feel underrated a little bit, but we've got to expect that," Broncos safety Mike Adams said. "I probably would say the same thing because we had a slow start as a defense early in the season. But one thing we did: We finished the season strong and we carried it on to the playoffs, and we're trying to continue that streak that we're on."
When pondering center Alex Mack's and safety T.J. Ward's futures, it's probably important to remember Mike Adams' foray into free agency.

Adams is a former Cleveland Browns safety now starting for the Denver Broncos and will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesVeteran safety Mike Adams is finally playing for a winning team.
Tony Grossi caught up with Adams in New Jersey and did a fine story about his life and his career -- and his positive impact with the Browns.

Adams always played well for Cleveland, and was a positive presence in the locker room. For whatever reason, the Browns let him go as a free agent and he is now in Denver doing the things he did in Cleveland.

But as Grossi points out, it took Adams five years to win 28 games in Cleveland. He's now won 28 games in just two seasons with the Broncos.

There were a lot of reasons Denver won all those games, and most start and end with a guy named Peyton Manning. When Adams went into free agency, quarterback Tim Tebow was coming off a playoff win over Pittsburgh. It's to Adams' good fortune that John Elway recognized acquiring Manning was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he did not settle for Tebow.

That being said, Adams' experience shows what can happen with a free agent. When a player experiences losing for so long the way Mack and Ward have, the temptation to go somewhere to win has to be a factor.

Adams said he didn't want to leave Cleveland, that it was the Browns' choice to let him go. So it is not automatic by any means that a player will leave.

Mack and Ward both spoke of liking the team, the organization and the city. It's not inconceivable both could stay.

But CEO Joe Banner's history has not been to pay a ton of money at certain positions, and center and safety are among them. The former coaching staff was high on safety Josh Aubrey, who missed the season with an ankle injury. The Browns may feel he can step in for Ward. And they may feel that John Greco can slide from guard to center. The Browns haven't won many games with Ward and Mack; the team may feel it can't do worse without them. The Browns made no effort to sign them this past season, which also should be some indicator.

The Browns would lose something if both leave. They're both good players -- both were in the Pro Bowl this season -- and they're both smart. They are at the age where they should be hitting their peak.

So if they leave it would hurt, and it would create two more needs on a team that already has plenty.

The one unknown is whether the recent negativity that has surrounded the Browns affects a player's thinking on his future. A player might not like the idea of leaving his team -- until he sees how another team operates and he sees the money being offered.

In free agency, it only takes one team to make a player rich.

Ward and Mack have certainly earned the right to be free agents and test the market.

If the pair want an example of the potential positives of free agency, they only need look at Adams, who has promised to walk home to Paterson, N.J., if Denver wins.

That's quite a walk for a guy who walked away from losing two years ago.
NEWARK, N.J. -- If Mike Adams walks home after the game, he won't be alone.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsBroncos safety Mike Adams, from nearby Paterson, N.J., is sure to have company if he takes a victorious stroll home after the Super Bowl.
The Denver Broncos safety said Tuesday he has received so much reaction from his half-joking proclamation that he suspects there might be a "mini-parade" if he decides to make the 10-mile trek from MetLife Stadium to his childhood home in Paterson.

"My Twitter and my [Instagram] were blowing up," said Adams, who declared after the AFC Championship Game that he'd walk home after Super Bowl XLVIII if they beat the Seattle Seahawks. "My brother said, 'If you're going to walk, I'm going to walk with you.' The reaction has been crazy."

It could be a scene out of "Forrest Gump," one man leading his flock -- sans the shaggy beard, of course.

Adams acknowledged that it was a joke, but he kept playing along on Media Day. Asked if he intended to follow through, he replied, "Are you going to have your sneakers on? Come and see."

Later, he said with a smile, "Now I have to put up or shut up."

You have to love the Adams story. He grew up in a three-bedroom house in gritty Paterson, which wouldn't have been so bad except he was one of seven children under the same roof. His mother died of cancer when he graduated from the University of Delaware, but he comes from a big, close family, and they were together Monday night. Adams returned to Paterson for a dinner of chicken, rice and green beans at his grandmother's house, where they celebrated the Super Bowl.

"When I first heard the Super Bowl was in New Jersey, I actually joked about it," Adams said. "I said, 'Watch, now I'll finally get to the Super Bowl now that it's at Giants Stadium.' Now it's a reality. Now I'm here. Now I'm playing in Giants Stadium for a Super Bowl."

It has been a long journey, one that may extend another 10 miles.

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