Happy Monday, friends. As some of the rumors start to come out about free agency, I have some thoughts on a few of the Broncos-related ones. Let’s rosterbate, shall we?
1. Doug linked to an Omar Kelly report that the Broncos are the leader for Reggie Bush, and he questioned the likely veracity of the rumor, because Bush isn’t bigger or more durable than any of the current Broncos RBs.
I don’t really agree that the Broncos need a big back, because Willis McGahee does fine in that role, and it’s a reasonably safe assumption that he’ll be back to full health in 2013. I wouldn’t call him injury-prone either, over the majority of his career. I do think that McGahee is best in a committee situation, and whether the Broncos acquire another back or not, that that's where he'll find himself in 2013.
I’m going to also disagree with Doug’s thought that Bush is duplicative of Ronnie Hillman, because Bush is maybe the most natural receiver of any RB in the NFL, and I’ve seen little evidence that Hillman has any particular skill as a receiver. It’s easy to think that a little/quick guy should be a good receiver, but where’s the beef? He had 33 catches in two collegiate seasons, and ten as an NFL rookie, with few (if any) of those coming from routes run downfield.
Bush can run routes like a WR, and I'd put him in the Percy Harvin/Aaron Hernandez category as a unique matchup problem. I liked the idea of the Broncos acquiring Bush a couple years ago, and I like it now. If you use him optimally, which the Dolphins haven’t, he can dictate coverage to a defense, because he has to be accounted for in the passing game in a way that no other RB in the NFL does.
The Saints got a lot out of Bush’s mere presence on the field, because no defensive coordinator can hang his hat on letting a LB cover him man-to-man. He’s too quick, and too good a route runner, and he’s going to embarrass anybody in the NFL. Defenses are going to have to play zone, or double Bush underneath. In any case, it opens up the other receivers, and limits what a defense can do to defend the whole field in the passing game.
Bush is a guy who isn’t always going to show up all that well in a statistical analysis, but on the film side of things, he’s a huge asset, particularly the way the Saints used him. If you want to play the sort of no-huddle, passing-intensive scheme that the Broncos like to play, he can be very effective. If the price was right, I’d be in on him.
2. Briefly, on the topic of RBs, I'm lukewarm to the idea of the Broncos signing Steven Jackson, and I'm cold to the idea of Rashard Mendenhall. Jackson was actually the guy I wanted most in the 2004 Draft, and the lack of him on the Broncos roster has always made me hate D.J. Williams, whom Denver took seven picks prior to St. Louis's selection of Jackson.
I think Jackson looks like he's close to finished though, and I don't see what he'd bring to the table that isn't already there with McGahee. As for Mendenhall, I consider him to be a knucklehead and an underachiever. No thanks.
3. In today’s Lard, Doug mentioned that Arizona CB Greg Toler is high on the Broncos list, as well. He’s another player that I’ve always liked. I view Toler as a third CB, but as more of an outside guy than a slot guy, and as the kind of player that can play the physical man-to-man style that the Broncos want to play.
To be clear, I view Chris Harris as primarily a slot CB, but as somebody who I’d rather have on the field than Toler, so therefore, as a starter. Saying that a guy is a slot CB only diminishes them if it’s somebody like Mike Klis saying it, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Playing the slot in man-to-man takes a unique skill set, because the guy you’re covering has a two-way go. You can’t just shove a receiver into the sideline, because the sideline is far away. If you play inside leverage, you’re letting the receiver just run away from you to the outside on a speed-out. If you play outside leverage, you’re giving up the crossing route.
Having a good slot CB is a lot like having a good slot WR – the skills are rare, and they allow you to do more schematically than you could without having one. Just like nobody with a clue would call Wes Welker the Patriots' #3 receiver, nobody with a clue should call Harris the Broncos' #3 CB.
I think it’s appropriate for the Broncos to be seeking a middle-class outside CB like Toler to compete with Tony Carter and Omar Bolden, because the inside is in good shape. As for Toler as a player, he was hurt a lot last season, and for some reason, the Cardinals played the lousy William Gay ahead of him. Toler is another guy to like, as long as the price stays reasonable.
4. When it comes to the idea of cutting Elvis Dumervil, if that is indeed the course of action the Broncos take, I’ve been thinking that I might be willing to roll with Robert Ayers on the open side, and use the cap savings elsewhere. To me, Ayers showed some signs in 2012 of becoming the player he was drafted to be, albeit in limited snaps.
I just don’t really see the benefit of cutting Dumervil, and then signing a lesser player for smaller-but-still-big dollars. I’d take Dumervil as a player over any edge rusher who’s available on the free agent market right now.
That’s all I have for now, friends. I’m sure there’ll be more as we go in the coming couple weeks.