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Offseason Forecast: Denver Broncos

With the offseason officially under way, Around The League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the AFC champion Denver Broncos.

What's Changing?


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A haggard but still fiery John Elway said Tuesday that he's going to continue to shape his roster as if Peyton Manning will be the quarterback. The Broncos can survive the loss of a couple of key free agents on offense, but they have to add speed and physicality on defense. With a few tweaks, this team will remain AFC favorites. The real trick is finding a formula that will allow them to hang with the NFC's superpowers.

Biggest Free Agents


» WR Eric Decker: An excellent second fiddle to Demaryius Thomas, Decker is expected to seek No. 1 receiver money. The Broncos plan to let Decker come back to them with his best offer on the open market, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

» CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: The MVP of Denver's secondary, Rodgers-Cromartie turned his career around as one of the NFL's top cover corners in 2013. With one last cash grab imminent, DRC is no longer talking nonsense about retirement.

» RB Knowshon Moreno: Although Moreno would like to return to Denver, Rapoport has reported the Broncos don't expect to squeeze a new big-money contract into their 2014 plans. Elway confirmed the team has high hopes and expectations for Montee Ball, who is line for an expanded role.

» DE Shaun Phillips: The Broncos fully expect to re-sign the ageless pass rusher, per Rapoport. The implication is the two sides already are nearing common ground after Phillips led the defense with 10 sacks in 2013.

Other key free agents: LB Wesley Woodyard, S Mike Adams, OG Zane Beadles, DE Robert Ayers, DE Jeremy Mincey and LB Paris Lenon

What they need


The returns of left tackle Ryan Clady and All-Pro linebacker Von Miller will provide the biggest impact. The only glaring need on the record-breaking offense is a receiver to replace Decker if he flies the coop. Even with Miller returning, the defense has several glaring needs. The draft will have to bring a young pass rusher to succeed Phillips at defensive end. With Rodgers-Cromartie's future up in the air and Chris Harris undergoing ACL surgery, cornerback will be a high priority. If Woodyard isn't re-signed, linebacker will also require attention.

On the way out?


» CB Champ Bailey: The potential Hall of Famer wants to play at least one more season and is willing to consider a move to safety. The problem is his $10 million salary-cap number. Bailey will have to take a pay cut to return.

» TE Jacob Tamme: An afterthought due to the emergence of Julius Thomas, Tamme has a $3.5 million cap number in 2014. Paying that much for a backup tight end is a luxury the Broncos can't afford.

» TE Joel Dreessen: Similar to Tamme, Dreessen is a part-time tight end with a cap number over $3 million. The Broncos can go forward with Virgil Green as Thomas' primary sidekick at tight end.

Offseason crystal ball


Decker and Moreno likely will draw better offers than the Broncos can afford, especially with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas in line for contract extensions. Phillips will be back. Don't be surprised if Rodgers-Cromartie is given consideration for the franchise tag.

Elway has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason. Broncos fans, take solace in the fact that he played the free-agent market as well as anyone last year.

"The Around The League Podcast" taped our Super Bowl XLVIII recap from MetLife Stadium right after the game.

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