Friday, March 27, 2015

Exercise in Draft Pick Retention Part 3: Broncos and Current Approaches

The past two days, I have examined how many draft picks the Ravens, Patriots and Packers have retained under the current people making personnel decisions. As we have observed, not every draft pick was retained after their rookie deals expired, but those that were, were long-time contributors to the franchise, and of those players who did not stay with the franchise for long, not many of them went on to long NFL careers.

So what does this mean for the Broncos? To determine that, we must remember that the landscape for rookie contracts has changed.

For draft picks from 2010 and earlier, rookie contracts tended to be five or six years for first rounders, four or five for second rounders, and four for all other draft picks. Now, it's four years for all draft picks, except first-round picks have a club option for a fifth year.

Given the different structure for rookie contracts, what should the teams that draft well consider First, they want first-round picks that play well enough to make it worth picking up that fifth-year option. Because it must be exercised before the player's fourth season begins, you have three years to evaluate. If you do pick up the option, then that's a sign you want to keep this player for the long term. If you don't, it's a wasted pick. (Note: A team could certainly choose not to pick up the option, but re-sign the player if the team sees improvement in his fourth season. But if that were to happen, it's a sign the team overdrafted the player by a round or two, so it's still not the best use of a first-round pick.) 

For the rest of the draft picks, think of it this way: Second round picks should be good starters that you may want to keep for the long term, but there may be occasions when you are unable to do so. Third and fourth rounders should contribute in some form for their four years, but you are not necessarily counting on them staying past their rookie deals, unless your first- and second-round picks don't pan out. Fifth through seventh rounders should ideally contribute, but could get beaten out by other players fighting for roster spots, be they fringe veterans or undrafted rookies. If a pick in the last three rounds is worth keeping, chances are you'll get him at a low cost.

How have those three teams we've discussed approached more recent drafts? The Ravens have picked up the option on 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith and had no first rounder in 2012. In 2012, they selected Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele in the second round, and it seems reasonable that the Ravens will want to retain one of them. The Patriots picked up the option on 2011 first-round pick Nate Solder and have re-signed 2011 fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon. It is almost certain they will pick up the options on the rookie deals for 2012 first rounders Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower. The Packers not only didn't pick up the option for 2011 first rounder Derek Sherrod, but cut him midway through the season. On the other hand, they did extend 2011 second rounder Randall Cobb. It remains to be seen if Green Bay will pick up the rookie deal option for 2012 first rounder Nick Perry, but it seems likely they will want to retain second-round pick Casey Hayward.

In each case, you can see that the teams continued, or are likely to continue, their tendency of retaining at least one player from their draft classes. The Ravens and Patriots each had a first-round pick in 2011 that they want to retain, given that they picked up the options. So how does everything we have gone over apply to Denver?

If you look at the players who the Broncos drafted, who were still with the franchise when John Elway took over, he has focused his attentions on re-signing a few players. He put the franchise tag on 2008 first-round pick Ryan Clady, then signed him to an extension, and now, Clady will enter his eighth season with the Broncos. He then re-signed David Bruton, a fourth-round pick in 2009, and once he finishes his current contract, he will have been with the Broncos for seven seasons. Elway also placed the franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas, a 2010 first-round pick, and this will be the sixth season Thomas will have been with the franchise. Again, Elway's approach has been similar to the other teams we've discussed, in that he has focused on keeping a first-round pick who was worth retaining, while looking closely at players taken in later rounds to determine who is worth keeping, even though Elway didn't draft any of these players.

Then we come to the 2011 draft class. They have picked up the rookie deal option for 2011 first rounder Von Miller, and it is a given that they will eventually extend him. They retained 2011 seventh rounder Virgil Green at a low cost. They probably would have wanted to keep 2011 second rounder Orlando Franklin, but then 2011 undrafted rookie Chris Harris came along and became an impact player (thus an exception to the rule about second-round picks came up).

The Broncos had no 2012 first-round pick, so now they can focus attention on second-round picks Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler, the latter who won't demand a big contract at this point. They will have to figure out what to do with Omar Bolden, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan, because not all three will be re-signed at a low cost, but I would expect Denver to retain at least one of those players.

But the bottom line is this: The best organizations know they won't keep every draft pick, especially when certain picks command big money. And in most cases, the picks they allowed to depart, were the right calls.

Elway seems to understand this, and so far, his pattern of which draft picks to retain follows those franchises who draft well. What Elway must continue to do, is keep drafting well.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exercises in Draft Pick Retention, Part Two: Patriots and Packers

Yesterday I examined the Baltimore Ravens and how many of their draft picks the team chose to re-sign, through the 2010 draft. As we reviewed, the picks the Ravens kept for many years were usually their first-round picks, with a few in other rounds that have become mainstays of the franchise.

