Bannan, Williams released; CBA talks extended

The Broncos have announced via Twitter that veteran defenders Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams have been released just a year after both were originally signed as free agents. Bannan earned $10.5 million in guarantees as part of his deal with Denver and was due a $500,000 roster bonus and $3.5 million salary in 2011. Williams received $7 million in guarantees with his contract and according to Mike Klis was set to earn a $1 million roster bonus an $4.2 million in salary. Along with the release of Daniel Graham yesterday, Denver has cut $14.4 million in salary and bonus obligations from their 2011 payroll. See Andrew Mason's latest entry for more details.

Also, the Broncos have chosen not to tender RB Laurence Maroney, who was acquired midseason with a sixth-round pick from New England in return for a fourth-rounder.

Update 5:38PM ET - As for the CBA negotiation: according to Jim Trotter via Twitter,

the sides have agreed on the 24-hour extension. they're awaiting approval from judge doty. should be a formality.

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You Got Served (In the 3rd person)

Happy Thursday, friends.  My computer problems continue, and I’m still awaiting a damn Windows 7 restore disk from Gateway.  As such, I am typing from my work laptop tonight (Wednesday), which is exactly what I want to do after working on it all day.

That said, I may not have the most stamina for looking at this little screen, so I’m going to get right to this.  All I have is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, my thoughts, and the natural tenacity of a former United States sailor.  Ready…. BEGIN!!

1.   A lot of interesting stuff has happened lately around the CBA negotiation, and by the time this drops around noon Thursday, what I’m about to say might be really old news, or even outdated.  I’m going to go ahead with some thoughts though, as of 8:40 PM Wednesday night.

Have you ever heard of the term “judicial activist?”  It always cracks me up when I hear it used, because depending on your political point of view, it seems that it’s only activism if you disagree with the ruling at hand.  A lot of people who say Roe v. Wade was judicial activism sure seemed to think it was cool when 2 of the 5 federal judges who’ve ruled on the Affordable Care Act found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional.  Conversely, a lot of people who appreciate Roe v. Wade will tell you that the recent rulings by judges Henry Hudson and John Vinson constitute thinly-veiled political hackery by a couple of Republican appointees. 

Of course, if we’re going to have any kind of judicial integrity, none of us can have it both ways, even if we all seem to want to, at times.  Judges have to be free to rule as they deem appropriate within the law.  David Doty, a Ronald Reagan appointee of 1987, is a Senior District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.  He’s had jurisdiction over the NFL’s CBA since 1993.

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Token tenders Lard 3-3-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Just to reinforce an important point that came up last night regarding the Broncos' tenders: Ryan Harris, Marcus Thomas and Kevin Vickerson will be unrestricted free agents if the next season is to be played under a new CBA. In other words, the only way Denver's contract tenders will have any true meaning is if the 2011 season is played without a CBA, which is a practical impossibility. If anything, offering tenders to these players (as most/all teams did with their younger veterans) can be viewed as just a gesture to express the team's interested in retaining them.

However, Matt Prater and Wesley Woodyard were scheduled to be restricted free agents this offseason no matter what - so their tenders do in fact mean that a team would have to give up a second-round pick to sign either of them, which one would have to think the Broncos would gladly accept with two open and extended arms. Prater may be a terrific kicker and Woodyard an excellent special teamer, but a second-rounder for each? Yes, please!!!

Big oops: Folks, Andrew Mason has redesigned his excellent site, and frankly I was under the impression he was taking a bit of a break. He wasn't, so I haven't read or linked his fine work in awhile - please check out his new design and update your bookmarks! Of course, I will be back to linking his material tomorrow, apologies to y'all for making you read so much Legwold of late...

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Broncos cut Graham, extend RFA offers to five vets

Tight end Daniel Graham has been released by the Broncos today after four seasons with the team. Meanwhile, Denver extended qualifying offers to several veteran players - right tackle Ryan Harris, placekicker Matt Prater, defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Kevin Vickerson, and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

UPDATE 10:13PM ET - According to Klis, Woodyard and Prater received second-round tenders worth $1.835 million, while Harris, Thomas and Vickerson received original round tenders worth $1.2 miliion. However, in the likely case that the next NFL season is played under a new CBA, those latter three players will all be unrestricted free agents.

7:48PM ET - Via Josina and Twitter, Marcus Thomas' agent says the player will not be signing his tender and wants to test unrestricted free agency, for what that's worth...

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Scouting the Broncos: Linebackers

The question of whether the Broncos will run a 4-3 next season has been answered in the affirmative by John Fox, and changes to the linebacking corps will be forthcoming. There will be a few keys to which scheme the team primarily uses - and the choices of which LBs are kept, which are not, and who is brought in will be central to this decision. I’m going to talk in general about the LB corps, listing the current players and noting some thoughts on them today. At this point, most of us are fairly familiar with the basic duties of the LBs in each system (see the last two entries of Fat Camp for a refresher), so I’ll be more specific as to which I like for each and why.

