Poking and prodding today in Indy Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Today begins the NFL's annual cattle call scouting combine, during which paid professionals will fall in love with a prospect thanks to their bubble butt, at the expense of some dude who can just flat out play.

Some future key NFLers, like Denver's own Chris Harris and Tony Carter before them, won't even get a chance to strut around in their Under Armour for the world to see, because they weren't invited to the festivities.

Prospects lucky enough to be in attendance will be going through batteries of medical exams, interviews, strength tests, and on-field workouts.

But it's not just draft hopefuls with whom NFL teams will be meeting; this also marks the true start of tampering season, when agents for pending free agents will meet with GMs and in some cases even strike deals.

And, it turns out those GMs will apparently have a bit more cap room to work with than previously expected, as the 2013 cap number is now likely to be above $122M per team.

What's an extra million bucks, you scoff? It can mean all the difference in the world, especially for a team like the Broncos, who as SB contenders may be a free agent or two away from a title.

A million dollars can mean the difference between adding an established veteran looking to nab a ring, versus having to go with an unproven youngster. Or, it can mean keeping a backup around long enough for him to win a starting job, as happened last season with Wesley Woodyard.

It could provide the leeway for Denver to retain Kevin Vickerson rather than watch him walk - you never know.

Broncos

Ryan Clady says he doesn't plan to sign his franchise tender for a while; the two sides would have until July 15 to get a long-term deal done, once Denver applies the tag.

Jeff Legwold expects Ronnie Hillman to show more of his receiving skills in 2013, and says he needs to become more decisive, like most young backs.

Mike Klis figures Denver will consider signing a veteran running back before drafting one, which makes a lot of sense, given that free agency opens about six weeks prior to the draft. Here are some names Klis thinks they'll look at.

Broncos TV collates some pre-game clips from the 2012 season.

News

Old friend Domonique Foxworth says there's still significant mistrust between players and the Ginger Hammer, and that the structure of an appeal process is what's holding up HGH testing.

Kansas City cut WR Steve Breaston and TE Kevin Boss; New Orleans dumped TE David Thomas and waived CB Johnny Patrick; the LOLJets released LB Bart Scott, S Eric Smith, and LB Calvin Pace, and waived TE Josh Baker.

Word out of Miami is the Dolphins will prioritize signing Steelers WR Mike Wallace this offseason.

Tony Gonzalez is the new Brett Favre and is wavering in his long ago announced decision to retire. Hey, why not, right? He's only missed two games in his career (1999, 2006), is still playing at a top level, and finally got a taste of his first playoff victory.

The NFL promoted Alberto Riveron to senior director of officiating, a new position in which he'll be in charge of the instant replay system and help evaluate officials.

Analysis

Greg Cosell discusses the influence of college ball on NFL offenses turning the tables by deceiving defenses on the field and force them to become reactionary. Traditionally, it's been the defenses that disguise what they're doing, with offenses relying only upon superior execution to win their matchups.

Ben Stockwell's list of the top available interior defensive linemen has several names that should appeal to the Broncos. Meanwhile, Tracy Porter and OL Geoff Schwartz (about whom Doc wrote about the other day) are among the 2012 one-year signees Stockwell thinks still have something left to prove.

Pat Kirwan expects Joe Flacco's 2013 compensation to produce a ripple effect in the form of hefty deals for several quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Tony Romo.

Peter King thinks spending will be down this offseason, thanks to young GMs who prefer to build through the draft, and the neutering of traditional free agency heavyweights Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder. Additionally, he chimes in on Tim Tebow's telling choice of which church he's going to promote himself speak at in April.

Meanwhile, it apparently took until now for Gregg Doyel to see through the Ultimate Teammate's™ aw shucks persona. But really, all one needed to do was consider the UT's™ alignment with Focus on the Family and read this piece to know he has stood beside the hateful elements of the religious crowd all along.

There's apparently a sense that post-John Elway, great quarterbacks don't come from Southern California (the area, not just the school) thanks to some sense of entitlement. But frankly, this reads as a selective and bias-confirming piece, and classic BS that will cause some old school scout to overlook a future star.

As someone who doesn't think Rod Smith is a HOFer, count me as surprised to learn that Chase Stuart's rates Rod's career as the 18th best in NFL history among receivers.

Combine

A former club soccer player at Wisconsin will compete as a kicker at New Jersey's regional combine next weekend, and she'll be the first woman in history to do so.

Mike Tanier says the new combine aptitude test may provide more useful results by removing some of the racial bias that may show in Wonderlic scores, and he divines some Manti Te'o insight from ancient texts.

Cosell and Doug Farrar preview the combine in their latest podcast; Cosell says Geno Smith needs to fix his footwork, while Matt Barkley's arm is a major concern.

Bruce Feldman lists the ten prospects he's most interested in seeing this week at the combine.

In their latest mock drafts, Rob Rang sees Denver going with Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins at #28, Pete Prisco has them taking North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams, and Dane Brugler is going with Purdue DT Kawann Short.

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

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