A similar pattern develops when you look at the Patriots. Ever since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, here's how it has gone.

First-round picks who played at least six years with New England are Richard Seymour (2001, eight years, 12 total), Ty Warren (2003, eight, 10), Vince Wilfork (2004, 11, released this offseason and signed with Texans),  Logan Mankins (2005, nine, 10 and still with Tampa Bay), and Jerod Mayo (2008, seven, still active). Add picks from other rounds, and, of course, you start with Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000.

Other players taken in later rounds, who played at least six years with New England, are Patrick Pass (2000, 7th round, seven years), Matt Light (2001, 2nd, 11), Jarvis Green (2002, 4th, eight), Dan Koppen (2003, 5th, nine, 11 total NFL seasons), Asante Samuel (2003, 4th, six, 11), Ben Watson (2004, 1st, six 11, still active), Stephen Gostkowski (2006, 4th, nine, still active), Matt Slater (2008, 5th, seven, still active), Sebastian Vollmer (2009, 2nd, six, still active), and Julian Edelman (2009, 7th, six, still active).

Then there are two draft picks who bear a unique distinction: They played at least six years for New England, but had two separate stints with the team. Deion Branch, a 2002 second-round pick, played 11 total seasons, his first four and his final three with the Patriots. Tully Banta-Cain, a 2003 seventh-round pick, played four years with the Pats, then left for San Francisco for two years, then came back to New England for two more years.

And then we come to other draft picks who are still with the team. Patrick Chung, a 2009 second rounder, played four years for the Pats, then signed with the Eagles, but came back to New England after Philly released him, and the Pats have extended him. The Pats have retained two 2010 picks, first rounder Devin McCourty and second rounder Rob Gronkowski.

So out of 101 draft selections from 2000 to 2010, that makes 21 long-time contributors or players still with the team, representing 21% of its selections. That's a better percentage, but it's still not a massive amount of retention.

What about draft picks who moved on and had long careers? In order of years in the NFL: Daniel Graham (2002, 1st round, five years with team, 11 total), Matt Cassel (2005, 7th, four, 10, still active), Eugene Wilson (2003, 2nd, five, eight), and Brandon Meriweather (2007, 1st, four, eight, still active). Wow, what a short list that was!

Now, if you add other recent Patriots draft picks, who stayed for at least three years and are still active, you have three: Rich Ohrnberger (2009, 4th, three, six), Brandon Spikes (2010, 2nd, four, five), and Brandon Deaderick (2010, 7th, three, five). If you want, you can add two players who were with the Pats just two years, but have managed six seasons in the NFL and seemed to have found their niche. Both were 2009 picks: second rounder Darius Butler and third rounder Brandon Tate.

Finally, there are two Patriots draft picks who never took a snap for the team, but have stuck around in the NFL for many seasons. Jeremy Mincey, a 2006 sixth-round pick, has played six seasons and is still active. So is Ted Larsen, a 2010 sixth-round pick with five NFL seasons. All of this accounts for 11 players, representing 11 percent of New England's draft picks. Again, it seems like the Patriots make the right call when to keep a draft pick around, and when to let him depart. Graham is the only one you might make a case for retaining, and you might make a case for Meriweather if you can tolerate his propensity for dirty hits.

Then we come to the Packers, for whom Ted Thompson has been general manager since 2005. He enters his 11th season, but he's following a similar pattern. Let's start with those first-round picks with at least six years of service to the Packers: Aaron Rodgers in 2005 (10 years, still with the team), A.J. Hawk (2006, nine, released and signed with Cincy), B.J. Raji (2009, six, currently a free agent), and Clay Matthews (2009, six, still with team).

Then come the draft picks with at least six years with Green Bay who were not first rounders: Nick Collins (2005, 2nd round, seven years), Brady Poppinga (2005, 4th, six, eight total in NFL), Mike Montgomery (2005, 7th, six), Greg Jennings (2006, 2nd, seven, nine, recently cut by Vikings), James Jones (2007, 3rd, seven, eight, currently with Raiders), Desmond Bishop (2009, 6th, six, eight), Mason Crosby (2007, 6th, eight), Jordy Nelson, (2008, 2nd, seven, still with team), Josh Sitton (2008, 4th, seven, still with team), T.J. Lang (2009, 4th, six, still with team), and Brad Jones (2009, 7th, six, still with team).

