With free agency coming soon to a city near you, the Broncos have a couple of major areas to fill, along with some optional areas that they might work on. It’s no shock to anyone that defensive tackle and running back are their top priorities, with OL depth (and a possible starter/backup at RT as a realistic option). It’s also fair to say that the top players are very likely going to move quickly. The players are going to want to see who will give them the best offers, and Denver will have to step up to the financial plate on Day 1 if they want to upgrade the DL, which has to be Job 1A with running back as Job 1B.
Denver may choose to bring on a tackle, in case Orlando Franklin takes some time to get used to NFL play and to guard against potential injuries - I think Franklin will do fine, but he’s got little time to prepare for the season; it would just be good sense to have a second option. Most rookie linemen, with the exception of the rare Ryan Clady’s out there, take a year or so to merge well into the line. A veteran knows a lot of the things that a rookie, even if he’s more talented, will have to figure out and/or be coached in. Denver also wants to add depth on the OL.
UPDATE 6:50PM ET - More from Mark Maske...
The owners still could vote Thursday to approve deal even without a players' vote today, according to people familiar with deliberations. The deal is basically in place. It's the resolution of the lawsuit that remains unfinished, and it must be resolved to finish the CBA. NFL labor committee ended its meeting in Atlanta. Full ownership meeting scheduled to begin Thursday at 10 a.m.
Good Morning, Broncos! Legal teams for the two sides worked yesterday on a settlement document which is expected to be presented before the NFLPA's executive committee and the 32 teams' player reps sometime today. The player reps would then hopefully recommend the settlement to the named plaintiffs in the Brady suit, followed by recertification of the players' union.
The next step would be ratification of the deal tomorrow by the owners, who are meeting in Atlanta. Shortly afterwards, the owners and team executives would be briefed on the details of the agreement including the 2011 NFL calendar, the rookie wage scale and transaction guidelines, in a seminar expected to last into Friday. Meanwhile, the retired players have said they will not stand in the way of a deal, and the agent for Peyton Manning and Drew Brees vehemently disputed reports that the two QBs are making special demands as part of a settlement of the Brady suit.
Happy Tuesday, friends. I have fairly limited writing time today, so I am going to write something that is the length of a standard blog post. There has been some hand-wringing the last couple days about the CBA negotiations, despite the fact that nothing seems to be likely to hold up progress on a deal.
Doug shared a link in today’s Lard indicating that teams are already advising players to show up on Friday and Saturday, which is the surest sign yet that a deal is inevitable, and will happen very soon. Yet, for some reason, on Sirius XM NFL Radio, the topic of the last couple days has relentlessly been something like What If Vincent Jackson/Logan Mankins/Osi Umenyiora blow(s) up the deal for reasons of personal gain?
It’s making some people nervous, along with reports that the players are still trying to get more money from the owners, to wit, the $320 million of foregone benefits from 2010. Given that there are still so many owner fanboys (that article endlessly cracks me up, so I keep linking it) out there, many of whom have a skewed perception of how negotiations work, with the problem being exacerbated by NFL reporters who really are missing and misunderstanding a lot, I decided that I’d address this with a few thoughts.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! As Albert Breer reports, lawyers for the two sides met for over eight hours yesterday in NY, while the NFLPA's executive committee is in DC preparing for a meeting tomorrow with the 32 team reps which could result in a recommendation to settle the Brady suit. The owners are hoping to ratify a new deal on Thursday, after which team executives would be briefed on terms of the agreement as it pertains to them. Breer says that although the issue of benefits lost during the uncapped 2010 season is still an unsettled issue, the two sides came to an agreement on retired player benefits.
Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora is hearing the two sides could have a difficult negotiation ahead of them regarding the TV lockout insurance, and that some of the named plaintiffs in the Brady suit are seeking a form of damages - Chargers WR Vincent Jackson and Pats G Logan Mankins want assurance they won't be franchised by their clubs, while DE Osi Umenyiora wants either a new contract from the Giants or to be traded.
I spent much of yesterday evening watching film of the Broncos' SB 32 win against the heavily favored Packers, a therapy which I prescribed to treat a case of the almost-past lockout blues. It was a nice memory to revisit, too: In a showing packed with memorable moments, perhaps the most telling comment came from then-Packer Aaron Taylor, who simply said, “I think that they wanted it more than we did.” It was true, too - what stood Denver above the Packers was that the Broncos, to a man, just weren’t going to see John Elway locked out of the finishing touch to a brilliant career by losing a fourth SB. That kind of loyalty is a potent weapon, and the ability to earn it says a lot about why Elway was so successful.
