What Winning Free Agency Means for the Broncos
By Adam Hocking
Special to Pro Football Guru
We’ve seen in the very recent past that winning free agency, while exciting, generally doesn’t equal winning on the field.
Just look back to Philadelphia’s “Dream Team” project gone wrong from 2011. In that free agency period the Eagles signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and running back Ronnie Brown, among others. The Birds also traded for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
On paper, it was a huge haul.
On the field, it was a disaster.
The Eagles went 8-8 the season after signing all of those big names, followed by a 4-12 campaign the next year. Almost none of the signings from that offseason are still with Philadelphia today.
The tried and true route of team building has been via the draft. Developing your own players, for your own scheme and with a very specific plan in mind has been the blueprint for the best franchises. That list includes teams such as the New England the Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers, to name a few. In free agency, new players come with hefty price tags, lugging personal baggage, and are generally unfamiliar with their new team’s schematic principles.
With all of that said, it’s hard not to get caught up in the Pro Bowl-type haul the Denver Broncos just landed in the opening round of free agency. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware came aboard to complement outside linebacker Von Miller as an edge rusher. Denver now boasts one of the league’s best young pass rushers, to go with one of the best of all time.
New Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, when healthy, played like an elite cornerback last year for New England. He’s capable of locking down one side of the field, and sparring with the most physical receivers. Safety T.J. Ward joins Talib in the secondary and brings his own brand of physicality.
Wide receiver Eric Decker left for the New York Jets, although with wideouts Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas still in the fold, it would seem Decker's production is replaceable.
The biggest difference with Denver is that, unlike past failed free agency extravaganzas, the Broncos have quarterback Peyton Manning running the show. Manning has proven he can guide teams lacking transcendent talent to the playoffs. He will have no such talent deficiency with this Denver roster.
The Manning factor was one of the main reasons that defenders such as Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were so successful racking up quarterback sacks in Indianapolis. It’s easy to see Miller and Ware having similar prosperity. Manning puts up points in a hurry, forcing an opponent to become one-dimensional and pass happy. This allows the defense to zero in on rushing the quarterback and focus on creating turnovers.
Denver is now the Costco of the NFL- they have everything. A franchise quarterback, great skill position talent, pass rushers, a run stuffer in defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, and a secondary with lock-down potential.
Most significantly, they have Manning, who allows everyone to assume their most comfortable role. Receivers don’t need to worry about whether the ball will be delivered on time, it will be. Offensive linemen don’t have to hold their blocks for long, as Manning has a tremendously quick release. The defense doesn’t have to be concerned about pitching shutouts. They can play an aggressive turnover-forcing style, knowing Manning will put points on the board.
Denver added tremendous talent to a team that made the Super Bowl last year. They should be considerably improved, but the reason it will all work is the quarterback already on the roster.
Adam Hocking is from Saint Paul, Minnesota where he covers the sporting world on his site: The Day in Sports. You can also check out his podcast by searching “The Day in Sports” on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter at @tdis_humblebrag.