Lack of salary cap could help Broncos

Bronco bits ‘n’ pieces …

There is much uncertainty in the National Football League regarding the 2010 season.

Barring a quick and seemingly miraculous series of bargaining sessions between players and owners, there will likely be no salary cap and the players who expected to be unrestricted free agents will become restricted free agents — meaning the teams have the option to match other offers or require compensation in the form of trades or draft picks.

This situation impacts the Denver Broncos big time.

Denver has six current unrestricted free agents who may now be deemed restricted next season, four of those offensive starters.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall is one. So is starting quarterback Kyle Orton. Starting tight end Tony Scheffler and starting right guard Chris Kuper are also on the list.

Denver’s likely defensive player of the year and the NFL’s sack leader, Elvis Dumervil, is also likely to be restricted for at least another year, as is defensive end Le Kevin Smith.

Those players were expecting to be out on the market gathering up big-money bids from other teams during the offseason. Now, however, it appears the Broncos – with no salary cap — could re-sign all to contracts, or at least have another year to work on doing that.

Looking ahead to the draft, the Broncos do have a first-round pick coming from Chicago as a result of the Jay Cutler trade. The Bears did not have a good season, which should allow Denver to pick somewhere around the 10th spot.

What do the Broncos need? Do they draft to fill a need or do they take “the best available player” at that spot?

Let’s say they bring back Orton and decide they need a quarterback for the future, one to groom for a few years.

Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford will be gone by the time Denver picks. Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame could be there, as should Colt McCoy of Texas and, yes, Tim Tebow of Florida, although he’s not considered first-round material and could be had in the second or third round.

Denver also needs help at wide receiver — especially in McDaniels’ three- and four-wideout formations.

Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State is the top-ranked receiver and may be available, as should Golden Tate of Notre Dame.

Either would allow Eddie Royal to move to the slot where he belongs.

My personal choice for the top pick would be a left guard. The Broncos need to shore up the interior of the offensive line and be able to stop interior blitzes and push the opposition back in the running game. There are three guards who all go 6-foot-5 or better and in the neighborhood of 330 pounds —  all of whom would fit quite nicely with young Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady: Vladimir Ducasse of UMass-Amherst, Mike Iupati of Idaho and Anthony Davis of Rutgers should be available and would instantly make the Broncos bigger and more athletic up front.

One of those three would be my first-round pick if I’m McDaniels.

While we’re at it, let’s check out free agent possibilities, remembering, of course, that the situation is fluid to the max.

For the most part, there are not many players in which the situation would lead to movement. But there are a couple the Broncos may check out — with these players perhaps being available because a team is well-stocked with youngsters and may decide it is time to divvy out that money to youth rather than experience.

Quarterbacks available will include the likes of Chad Pennington of Miami and Brodie Croyle of Kansas City. Not exactly earth-shattering, but perhaps a better choice than Chris Simms.

Offensive linemen might include Logan Mankins of the Patriots, Justin Hartwig of the Steelers, Richie Incognito of the Rams and Rex Hadnot of Cleveland.

As for wideouts, Terrell Owens will be available from Buffalo and Braylon Edwards could be available from the Jets.

Perhaps one of the biggest names — and bodies — to watch for would be former Patriot star defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who was traded to the Raiders at the start of the year, much to his disgust. He and McDaniels have a relationship and Seymour has indicated he doesn’t like being in a losing program.

Just a thought.

Let’s check out the opposition for 2010: While the schedules aren’t completed, most of the foes are. Denver looks to catch a break because they are scheduled to play the weak NFC West and a mediocre AFC South.

The Broncos will face Arizona, Seattle, Houston and Indy at home. They will play St. Louis, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Tennessee on the road.

Denver will also play the second-place AFC East team at home and the second-place AFC North team on the road.

And, oh yes, they will have the home-and-away games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers.

That’s likely to be just four playoff teams from the 2009 season after having played seven playoff teams in 2009.


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