In a game filled with extraordinary performances, the other thing that stood out to me was the play of the Denver offensive line, particularly that of RT Tony Jones, who completely shut star DE Reggie White down and out of the game. Eugene Robinson later commented that as much as Terrell Davis’s performance was brilliant, the offensive line deserved a lot of the credit for the length of many of his runs. It’s a lesson that can’t be overstated in the NFL - if you want to have a running game, you’re going to need a talented line. Watching TD's gutsy play in producing 157 yards despite the lingering effects of a killer migraine was amazing: it was a performance that earned him the SB MVP that year. It also reminded me what you can achieve when you have good offensive line players like Jones, Gary Zimmerman, Tom Nalen, Mark Schlereth and Brian Habib and when the group instinctively plays together as a unit.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Revisiting the Steve Wyche/Bucky Brooks podcast from yesterday's Lard, both Brooks and Wyche are convinced that Tim Tebow will be the Broncos' starting QB in 2011. Brooks says that from his time working with John Fox and the Panthers in a scouting capacity, he believes Fox wants a QB who possesses the "It" factor, and that Tebow will be an ideal fit within the more balanced offense Fox prefers. Meanwhile, Wyche says he's spoken with enough people that he's comfortable in stating that the starting gig will be Tebow's to lose, and that he'd have to be a complete flop in training camp or get injured to do so. Wyche also believes that while the Broncos are seeking a second-rounder in return for Kyle Orton, they'd take a third-rounder in exchange for the veteran QB, and that Jake Delhomme is going to land in Denver once Cleveland lets him go.
Wyche also states with great confidence that the Broncos are going to make a major push to sign DeAngelo Williams, although he also puzzlingly suggests the team could be interested in signing another LB in free agency (Brian Xanders has pretty much ruled that out, at least publicly). Brooks thinks defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Barry Cofield would be excellent fits for Denver, with the aging Pat Williams as a fallback. If you'd like to listen for yourself, the segment where Wyche and Brooks discuss the Broncos begins at the 14-minute mark.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Chris Mortensen writes that the new CBA will be a 10-year deal, and hopes are that a deal will be reached in time for the players to recertify their union and ratify an agreement on Wednesday, with the owners following suit at their meeting the next day. With an agreement nearing, Mort is hearing the players are looking to be compensated for $320 million in benefits that were lost due to the uncapped 2010 season, and to have franchise tags limited to a one-time use for each player. The other remaining issues as reported previously are resolution of the Brady suit and the TV lockout fund, and worker's comp.
Mortensen also writes that going forward, two-a-day practices will be eliminated from training camps, while OTAs would be shortened and start later than they had in prior years. Teams will reportedly have a 72-hour period to re-sign their own free agents, including in the Broncos' case UFAs DT Marcus Thomas and OT Ryan Harris. As Lindsay Jones reported in June, K Matt Prater and LB Wesley Woodyard will be restricted free agents requiring draft-pick compensation to Denver should other teams sign them.
Drew Brees says the lockout will be over soon.
Since you can always trust a guy from New Orleans to give you a calm and reasonable assessment of any situation, I'd say Brees is on to something.
We're about to get NFL football again.
I'm ready to stop fantasizing about Hope Solo; Tim Tebow is ready to stop wearing purple; Roger Goodell is ready to begin fining James Harrison for theoretically not peeing on him while being (theoretically) on fire.
The signs are there. Here are ten for you:
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Albert Breer writes that an agreement on a new CBA is expected to be reached early next week, while lawyers for the two sides will continue meeting over the weekend. The most significant progress of yesterday's talks was that the owners altogether dropped their demand to have rights of first refusal on a number of their own free agents, and the two sides apparently agreed upon offseason programs and player safety issues. Plus, it is expected that players will receive their full offseason workout bonuses as was previously contracted.
Remaining items include retiree benefits, drug testing, and settling the Brady suit and TV rights case, although these are not seen as potential stumbling blocks. According to Breer, the players have ceded the right to renegotiate contracts until after their third season in the league - Andrew Brandt writes that undrafted players had been able to renegotiate following their second season. Also, the fifth-year options for first-rounders mentioned yesterday will be based upon salaries during the third year of a contract; in other words, Denver's 2015 option on Von Miller will require the Broncos to guarantee him the average salary of the NFL's top 10 linebackers as paid during the 2013 season.