As Doug pointed out, plenty of big players are going to be linked to the Broncos. With the team coming off a 13-3 record, and their limited time frame with Peyton Manning at QB, Denver is again a highly desirable place to come play.
Woodson will turn 37 in October, but he’s been one of the top players at safety in the league. Is he worth a look?
Collie is 27 and has been released after a year of only 12 catches due to a series of concussions. He’s been a good target for Manning in the past, and Brandon Stokley is probably looking at his final season, so he’s interesting on that basis.
Last but not least, Freeney might be reduced to being a situational pass rusher, but he bagged five sacks last year in only 768 snaps (including playoffs). Is he worth bringing on board for that role?
As far as Freeney goes, I have a simple answer: No, thanks. When I look at him from a cost/benefit standpoint, it just doesn’t work. Like Woodson, he’s a seasoned veteran, with the Super Bowl ring to prove it. However, Denver is strong on the edges. They have less strength in the middle of the field.
They’ve got a QB pressure machine in Von Miller who’s still learning run support and pass coverage to round out his skills. You’ve also got Elvis Dumervil, who’s taken some surprising heat of late. He scored 11 sacks, stripped six fumbles (as did Miller) and provided 61 total pressures. How do you take him off the field for Freeney?
Derek Wolfe added six more sacks as a rookie, in addition to being a rock on the edge.
Additionally, Denver received five total sacks out of backfield defenders Mike Adams (1), Rahim Moore (1), and Chris Harris (3); Jack Del Rio likes secondary blitzes to keep offenses honest. With all those tools already in place, Freeney doesn’t have a skill that Denver currently lacks. There isn’t a logical place for him on the Broncos.
Woodson is a different story - as Brandon Stokley and Peyton Manning prove, a seasoned veteran who’s been there can stabilize a team as much as help with their on-field play. Mike Adams fills that role in Denver, and safety isn’t a major concern to me, but there’s one issue that Woodson could help on. Ted pointed out yesterday that there aren’t a lot of defensive backs that can handle TEs in the way that Woodson can, and there’s no question that how to handle the increasingly athletic receiving TEs is a problem with which Denver has struggled mightily.
Woodson is a potential solution to that.
That brings us to Austin Collie. The benefit is easy - former Colts Jacob Tamme and Stokley showed us that a former relationship of a quarterback with a receiver can really help out in the short window of Manning’s remaining years. Collie has - or had - the talent. The cost?
It’s not so much the money, as he'd probably draw the $715K minimum for a player of his experience. The issue is that Collie’s concussions leave him in the unenviable position of not knowing if his play will suffer or not. Clearly, Indy thought that it would.
Do you recall an offensive lineman named Ben Hamilton? You should - he’s the cautionary tale that fits here. He was never the same player after multiple concussions in a single year, and was soon out of football. He played one season in Seattle after nine with Denver, and found that he still couldn’t do the job. He’s out of the game and I wish him well - he was a great team and locker room guy.
That’s my concern with Collie - I honestly don’t think that we have the knowledge to adequately predict the outcome of a player returning from that type and level of injury. Too many times, the player isn’t the same afterwards. There are plenty of good slot-friendly receivers in the draft, and there will be more in free agency. Collie might be a steal if he returns to his old form, but it’s a heck of a bet. I tend to caution with head injuries - I’d pass on him, too.
Big name free agents played a big role in getting the Broncos back on track. Brian Dawkins, Andre' Goodman, Renaldo Hill, and Casey Wiegmann, not to mention Peyton Manning, Mike Adams, and others have had a huge impact - and Manning still does. There’s a place for that approach, without question. If Woodson can be had for reasonable money, he might provide a skill that Denver lacks right now.
Big names will be linked to them as potential pieces that can get them over the last hump and into the Super Bowl. Most won’t fit their needs - but Woodson could.
Contemplating and considering potential roles for free agents and draft picks (with the combine coming up starting next week) is one of the many pleasures of the game.
Enjoy the season, my friends.