Broncos will be explosive, but they didn’t add 112 catches Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! What a day, huh? 51 weeks ago, we were all wondering just how much Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker would step up their games to welcome Peyton Manning. Would Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark be joining on?

We had hopes, but few, outside of Ted, probably envisioned the progress Thomas and Decker would make.

The 2012 season provided answers, as the Broncos were one of the most explosive passing offenses in the league. To that, they've now added Wes Welker, which means Brandon Stokley figures to be subtracted.

There will always be love for the Slot Machine at IAOFM and in Broncos Land, so there's something bittersweet about this swap.

But the Broncos have made themselves better, and they have done so at the expense of the Patriots, who figure to be their chief competition to represent the AFC in SB 48.

I'm as excited by the Welker addition as anyone - Denver was already a matchup nightmare, but as Chris Harris found out in Week 5, Wes is virtually uncoverable. Now, opposing defenses have some real serious problems. Denver's gonna score 40+ points every week now, right?

Maybe, but let's temper my own the euphoria just a bit, at least to the neighborhood of reality.

By signing Welker, Denver likely didn't add 112 catches, which is what he averaged in six seasons with New England. At times over that stretch, he was Tom Brady's only threatening wide receiver.

In Denver, he'll be flanked by Thomas and Decker, who combined to catch 179 passes last season. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen added 93, while Stokley was good for 45 receptions.

Manning threw 583 passes (400 completions), and unless John Fox is a changed man at 58 years old, the Broncos likely won't be chucking it 650 times this year, although we can hope for that.

Given the area in which Welker operates, it's most likely he's taking targets away from Tamme and Dreessen, perhaps the running backs, and of course, Stokley. He'll take some from Thomas and Decker too, but probably not a ton.

Perhaps in Denver, Welker is an 80-catch guy, with Thomas and Decker posting numbers similar to that.

Also, while he's an upgrade over Stokley - especially in terms of age and durability - the difference otherwise isn't that great, at least on a per-snap basis.

To wit, the Slot Machine ranked seventh in the NFL in Expected Points Added per Play, among wide receivers in 2012. Stokley posted the best Success Rate (66.2%) of all wideouts, and his 75.0% Catch Rate was second only to Green Bay's Randall Cobb.

That's not to say Welker was a slouch. In gross terms, he was third in the league in Win Probability Added and fifth in EPA. In terms of rates, he ranked 28th in EPA/Play and 10th in Success Rate, while he was 11th in Catch Rate, despite being targeted at the ninth-highest rate.

Ultimately, the counting stats won't matter so much. Whether it's Welker or Thomas who has more catches, Manning throws significantly more passes, or Tamme's numbers are halved, the Broncos will be explosive.

The 2013 Broncos are going to have a higher success rate, convert third downs even better, punch in more red-zone chances, and cause a dozen defensive coordinators to spend the next several months trying to figure out how they'll cover Thomas/Decker/Welker.

A year ago, all we were told was that Denver's schedule was a brute. This time around, it's the Broncos that nobody will want to face.

Again, we'll stick to analysis and Broncos news here, and save news from the rest of the league for the daily thread. At some point, provided the Broncos are less active today, we'll take a guess at their cap situation.

Broncos

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be paid $5M on his one-year deal, Terrance Knighton gets $4.5M over two seasons, Stewart Bradley will make $1.2M this year, and Kevin Vickerson's two-year deal is worth $5M.

Jeff Legwold says the Broncos began courting Welker during the combine.

Scott Kacsmar thinks Welker will stretch the field vertically more so than did Stokley, and he agrees the Broncos will be even more efficient this year.

MHS recaps Denver's busy day.

Videos: John Elway on Welker; Kevin Vickerson, Stewart Bradley, and Terrance Knighton speak with the press.

News/Analysis

The PFF guys love the stunning value of the Welker signing, and think replacing Chris Kuper with Louis Vasquez was a no-brainer.

Oakland, Buffalo, and Carolina kicked the can down the road some, by pushing the impact of some recent cuts onto their 2014 caps.

Here were the leading beneficiaries for the league's Performance Based Pool in 2012; Chris Harris, Tony Carter, and Mitch Unrein were likely among the Broncos who got extra pay. The PBP does not count against the $123M salary cap, but serves to lower the cap to $123M. In other words, the cap would be $126.5M, but for this pool which is used to reward players who have minimum salaries.

Gil Brandt lists prospects he thinks could be steals come draft time.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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