The Denver Broncos won nine games last season, but missed the playoffs after earning five straight AFC West titles, appearing in two Super Bowls and winning a championship.
The Broncos are looking to get back on top of the AFC West under first-year head coach Vance Joseph. But with four games against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders, that's easier said than done.
Here are the three best moves and the worst one made by the Denver Broncos this offseason.
#1. Signing Ronald Leary
The Broncos had to improve their offensive line, especially on the interior. One of the better guards in the league over the last few seasons, Leary will jump in and start immediately, making the entire unit better.
Leary was an undrafted free agent out of Memphis in 2012 and began his NFL career on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. He took over as a starter in 2013 and performed well while moving into a backup role with La’el Collins’ signing. Despite becoming a backup, he has started 47 of the 48 games he has played in over the last four seasons. He also could have started for almost every other team in the league during his time as Collins’ backup.
The Broncos signed Leary to the second largest contract for a free agent guard this offseason (only Cleveland Browns guard Kevin Zeitler got a bigger deal). But by the season’s end, Leary could be the best free agent signing this offseason.
#2. Signing Domata Peko
After losing former first round draft pick Sylvester Williams in free agency, the Broncos signed Peko to a two-year, $7.5 million deal with $3.8 million guaranteed to be their nose tackle. He should immediately jump into the starting lineup and help improve the Broncos’ 28th ranked run defense. Peko clogs the middle at the line of scrimmage and forces multiple offensive linemen to stop him, allowing the linebackers to jump gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Peko also is great in the locker room. He spent many years as a captain for the Bengals and made sure the younger defensive linemen were becoming better players and professionals.
#3. Signing Jamaal Charles
Charles has suffered season-ending injuries three times in his nine-year NFL career, including the last two, in which he gained just 404 yards on 83 carries for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Charles is a slashing, big-play running back and his elusiveness and receiving skills should pair well with C.J. Anderson. Anderson will likely handle the majority of the carries, which can help Charles take less of a beating and avoid injuries.
There are a lot of “ifs,” but Charles could be one of the better signings in the NFL this offseason. If he can stay healthy and get the explosiveness back in his legs, the Broncos have a superstar again at running back. Plus the Broncos got him for one-year at $2.5 million and no guaranteed money, a prove-it deal that could pay big dividends for both parties.
The worst: Not improving depth at wide receiver
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are still an impressive tandem as the primary wide receivers, but the depth behind them is questionable.
Fourth-year veterans Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler have flashed at times but neither has earned a consistent role in the offense. Jordan Taylor also had his moments last year but he has yet to fully establish himself.
The Broncos added a couple receivers in the draft in the third round (Carlos Henderson) and fifth round (Isaiah McKenzie). Both are under six-feet tall and present their deficiencies. Henderson needs to prove that he can run more routes than he was assigned at Louisiana Tech and McKenzie is an explosive, yet diminutive receiver. His future is as a rotational slot receiver and returner.
The Broncos need a proven option to catch the ball should Thomas and/or Sanders gets hurt. They do not have that on the current roster. There are still a few players available in free agency that can immediately become the third receiver in the group, most notably Anquan Boldin, but for now, the drop off in talent after Sanders and Thomas is precipitous.