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Scouting the enemy: Denver Broncos

Denver has many decisions to make this offseason, including whether to re-sign a pair of playmakers.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos were expected by many to return to the Super Bowl after being pounded 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII by the Seattle Seahawks. Denver's road looked promising early on, securing its fourth straight AFC West title due in large part to a perfect division record.

The Broncos were the second seed in the AFC playoffs but were upset by the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round. Peyton Manning was uninspiring in the contest, throwing 46 times for only 211 yards. Manning struggled down the stretch, beginning at Arrowhead Stadium in late November, and is now considering whether to return or retire. For the purposes of this piece, we are assuming Manning plays another year.

So where do the Broncos go from here? Let's break down what their offseason will look like:

Cap Space

Denver is projected to have $26 million at a projected $140 million limit, per Over The Cap.

Pending unrestricted free agents

- Quinton Carter, S
- Orlando Franklin, OG
- Virgil Green, TE
- Nate Irving, ILB
- Terrance Knighton, DT
- Will Montgomery, C
- Rahim Moore, S
- Jacob Tamme, TE
- Demaryius Thomas, WR
- Julius Thomas, TE
- Mitch Unrein, DL
- Wes Welker, WR

Contracts to watch

The headliners here are Von Miller and Danny Trevathan, with both having one year left on their contracts. Miller is going to get a Justin Houston-type contract, even though he's about 75 percent of the player. Trevathan is one of the better, well-rounded inside linebackers in the league. With the Broncos moving to a 3-4, does Trevathan still produce the same way? My guess is he's still a force and will demand a significant raise.

C.J. Anderson and Derek Wolfe will also be up for new deals. If Anderson is the back so many in Denver believe he is, that won't be a cheap contract either.

Cap casualties?

Denver doesn't have too many ways to create space. Receiver Andre Caldwell and tackle Chris Clark are spare parts who could be released, but the duo would only save $2.75 million combined.

Positions of need

- Offensive tackle
- Defensive line
- Safety

What they are saying

When I reached out to Kyle Montgomery of Mile High Report, he was nice enough to write the following:

The Broncos are at a crossroads with a number of big-name, Pro Bowl players entering this offseason, but it all starts with Peyton Manning. Does he want to come back? Do the Broncos have concerns about his health? Is he worth $19 million guaranteed next year? We don't know. We had hoped for resolution already on the matter, and a final answer may still not come until that early March deadline where his contract becomes guaranteed.

As far as impending free agents go, the list starts with Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos are prepared to use the franchise tag to keep D.T., according to reports, so he'll be staying around no matter who is throwing him the football. After that, Denver's free agent list is completely murky. Will Julius Thomas take a hometown discount or run for the money? Will Terrance Knighton AKA Pot Roast follow Jack Del Rio to Oakland, the only coach for whom he's ever played in the NFL, or become a 3-4 nose tackle under Wade Phillips?

I don't think they'll try to bring Wes Welker back; I do think they'll try to bring guard/tackle Orlando Franklin and tight end Virgil Green back. With all that said, we've still only begun to peel Denver's free agency onion, and we know John Elway isn't afraid to let his guys go and find replacements on the open market (see: Eric Decker and Emmanuel Sanders last year). I expect Elway will throw a few surprises this offseason, as always.