ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After 10 full days of free agency, there has been plenty of hand-wringing among the Denver Broncos’ faithful about some familiar names that are already gone or that are about to be gone. And now the team will likely turn much of its attention to the draft.
But to recap, here’s a rundown of the Broncos' work in free agency to this point:
Early business. Derek Wolfe's deal was done on Jan. 15, but make no mistake, the four-year, $36.7 million deal came out of the team’s budget. Much like when the Broncos signed cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to an extension months before Harris was set to hit the open market following the 2014 season, the Broncos wanted to get at least one of their pending free agents done early this time around and Wolfe was the guy.
O-line shuffle. The Broncos signed two tackles in Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung and released guard Louis Vasquez. Evan Mathis (Arizona Cardinals) and Ryan Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers) signed elsewhere, so there is every chance that the Broncos will have four new starters on the offensive line in the 2016 season, with center Matt Paradis the only holdover from the offensive line that started Super Bowl 50. Okung’s arrival almost certainly spells the end of Ryan Clady’s time with the Broncos, as well, given that the Broncos and Clady did not work out a deal on a salary/salary-cap reduction for Clady. The Broncos have attempted to trade Clady in recent days in the wake of Okung’s signing, but if no trade partner is found the Broncos are expected to release Clady, who was the Broncos’ first-round draft pick in 2008.
The match. Running back C.J. Anderson said even he was a bit surprised the Broncos matched the four-year, $18 million offer he received from the Miami Dolphins. So, the Broncos committed to Anderson and then made it clear to him that they want to see more of his best and less of what got him pushed down to No. 3 on the depth chart in 2014. Anderson said he understands and has higher expectations of himself than the Broncos have of him. That’s saying something because the Broncos expect him to be The Guy in the run game, even though Anderson hasn’t started more than seven games in any of his previous three seasons. He has not carried the ball more than 179 times in a season -- his total in 2014 for the Broncos -- since he was in junior college. But he fits their offense and a healthy, committed Anderson is a 1,000-yard rusher in waiting.
Winning brings interest. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said all along many “difficult decisions" would come in the wake of a Super Bowl win. And they have, as others were willing to spend more for Broncos free agents than the Broncos could and/or would as Malik Jackson, Brock Osweiler, Danny Trevathan, Mathis and Harris all signed elsewhere. All five players got bigger contracts than the Broncos would have agreed to.
And the quarterback is ... At the moment, after a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Broncos’ depth chart at quarterback projects to be Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian because, well, they’re the only two quarterbacks on the roster. Two thoughts on that fact, however, are that in-house the Broncos do feel better about Sanchez’s potential in their offense than many on the outside do and they felt good enough about Siemian's progress this past season to have used him as the team’s No. 2 during the stretch run of what became a Super Bowl season as Peyton Manning recovered from a left foot injury. They’ll look hard at adding another early in the draft as well as some consideration for another veteran, but they’re not in panic-in-the-streets mode as some of their fans may be. And the answer to whether or not their inner peace is justified won’t be known until they play some games.