Last season’s record: 13-3
Key players released: DE Elvis Dumervil, LB D.J. Williams, QB Caleb Hanie, FB Chris Gronkowski (not tendered a contract as restricted free agent)
Key free agents lost: DE Jason Hunter, CB Tracy Porter, S Jim Leonhard
Key free agents re-signed: T Ryan Clady (named team’s franchise player but has not signed tender), S David Bruton, DT Kevin Vickerson
Key free agents added: G Louis Vasquez, LB Stewart Bradley, WR Wes Welker, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LB Shaun Phillips
Rd. 1 (No. 28 overall)… Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
2 (58)… Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
3 (90)… Kayvon Webster, CB, South Florida
5 (146)… Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky
5 (161)… Tavarres King, WR, Georgia
6 (173)… Vinston Painter, T, Virginia Tech
7 (234)… Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)
Analysis: The Broncos have put together an imposing team as they try to get quarterback Peyton Manning back to another Super Bowl.
Manning and the Broncos nearly did it last season, going 13-3 in the regular season before surrendering the Baltimore Ravens’ miraculous game-tying touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones late in regulation en route to a double-overtime loss to the Ravens in an AFC semifinal.
But even during an offseason in which a high-profile snafu while trying to complete a reworked contract with Elvis Dumervil led to the defensive end being released, the Broncos seem to have moved a few steps closer to having a championship-caliber team around Manning.
Front office chief John Elway moved quickly when contract negotiations broke down between the New England Patriots and Wes Welker, and landed the wide receiver with a two-year, $12 million contract. Welker leaves Tom Brady to join forces with Manning, and there’s little reason to believe that he won’t be every bit as reliable for Manning as he was for Brady for so long. Welker joins a team that already had two 1,000-yard receivers last season, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
The Broncos fortified their offensive line in free agency by signing guard Louis Vasquez, formerly of San Diego, to a four-year, $23.5 million deal. They used their franchise-player tag to keep left tackle Ryan Clady off the free agent market.
Linebacker Shaun Phillips, who had 9 1/2 sacks last season for the Chargers, was signed to help compensate for the loss of Dumervil as a pass rusher. The Broncos addressed their defense by signing free agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and using their first-round draft choice in defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.
It was a good draft for the Broncos, who got running back Montee Ball in the second round.
Manning came back from his neck-injury woes and put aside his departure from the Indianapolis Colts to demonstrate last season that he still can be an elite NFL quarterback. What’s left to show is that he can find a way to secure a second career Super Bowl triumph, and the Broncos appear to have given him a better-than-decent chance to pull it off.
Why Redskins fans should care: The teams play Oct. 27 in Denver in Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan’s return to the city where he had two Super Bowl-winning seasons with John Elway, now the Broncos’ chief front-office football architect, as his quarterback.
Conversation starter: If the Redskins could have gotten both Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III last offseason, as they said they originally wanted to do, should they have done it?
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