The re-Broncos have re-begun their re-booting.
For a franchise less than one year removed from winning the Super Bowl, that’s considerable to absorb.
The Broncos lost a Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, to retirement and his "air"’ apparent, Brock Osweiler, to a Texas money grab.
The Broncos lost two defensive starters -- ferocious Malik Jackson and leading tackler -- and their special teams captain and inspiration -- David Bruton --to free agency.
The Broncos lost four veteran offensive linemen and a defensive lineman and their leading rusher, who were all released.
They lost a punter who could have been named MVP in the playoffs.
The Broncos lost its head coach to "retirement" (although I believe he’ll be back as an offensive coordinator in a year) and its three coordinators -- Wade Phillips to the Raiders, Rick Dennison to the Bills and Joe DeCamillis to the Jaguars -- and a pair of offensive assistants.
The Broncos lost seven games, the division and a postseason place.
They have found a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new special teams coach, a young defensive coordinator, a new quarterback coach, two new offensive line coaches, a new secondary coach and, in the past season, new running backs, a herd of new tight ends, new offensive line starters, a new starting quarter, a first-round quarterback and assorted other rookies.
This is not your Super Bowl 50 champions.
Vance Joseph calls it a "reboot," not a "rebuild."
I would call it a recovering, a renewal, a revival, a regeneration and a renaissance.
Is this redo enough to take back the land from the AFC West’s two playoff teams Oakland – which now possesses the Broncos’ two previous Super Bowl defensive coordinators (Phillips and Jack Del Rio) and the Chiefs?
Not in the Broncos’ present state of the franchise.
Now, they need more new players in free agency and the draft to bolster the team in the offensive line (PARTICULARLY), tight end, running back, defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker.
They even need another cornerback.
They can stick with their safeties, their punter and their kicker.
The salary cap room (depending on who they get rid of) and the draft (with 10 picks, including the compensatory choices) could be the Broncos’ BFF (best football friends).
With approximately $7.5 million in carry-over funds, and the significant salary cap increase (from $155 million to $165-170 million) and the salary dump of a few several, the Broncos could have more $30-$40 million overall to work with.
The salary dumps should include DeMarcus Ware ($8 million) unless he takes another significant drop ($4 million), Russell Okung ($9.5 million), Donald Stephenson ($5 million), Sylvester Williams ($2.5 million), Jared Crick ($1 million) and Jordan Norwood ($1 million) – and maybe Virgil Green ($2.9 million).
That’s right at $30 million. The Broncos will have to provide raises for several other players.
These are the free agents the Broncos should or will pursue, and make offers to:
- Offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Ricky Wagner, T.J. Lang, Chance Warmack Byron Bell and Matt McCants. All but Whitworth are somewhat reasonable ($3-$4 million each). The Bengals’ veteran could command $10 million.
- Tight ends Marcellus Bennett, Jermaine Gresham, Jared Cook and Anthony Fasano, each about $8 million.
- Running backs Latavius Murray ($7.5 million) and Danny Woodhead ($3.5 million)
- Defensive lineman Dontari Poe, Nick Fairley, Calais Campbell, Andre Branch, Kawann Short. Will require long-term contracts of $50-$75 million.
- Inside linebackers Zach Brown, Sean Weatherspoon, Bruce Carter. Brown could be a perfect match for the Broncos to work with a recovered Brandon Marshall
- Cornerbacks A.J. Boyle and Dre Kirkpatrick. Joseph had a profound influence on Kirkpatrick.
If the Broncos could get two or three offensive lineman, a tight end, Murray, Campbell and Short, Brown and Kirkpatrick, they’d be set in eight more spots.
In the draft, these are players to think about at 20th in the first round. They should still be available by then.
Offensive tackles Cam Robinison (Alabama), Ryan Ramzyzk (Wisconsin) and Garrett Bolles (Utah), defensive end Taco Charlton (Michigan), defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (Florida State) tight end O.J. Howard (Alabama), linebacker Zack Cunningham (Vanderbilt) and running back/receiver/returner Christian McCaffrey (Stanford).
Rebooting is often necessary for a computer to start over.
The Broncos have to revitalize to get back to the Super Bowl in 2017.