Hello, Offseason - it’s not nice to see you Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, we took what we thought was a very early peek at Denver's cap situation for 2013, and the players due to become free agents.

Unfortunately, we were only days premature - not weeks - and it's already time to think about 2013 in earnest.

To review, Denver's pending unrestricted free agents are Ryan Clady, Brandon Stokley, Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Jim Leonhard, Keith Brooking, David Bruton, Dan Koppen, Jason Hunter, Tracy Porter, Ty Warren, and Matthew Willis.

The Broncos will have a three-day period from March 9-11 to negotiate exclusively toward new contracts with these players, whose 2012 deals will expire at 4pm on Tuesday, March 12, which is also precisely when the 2013 league year and free agency will commence.

As of now, Denver will have $18.5M in cap space for 2013, but that does not include those pending UFAs at all - whatever cap number is given any re-signed or newly signed UFA will count fully against that $18.5M.

Clady figures to receive the Broncos' franchise tag and eat up more than half of the team's cap space - figure at least $10M. If the two sides can agree to a long-term deal, we're likely looking at a guaranteed figure approaching $40M and an average annual value (AAV) over $10M.

Carter and Vickerson earned big raises over their 2012 salaries, but since they're unrestricted, you never know who will come and blow away Denver's budget allocation for a potential re-signing. This is exactly what happened with Brodrick Bunkley last year, when he went to New Orleans for $9M in guarantees and an AAV of $5M.

Bannan and Leonhard hope to stick around, Stokley says he'd like to return for at least one more season, while Ty Warren sounds like he's ready to retire.

Brooking claims he hasn't yet given the future much thought, but if the linebacker comes back, he'll be sure to face some stiff competition from a younger player or three.

Naturally, Joe Mays thinks he'll be part of that mike backer group, but he's also due a bloated $4M salary, with $500K of it guaranteed. With the Broncos not up against the cap limit, and with that guarantee they owe him, our guess is that Mays wouldn't be cut until sometime during training camp. He'd greatly improve his chances of sticking by agreeing to a lower salary, that's for certain.

Porter doesn't figure to return after being paid $4M to perform a job for which Carter and Chris Harris proved themselves far better suited, but he says he'll play somewhere in 2013, and didn't rule out staying.

Don't forget about Bruton - a special-teams ace and backup safety shouldn't command a high salary, but you never know when some team will think they can turn one of those guys into a safety - as we were just discussing with our good friends Niko Koutouvides Joe Mays.

Tony Carter, Britton Colquitt, Mitch Unrein, Chris Clark, Lance Ball, and Chris Gronkowski are due to be restricted free agents, and will need to be tendered by that same March 12, 4pm ET league year/free agency deadline.

Foxball

We may not have had much company in criticizing John Fox's decisions during Denver's 11-game win streak, but we certainly do now. This includes some of the writers/thinkers we respect most, like Chase Stuart (with some much appreciated IAOFM link love), Brian Burke, and Keith Goldner.

Dave Krieger says the decision-making, the play-calling, and the play on the field were all of a timid variety from Denver, and he wonders if the weather limited Peyton Manning in some way.

Don Banks thinks Fox coached not to lose, and he wasn't terribly impressed by the job done by Jack Del Rio, either.

Broncos

Obviously, Peyton Manning and his teammates were quite somber in their comments yesterday; several players, including Mike Adams (video), said they couldn't sleep Saturday night.

Chris Kuper may require further surgery to repair his ailing ankle, while Knowshon Moreno's knee injury doesn't appear to be serious; here's snap data from the game.

Now that Norv Turner is in Cleveland, Jeff Legwold is free to raise the bar and claim that Norv "would have been one of the primary targets" to replace Mike McCoy, should the OC get one of the vacant head jobs. Sure he would have, Jeff. Next week, he'll be telling us Norv was going to be the primary target.

Bill Vinovich, the head ref on Saturday, worked with a different crew each week this season, and he called the most heavily penalized game of the season, FWIW.

To no surprise at all, Chris Kuper and Champ Bailey emerged from Saturday with some pretty terrible grades from PFF, while Trindon Holliday and Von Miller stood out.

The circumstances surrounding this playoff shocker are eerily similar to those of the Jacksonville one from '96.

Scott Kacsmar says Peyton is more snakebitten come playoff time than the narrative acknowledges, while Sean Newell explores the absence of logic from those who want to compare Peyton to the lefty who throws like he's a righty. In these people who call Manning a choke artist, Mike Tanier sees something not too different than the birther movement.

Before anyone gets out the pitchforks regarding the "forgettable sequence" during which Elvis Dumervil's offsides infraction negated a sack, know that the drive ended with a Joe Flacco fumble and Denver recovery. That said, the lack of a pass rush on Saturday, lack of holding calls or not, highlights the team's continuing need to draft a defensive tackle.

Legwold thinks the Broncos will "need to address their running game" this offseason, but when your two best backs go down to injury, and your next man up is the youngest player in the NFL, was this an issue of roster construction or of s#$% happening?

News

New England will host Baltimore for the AFC title game, following their 41-28 victory over Houston which featured a hilarious fumble recovery dance from Brandon Spikes.

It was a costly win, as Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm again and is done for the season. For the Texans, WR DeVier Posey suffered a torn Achilles in the closing moments of a game during which he'd scored his first NFL touchdown.

San Diego interviewed former Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt on Saturday, and Bengals OC Jay Gruden yesterday, and will meet with Mike McCoy today.

The Eagles met with Brian Billick, who's been out of the league since 2007, about their head job.

Kansas City will interview former Dolphins head coach and recent LOLJets OC Tony Sparano about coaching their offensive line.

Oakland is considering hiring NFL SVP of football ops Ray Anderson for a senior executive position.

The Browns are reportedly interested in Chargers DC John Pagano for the same position in Cleveland, should San Diego not retain him.

Armond Armstead, a former USC star who went north to the CFL to prove he was healthy enough to play, is now a free agent and has drawn interest from the Patriots, Eagles, and Colts. Armstead suffered a heart attack two years ago and alleged in a lawsuit that a Toradol injection by USC's medical staff had caused it. Anyone know of a team that needs a pass-rushing defensive tackle?

Former NFL great Jason Taylor says he was once within two hours of having a leg amputated several years ago, due to compartment syndrome following a leg whip. (via USAT)

Analysis

Matt Bowen, Will Brinson, George Bretherton (ATL/SEA), Don Banks (NE/HOU), and Nancy Gay (NE/HOU) recap Sunday's games; Mike Silver, Sam Farmer, and Jason Cole look back at the weekend that was.

Judy Battista (AFC, NFC), Jeffri Chadiha (AFC), John Clayton (NFC), and Alex Marvez look ahead to the title game matchups.

Correction: Tony Carter was originally listed as a pending unrestricted free agent, but he is instead an Exclusive Rights Free Agent

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

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