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2010 NFL Free Agency Preview: Denver Broncos

If you missed the last installment in this series, we wrapped up the NFC South by covering the Carolina Panthers. Now we're heading to the AFC West, starting with the Denver Broncos.

Much like the Panthers, the Broncos have a big decisions to make concerning their superstar pass rusher. Elvis Dumervil had a career year under the tutelage of the recently departed Mike Nolan, and he is set to be a restricted free agent this off-season. Despite his diminutive frame, Dumervil made himself into a household name this season by recording a franchise record 17 sacks. He will certainly a sought after commodity, but Denver is expected to do all they can to keep him.

Outside of Dumervil, the teams only other big name free agent is wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall professes to have a good working relationship with head coach Josh McDaniels, but the two seemed to be up and down all season. While Marshall has proven to be a very productive wide-out, there may come a time when his production is not worth his temperament. It was not that long ago when McDaniels was winning Super Bowls in New England with a bunch of no name receivers, so don't be surprised if Denver looks to trade their number one receiver.

After the jump, let's take a look at the rest of Denver's free agents...

Free Agents

S Josh Barrett (ERFA) - Barrett started three games as a rookie, but fell down the depth chart in 2009.

DE Elvis Dumervil (RFA) - Dumervil had a career year in 2009, setting a franchise record with 17 sacks. The departure of Mike Nolan to Miami has led to rumors that the Dolphins will attempt to sign him, but Denver is expected to do everything possible to keep him.

G Ben Hamilton (UFA) - Hamilton lost his starting job this year, and he is not expected to be back with the team. At 33 years old his career is in decline, but he should draw interest from teams in need of an experienced backup.

G Chris Kuper (RFA) - Started all 16 games at guard for the Broncos.

WR Brandon Marshall (RFA) - Marshall has been very productive during his tenure in Denver, but his relationship with the team has often been contentious. While a return to the Broncos in 2010 is not out of the question, the team is expected to field trade offers.

K Matt Prater (RFA) - Prater has a very strong leg, and his accuracy improved in 2009. It seems likely that he will be back with the team next season.

TE Tony Scheffler (RFA) - Scheffler is a proven receiving threat from the tight end position, but he has not fit in well with Josh McDaniel's scheme. St. Louis is rumored to be interested in trading for him.

DE Le Kevin Smith (RFA) - Smith came over from the Patriots in a trade, and played as part of a defensive end rotation.

Needs

Defensive End - The Broncos have some solid depth players at this position, but they should be able to find more talented options this offseason. They need to shore up their rush defense, and adding some playmakers on the defensive front will help.

Center - Starting center Casey Weigmann has been released so look for Denver to upgrade this position. They will most likely target more physical linemen to help with the run game at the point of attack.

Nose Tackle - Denver was excellent against the pass, but struggled to stop the run at times in 2009. Nothing helps an ailing rush defense like a stout nose-tackle, so this is an obvious move. Dominant nose-tackles are hard to find, but that will not stop the Broncos from looking this offseason.

Guard - If the Broncos are going to win at the point of attack they need to upgrade the guard as well as the center position. Look for them to go after someone who excels at run blocking.

Inside Linebacker - Denver has some talented linebackers on the outside, but they could stand to improve up the middle. As with the improvements needed on the defensive line, an upgrade at this position is all about stopping the run. They will be looking for good value at this position.

Cornerback - The Broncos have two solid cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman, but they are on the wrong side of thirty. Adding some youth and depth to the position will help when the team uses nickel and dime coverage, as well as provide some insurance for the future.

Summary

The Broncos thrived throwing the football in their first year under head coach Josh McDaniels, but they need to improve their run game in 2010. Upgrades along the interior of the offensive line should be a top priority. As they leave behind the zone blocking scheme employed under Mike Shanahan, the team needs to acquire linemen who are better suited to McDaniel's offense.

Denver has enough depth at wide receiver to continue to be successful in the passing game, regardless of what happens with Brandon Marshall. The rumors and speculation concerning Marshall have run rampant for what seems like the past several off-seasons, but if there's anything we've learned about McDaniel's it's to expect the unexpected. While it seems like the two parties are heading towards a divorce, it wouldn't surprise me if Marshall ends up staying with the team in 2010.

On defense Denver is expected to continue running a 3-4 scheme, having promoted Don Martindale from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. The unit was among the league's elite just one year removed from employing a 4-3 defense. Look for the Broncos to shore up their defense line in order to build on the success they had in 2009. Denver should be among the league's most dominant defenses again in 2010 if they can improve against the run.

Be sure to answer the poll question, and feel free to chime in about the Broncos' free agents in the comments below.

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