First and foremost, here’s the issue: according to Brian Xanders, Fox wants smaller, faster linebackers, with coverage as well as run-stopping and pass-rushing skills. That’s normal in most 4-3 approaches, but a long way from most of what Denver has accumulated. He wants them to be smaller, faster and more disruptive. This is a good example of the reason that you try to avoid changing coaches in a nutshell: it’s a tall order, it means finding a new kind of player for the team, and at first glance, I didn’t see it happening. After looking over the linebacker player pool carefully, it isn’t going to be easy either, although it’s doable, depending on whether there’s free agency this year, and whether Denver is willing to pay good money. Certainly, as often happens, some fan favorites such as Mario Haggan may not survive the change, although he’s a very possible temporary fill-in. With these general ideas in mind, here are the current players:

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Shiny toy Peterson Lard 3-2-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Matt Bowen writes that after yesterday's performance, the Broncos could have trouble passing up the chance to draft Patrick Peterson. The 6-foot, 219-pound corner (that's 27 pounds heavier than Champ Bailey) ran a 4.34 official 40 time - so he's as big as a safety but as fast as a top corner, which means he could easily be utilized anywhere in the secondary. However, Bowen also says that with Peterson's considerable skills, this is not a player that you'd move inside to play safety.

The philosophy of taking the best player available is almost never misplaced, but at #2 overall is there really enough of a difference between these players to pass over a canyonesque area of need like DT or LB? Isn't it splitting hairs to say Peterson may be a better prospect than Nick Fairley, Von Miller or Marcell Dareus? Considering the needs of this Broncos team, Peterson seems at this point more like a luxury - yes, we at IAOFM talk all the time about the importance of passing and stopping the pass. But who do we have at linebacker that qualifies as a sure thing, even less a star? Nobody. The luster has been off DJ Williams for quite some time now, Joe Mays and Mario Haggan may be too big and/or slow for whatever John Fox and Dennis Allen come up with, and as much as we love him, Wesley Woodyard is an undersized player with durability issues. Justin Bannan and Marcus Thomas are solid players, but is either one a difference maker, an impact player? A disrupter? Most definitely not. What do you think? Should Patrick Peterson be a consideration for Denver at #2?

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Judge rules against NFL regarding TV money

Judge David Doty has tonight dealt a serious blow to NFL owners in their negotiations with the players over a new collective bargaining agreement. Doty ruled that the financial protection the owners had built into their most recent television contracts did not align with their stated desire to avoid a player lockout. In the event of a lockout, the networks which broadcast NFL games had agreed to still pay the owners $4 billion, although much of it would have been offset in future seasons. Doty's statement reads, in part:

The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the (CBA) as to those contracts.

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The Playbook Abides: Living here in Allentown; The overload blitz.

Several weeks ago, my colleague Ted Bartlett looked at what the Broncos might be doing this year as they try to incorporate Dennis Allen's aggressive style of defense into John Fox's generally non-aggressive 4-3, where pressure is generated primarily by the front four defenders.  If you haven't had a chance to read that piece, I would suggest taking another look.

Fox says he gives his coordinators free rein, so it's more than likely that Allen will bring at least some of the aggressive 46 to Denver.   As current Saints coach Sean Payton said just the other day about Allen in the Denver Post:

"He'll be aggressive, blitz. Emphasis on the takeaway. He's very bright, a great staff guy. He was very instrumental in the success we've had."

This quote should fill the hearts of every Broncos fan with glee.  That's because the system the Saints use isn't just talk.  It's probably the most aggressive system in the entire league.  

How does this aggression translate to the field?  This offseason, we'll take a look using actual plays from the Saints (and sometimes the Panthers if needed) to demonstrate what Allen will likely bring to the table.  Today, let's examine the overload blitz.

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CP Lard 3-1-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Clinton Portis was released by Shanny and the Skins yesterday after seven seasons in Washington.

While CP was only a Bronco for two seasons, he remains one of my all-time favorites - drafted 51st overall in 2002, Portis was a faster (albeit not quite as durable) version of Terrell Davis who incredibly racked up 1,872 yards from scrimmage and 17 TDs as a rookie despite not becoming the team's primary ballcarrier until Week 5.

He backed that performance up in his sophomore season with 1,905 yards and 14 TDs despite missing three games due to injury, but then Shanny dealt him to DC for Champ and a second-rounder (Tatum Bell) - it was a deal of two superstars who wanted more money, and one of the most significant player-for-player trades in NFL history. In his brief Denver career, Portis posted a remarkable 5.5 yards per attempt and 106.9 per game, with 29 rushing touchdowns on 563 carries.

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Talegating: History of the NFL Draft, Part 2

Back in 2008 at about this same time of the year, with both the Combine and the draft upcoming, I found myself looking back through the history of the NFL to try and learn exactly how each of those two essential processes had begun. I quickly found that there was a vast wealth of information available on the subject, and starting collecting books that referenced them, articles that covered their past as well as the present, and I also started questioning people who I knew were familiar with those subjects. The history of the draft is interwoven into the NFL, which was the first league to hold a reverse-order draft for its teams. Last Monday, we examined the league's formative decades -the 1920s and '30s; today we'll take a look at the monumental developments that followed in the 1940s. I hope you'll enjoy it.

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