The Denver Broncos have had a turbulent offseason. After getting Peyton Manning to take a $4 million pay cut a few days prior to free agency opening, there was speculation general manager John Elway would retain a key player or two.
It turns out Elway had no designs on keeping some of his talent that was hitting the market, only using the franchise tag to harness Demaryius Thomas for at least one more year. While the Kansas City Chiefs were busy acquiring Jeremy Maclin and Ben Grubbs, and keeping Tamba Hali and Mike DeVito on pay cuts, the Broncos have watched as Orlando Franklin, Terrance Knighton, Rahim Moore, Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas left for other cities.
With Manning now 39 years old and a brand new coaching staff in place led by Gary Kubiak, are the Broncos still a playoff team?
From this vantage point, Denver will be in the postseason if Manning can still play at a reasonably high level. The offense has an up-and-coming back in C.J. Anderson and two legitimate star receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Thomas. The defense is fortified by Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, DeMarcus Ware and Chris Harris, but also has holes.
The Broncos are transitioning to a 3-4 defense and outside of Derek Wolfe, have no impact defensive linemen to speak of. At safety, the signing of Darian Stewart is not going to adequately replace Moore, who while nothing special was not a scrub either. Elway must go heavy on drafting beef for his defense, otherwise it could be a long year against the run.
The offense also has some major concerns. With Julius Thomas and Tamme gone, newly-acquired Owen Daniels and Virgil Green remain on the roster at tight end. Green and an aging Daniels won’t remind anybody of Jimmy Graham, so that potentially is a problem, especially in the red zone. The larger issue is the offensive line, which currently is in massive flux. Center Will Montgomery is still a free agent, while Franklin is gone for the San Diego Chargers.
Currently, from left to right, the starting offensive line is Ryan Clady, ?, ?, Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez. With Manning being less mobile than a statue, this should give pause.
Ultimately, Elway can still fill in some holes with second-tier free agents and draft picks. If Denver can take care of the lines, it should be back in the postseason. However, if the trenches remain poor headed into September, it will likely spell doom.