Broncos tap Swinton to replace Burns

Following the departure of longtime player and special teams assistant Keith Burns to Washington, where he'll coordinate special teams under Mike Shanahan, the Broncos have acted quickly to replace him.

Denver today announced the hiring of Derius Swinton as their new ST assistant under coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

Swinton is entering his seventh season as a coach, and fifth at the NFL level.

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Richard Seymour and the Raiders’ stint in cap hell Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, we discussed the perils of kicking the salary cap can down the road via contract renegotiations in the name of more cap space today.

Happily for us, a perfect example of such mismanagement has presented itself, and with a healthy serving of Raiders schadenfreude to top it off.

It's the NFL's version of Popeye's "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," only with the late Al Davis and defensive tackle Richard Seymour reprising the roles of Wimpy and the burger.

Trading away Seymour in 2009 was the ultimate Bill Belichick move, as he got back a 2011 first-round pick (Nate Solder) for a player entering the final year of his contract.

Oakland used its franchise tag on Seymour in 2010, to the tune of almost $13M, and then signed him to a six-year deal in 2011 that voided to two years.

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Benoit: Considering Denver’s free-agent options at DT

Four Downs: AFC West

The interior rotation of Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein, and Derek Wolfe was sensational at holding ground and drawing double-teams in 2012. But the 34-year-old Bannan is set to become a free agent. So is the more explosive (and wildly underrated) 30-year-old Vickerson. The losses of those players would impact whoever is at middle linebacker.
Elway could re-sign all three interior defensive starters and still have a little money left over. Or, he could trust his existing linebacker depth to fill Brooking’s void, lowball Vickerson, say goodbye to Bannan, and try to upgrade by luring a second-tier free agent defensive tackle -– say a Randy Starks, Terrance Knighton, or Alan Branch-type –- to Mile High.

FWIW, Starks just turned 29 in December, graded out at +3.5 over 826 snaps for Miami according to PFF, and drew $3.85M in compensation last season. Knighton saw 666 snaps with the Jaguars, graded out at +4.2, made $1.26M in the final year of his rookie deal, and will turn 27 on Independence Day. Branch recently turned 28, netted a +1.8 grade over 645 snaps with Seattle, and was paid $4.3M.

All three were second- or third-round picks and figure to draw heftier deals than either Bannan or Vickerson.

Fat Camp: Ryan Clady and the franchise tag

It's widely expected that the Broncos will use their franchise tag on All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady this offseason. But what exactly does that mean?

Let's go over the details, including the most basic:

What is a franchise tag?

A franchise tag is a restricted tender used by teams to retain their most important unrestricted free agents. Franchise tags can also be used on players who are already deemed restricted free agents, but this doesn't generally happen, as it's not cost-effective.

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Fare thee well, Keith Burns Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's unfortunately time to bid adieu to a longtime friend - Keith Burns, who's spent 18 of his 20 NFL seasons with the Broncos.

At least he's reconvening with an old friend, as he's heading to Washington to coordinate Mike Shanahan's special teams.

Burnsy first joined the Broncos as a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 1994, and he anchored their special teams unit for 11 of the next 13 seasons, with one-year stints with Chicago (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004) sprinkled in between.

The 40-year-old South Carolina native was a part of both of Denver's SB-winning teams, and upon his retirement, he jumped right into coaching, as a ST assistant on Shanny's 2007 squad.

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Eagles, Vick pare contract to one year

Michael Vick signs with Eagles for '13

The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed Michael Vick on Monday to a one-year deal for the 2013 season, league sources said.

This contract replaces the one Vick had signed and he now is scheduled to be a free agent after next season.

Vick was reportedly paid a $3M roster bonus last week, and had been due to draw a $15.5M salary for 2013, in a deal that ran through 2015.

Instead, the former number-one overall pick has taken a hefty pay cut, with a one-year deal that has the potential of topping out at around $10M.

Broncos likely to play SNF opener at Giants, visit Cowboys on Thanksgiving

Broncos most likely to open on SNF, play on Turkey Day

Broncos @ Giants – Peyton Manning versus Eli Manning. The huge New York television market. According to sources, it will be a “major upset” if this is not the SNF opener.

If Denver opens at home on Monday Night Football, the logical match-ups would be the Chargers, with former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy now at the helm in San Diego, and the Chiefs, with Andy Reid making his regular-season debut as the head coach in Kansas City.

While the plan for opening weekend is still being finalized, one game on the Broncos schedule is all but set in stone. Denver will be playing on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) in Dallas. “It’s a lock,” said a league source.

As you might recall, the Broncos' last trip to Dallas was also on Thanksgiving, and ended on a Jason Elam chip shot that followed a 55-yard OT run (video) by Ron Dayne in 2005.

Forget Welker - what about Harvin? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With the contracts for wideouts Brandon Stokley and Matthew Wilis up, several fans have suggested Denver should pursue New England's Wes Welker in free agency.

But given the contract Welker figures to command ($8M-$10M/year?), and with the team facing much bigger needs (interior offensive/defensive lines, middle linebacker), the receiver would appear to be beyond the team's budgetary restraints.

If the Broncos are interested in adding a dynamic slot receiver (and we have no idea whether they are), then what about pursuing a younger, more explosive version of Welker?

To that end, it's being reported that the Vikings are looking to trade Percy Harvin.

The electric receiver/runner/return man is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and his $2.9M salary would also be his cap number for any team that acquires him via trade. Minnesota would be left with just $1,128,800 of dead money, so that's not a factor.

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Mailbag: Should Robert Ayers be cut?

Happy Sunday, friends.  Once again, the mailbag has yielded a good question.  This is one of those parts of the offseason where nothing is really going on, and where we’re really likely to have time to address good questions, so keep ‘em coming.

Today, from our friend Haiku Boy:

I have an ongoing argument with this contrarian frenemy of mine who keeps insisting they should cut Robert Ayers. I know the cap savings would be minimal (roughly one million) but he points to his lackluster statistics, low defensive snap count, and frankly the fact he was picked by McDaniels.

 Is there any way this will happen, and would there be any way to justify the move? This guy is seriously bugging the crap out of me.

No problem, HB.  The price for the answer is one haiku in the comment section.  Whenever a fan talks about getting rid of a player, for whatever reason, the first question that must be asked and answered is, “Can you get somebody better (or at least at a better value) to fill the guy’s role, and where’s he coming from?”

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Is a wider field a safer one? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! From former CFL, Bills, and Colts exec Bill Polian, via Dan Pompei, comes an intriguing idea for potentially improving the safety of the NFL game.

In the opinion of Polian and Warren Moon, who of course began his pro career up north (because he's black), the CFL's wider field lends itself to smaller, faster players, and fewer big collisions, especially in the middle of the field:

“The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be,” Polian said. “We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out. You have fewer higher power collisions in the Canadian League than here.”

A wider field almost certainly would lead to more scoring, and a shift in the offensive-defensive balance of the NFL. Schemes would be affected. This might not be a bad thing for the NFL. But it would be a radical thing, to use Polian’s word.

This would indeed be a drastic change, and one that demands tireless research to determine its value, before instating. But if it helps preserve the game and the quality of life of the men who play it, then we're all for the idea.

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