Then you can add four players from the 2010 draft class who are still with the team: first rounder Bryan Bulaga (who just re-signed this offseason), third rounder Morgan Burnett, fourth rounder Andrew Quarless, and sixth rounder James Starks. Throw in one draft pick with two separate stints with the Packers -- 2008 seventh-round pick Matt Flynn, with two stints totaling six of his eight seasons -- and that accounts for 21 of the 57 picks from 2005 to 2010, which is 37 percent. On one hand, it's a better percentage, but on the other hand, it's not as long as Newsome and Belichick have been at it. And it is true that the Packers have re-signed more of their draft picks from 2009 and 2010 (four each), but only time will tell if this trend continues.

As for draft picks who didn't stay at least six years and had long NFL careers, you have a pair of 2006 draft picks: second rounder Daryn Colledge (five years with team, nine years total, still active) and fourth rounder Will Blackmon (four with team, eight total). That's a whopping two draft picks not retained who had long NFL careers, and it's hard to argue either one should have been retained.

There are two draft picks who were with Green Bay at least three years who are still in the NFL: 2009 sixth-round picks Jairus Wynn (three with GB, six total) and 2010 seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson (four with GB, five total). And one draft pick never took a snap for Green Bay and is still active: 2007 seventh-round pick Clark Harris, who has played eight years in the NFL. So that makes five draft picks who didn't stay with Green Bay for many years after being drafted, and are either still active or had at least eight years in the league. Again, Green Bay has made good decisions about which draft picks to keep beyond the rookie deals.

In the final part, I will examine how these teams have thus far approached their 2011 draft picks, what may be expected for their 2012 draft picks, and how this applies to the model Denver is pursuing at this point.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Exercise in Draft Pick Retention, Part One: The Baltimore Ravens

One can look back on the Denver Broncos' 2011 draft class and know that John Elway did a very good job of drafting. Then along came this year's free agency frenzy and most of the Broncos' draft picks departed.

Before Broncos fans get tuned up about how ridiculous it is to let all these valuable players depart, the fact is, a team that drafts well doesn't always keep every pick for the long term. These teams prioritize which picks to retain, and understand that certain draft picks will not stay past their rookie deals.

Every team takes a chance when a draft pick plays well, then departs for another team. The question is whether or not those teams got the most out of those players they drafted, and when it came time for a new contract, when they make the correct decision to extend the player or let him depart.

The Baltimore Ravens are frequently cited as a team that drafts well, makes good use of compensatory picks, and knows which free agents to prioritize retaining. The New England Patriots are another team that gets such a nod, and more recently, the Green Bay Packers are getting recognized as such. Let's examine each of these teams to see what they have done.

The purpose of this exercise is to consider the following:

* Which draft picks stayed with the franchise for at least six years, keeping in mind that contracts for first-round picks went as long as six years before the rookie pay scale came along.

* Which draft picks stayed with the team three to five years, and finished their career with at least eight seasons in the NFL.

* Among more recent draft years (2010 and 2011), which draft picks are still with the team.

* Any more recent draft picks (2008 to 2010) who were with the team at least three years, and are still playing in the NFL.

* Any unusual examples of draft picks who never took a snap for the team that drafted them, but went on to play for other teams and are still in the NFL.

Our focus in this part will remain on draft years up to 2010. In the first part, we'll take a look at the Baltimore Ravens.

What's fascinating about the Ravens is the franchise has had a pretty long history of retaining its first-round picks and getting a lot of years out of them. It starts in 1996, when the Ravens had two first-round picks -- they used the first on Jonathan Ogden, who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the second on Ray Lewis, who will be a Hall of Famer. Ogden played 13 years and Lewis 16, so the Ravens certainly made excellent use of those picks.

It continues in 1997, when the Ravens got eight years out of first-round pick Peter Boulware, and again in 1999, as they got 11 years out of first-round pick Chris McAllister. They also got a lot out of Todd Heap (2001, 10 years)and Ed Reed (2002, 11 years).

And when you get to 2003, you find several first-rounders who are still with the team: Terrell Suggs (2003, 12 years), Marshal Yanda (2007, eight years), and Joe Flacco (2008, seven years). They also kept 2006 first-rounder Haloti Ngata for nine years, before trading him to the Detroit Lions this offseason. Throw in Jamal Lewis, a 2000 first-round pick, who played six years for the Ravens before departing, and there's plenty to like about their early picks.

