When all is said and done, the Denver Broncos have an enormous learning curve at wide receiver. The team's up-tempo offense in which QB Peyton Manning can call anything from any page of the vast playbook at the line of scrimmage is simply not for everybody.
Which is exactly why the Broncos reeled in wide receiver Andre Caldwell just before free agency opened Tuesday. On the surface, it may not move the needle all that much on the opening day of bidding, especially given Caldwell had just 16 receptions this past season to go with three touchdowns.
But the Broncos signed him to a two-year, $3.45 million deal because Manning trusts Caldwell to be where he is supposed to be in the pattern and when given the opportunity, Caldwell has produced when needed and still has young man's speed. His two-touchdown day against the San Diego Chargers Dec. 12 was proof that Manning had no qualms about going Caldwell’s way despite the fact Caldwell had five receptions on the season at that point.
It also allows the Broncos to examine a deep, talented and fast draft class at wide receiver without worrying about being too inexperienced at two spots on the depth chart at the position.
Before Caldwell re-signed, the Broncos had just two wide receivers among the four who were on the 53-player roster last season -- Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker -- under contract for 2014. The Broncos had some concerns internally about bringing multiple new players in because of how much work the team does at the line of scrimmage.
Receivers have to think fast and smoothly make the changes at the line of scrimmage with a minimum of mistakes. Sure, the Broncos would bring back Eric Decker if Decker doesn't find the windfall waiting in free agency he expects, but with Caldwell back, the Broncos see him as a hybrid No. 3/No. 4 receiver who could help ease the transition of any potential rookies at the position or other new arrivals.