Commentary

Broncos heading in the wrong direction

Scouts Inc. puts the Broncos on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.

Originally Published: April 6, 2008
By Jeremy Green | Scouts Inc.

As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

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Broncos
For a complete list of all of the Broncos' free agents and all their offseason signings, check out Scouts Inc.'s free-agent tracker.
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This is a team and a franchise going in the wrong direction. The Broncos now have their third defensive coordinator in three seasons, and GM Ted Sundquist, who seldom was used in personnel decisions despite his expertise in that area, was fired. Head coach Mike Shanahan is a darn good football coach, but his track record in personnel decisions has not been very good. With him calling the shots, they continue to make mistakes in free agency and there is not a lot of great, young talent on this team. Denver does have a potential future star in QB Jay Cutler, and he may be able to mask a lot of the other offensive and defensive issues. But make no mistake, personnel issues still exist, and they won't go away until Denver hires a GM and gives him the authority to oversee the personnel decisions.

Key Additions

Give the Broncos credit for not sitting on their hands this offseason, but their additions do not outweigh their losses. Denver did not add one proven young player or a veteran who is not clearly on the downside of his career. Former Carolina WR Keary Colbert has been a bust since his rookie season, when he caught 47 balls; he has caught only 62 in the three years since. S Marlon McCree is limited, and nobody should know this better than Denver, which tried to attack him twice every season when he was in San Diego. C Casey Wiegmann, signed from Kansas City, is set to begin his 13th NFL season, but he struggled last season. How much he has left in the tank remains to be seen. S Marquand Manuel parlayed one good season in Seattle into a free-agent deal with Green Bay. Denver is now his third team in four years and fourth in his six-year career. MLB Niko Koutouvides was a backup in Seattle. He was signed in an effort to get get D.J. Williams back to WLB, where he is a better fit, but it seems like Koutouvides is a reach there.

Boss Bailey is the best free agent Denver added, but he has not played up to expectations. Even when you look at the players Denver kept, you have to scratch your head. They re-signed DEs Ebenezer Ekuban, who is 31 and coming off a torn Achilles tendon, and John Engelberger, who had 41 tackles and a sack as a backup. Engelberger is a good worker, but this team needs some players on a shaky front four. It's hard to say Denver added one guy you could call a true quality starter out of these additions.

Mock Draft: Broncos
The Pick (No. 12 overall):
OT Chris Williams, Vanderbilt
Insider

Williams
Todd McShay: If the Broncos are unable to get DT Glenn Dorsey or DT Sedrick Ellis they should look to address the offensive tackle position. While Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah ranks slightly higher than Williams, Williams makes more sense here because he moves his feet better than Otah and is a better fit for Denver's zone blocking scheme.
Complete mock draft Insider
Vote: Team needs

Key Losses

Denver did not lose many players, but the few losses will be felt. LOT Matt Lepsis, the last remaining piece of what seemed like a pretty dominant offensive line only a few years ago, has retired. His loss means the Broncos now have questions at left offensive tackle and right offensive tackle. The team cut OLB Ian Gold, whose production dropped off last season. It's understandable why they let him go, but who takes over for him? The team parted ways with WR Javon Walker (Raiders). Yes, he was injured for much of last season, but his departure leaves the team with currently injured Brandon Marshall as the only legitimate threat outside. The team traded C Chris Myers to Houston for a sixth-round pick, even though a young Myers is a better starter than an aging Wiegmann.

The biggest loss will be PK Jason Elam (Falcons), who has been Mr. Clutch. Denver, for the first time in more than a decade, now will learn what it feels like to hold your breath every time the kicking team walks out onto the field. S Nick Ferguson (Texans) was not retained as a free agent, but Denver doesn't lose much there because it signed McCree. Though Denver did not lose a high number of players, the ones who left have not been replaced with upgrades.

Remaining Questions

"Where to begin?" is the correct question. Let's start with the offense. Marshall is now the No. 1 wideout, but is he mature enough to handle that spot, and will he have enough supporting weapons for him to succeed in that role? Right now, the answer to both of those questions appears to be no. With the retirement of Lepsis, there are questions at both tackle spots. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line is still in disarray as other than Elvis Dumervil there are no proven playmakers across the front four. The addition of Koutouvides allows Denver to move Williams back to the weak side, but there still will be a void in the middle. The safety position, even though the Broncos added McCree and Manuel to go with the aging John Lynch, is a sore spot.

Denver is solid in very few places. Running back will be solid, regardless who carries the load. Cutler is set at QB, Daniel Graham leads a solid group at tight end and Champ Bailey and Dre Bly give the Broncos a top tandem at CB. But Denver still has a ton of questions. Broncos fans won't want to hear this, but they are closer to losing their grip on second place in the AFC West to Oakland than they are to dethroning the San Diego Chargers for the top dog in this division.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.