So what about players taken in the second round and later who stayed with the team for many years. That list includes Cornell Brown (1997, 6th round, seven years), Edwin Mulitalo (1999, 4th, eight years), Adalius Thomas (2000, 6th, seven years), Jarret Johnson (2003,4th, nine years), Sam Koch (2006, 6th, nine years), Ray Rice (2008, 2nd, six years), and Lardarius Webb (2009, 3rd, six years).
Add in a pair of 2010 draft picks who were re-signed (second rounder Terrence Cody and fourth rounder Dennis Pitta) and that's 21 players the Ravens have drafted who were either past long-time contributors to the team, or are still contributing. Now, when I tell you that the Ravens have had 118 total draft selections from 1996 to 2011, you probably think that if the Ravens are so good at drafting, that they let a lot of talent get away. After all, just 18% of those selections contributed to the team for a long time, or are still contributing.

Except when you look at the picks they did not retain for at least six years, and went on to lengthy careers or are still active, the list isn't at long as you might think. Those players, listed in order of their total years in the NFL, are: Dave Zastudil (2001, 4th round, four years with the Ravens, 12 total NFL seasons), Brandon Stokley (1999, 4th, four, 11), Aubrayo Franklin (2003, 5th, four, 11), Dwan Edwards (2004, 1st, five, 10, still active), Chester Taylor (2002, 6th, four, 10), Chris Chester (2006, 2nd, five, nine, still active), Dawan Landry (2006, 5th, five, nine), Ovie Mughelli (2003, 4th, four, nine), Casey Rabach (2001, 3rd, three, nine), Tony Pashos (2003, 5th, three, nine), Travis Taylor (2000, 1st, five, eight), Kyle Boller (2003, 1st, five, eight), Ben Grubbs (2007, 1st, five, eight), Antwan Barnes (2007, 4th, three, eight), Jamie Sharper (1997, 2nd, four, eight), Duane Starks (1998, 1st, four, eight), Chris Redman (2000, 3rd, four, eight), and Jeff Mitchell (1997, 5th, three, eight).

Those players account for 18 of the Ravens' draft picks. Now throw in other players who were with the Ravens for at least three years and are still active: Oneil Cousins (2008, 3rd, three, eight), Michael Oher (2009, 1st, five, six), Paul Kruger (2009, 3rd, four, six), Ed Dickson (2010, 4th, four, five), and Arthur Jones (2010, 5th, four five) and you have 23. You can also add one player who never took a snap for Baltimore, but has played nine seasons and is still active: Derek Anderson (2005 sixth rounder). That makes 24, which represents 20 percent of the Ravens' picks.

But then ask yourself: Of the draft picks the Ravens did not keep for an extended period, how many of them should have been? You could probably make arguments for Stokley, Edwards, and Franklin, and I imagine some people will argue for Grubbs, but there's nobody else who was imperative to retain. Zastudil has had a long NFL career, but he was easily replaced at punter when Koch came along. Is anyone seriously going to argue that the Ravens would have been better off with Boller, Redman, or Anderson at quarterback? Do you really think the Ravens couldn't afford to lose either Taylor?

In other words, Ozzie Newsome and company go into their drafts hoping that the bulk of the picks will contribute to the team in the short term, but expect that only a few will contribute for the long term, and they especially want the higher picks to do so. At certain points, they have to make decisions about who is really worth retaining. And ever since 1996, it has mostly worked for them. They have their misses (most notably Boller, Travis Taylor, and 2005 first-round pick Mark Clayton), but it's hard to argue they haven't been successful overall.

In part two, we'll look at the Patriots and Packers.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Elway Isn't Being Cheap, He Just Wants Value

Denver Broncos fans knew going into the 2015 offseason that the Broncos had a lot of key players who were set to hit free agency. Four of the bigger names (Orlando Franklin, Julius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, Rahim Moore) have headed off elsewhere, while the Broncos' free agency moves have mostly focused on lower-priced players, leading to silly questions like the one that led off Andrew Mason's most recent mailbag.

The Broncos fans asking this question no doubt remember what happened last season, when the Broncos seemed to be the landing spot for a lot of the big names in free agency. DeMarcus Ware! Aqib Talib! T.J. Ward! Emmanuel Sanders! Look at all the money the Broncos are spending!

And, of course, this led to the narrative that John Elway was going "all in" for a Super Bowl win. So, the narrative continues, Elway better go "all in" this season now that Peyton Manning is coming back for another season, because time is running out!

But the truth is, Elway has approached free agency cautiously, and does not just blindly throw money around. Last season might seem like an exception, but not exactly. Let's take a stroll down Memory Lane and see exactly how Elway approached free agency.

2011: The first season Elway was making personnel decisions, he faced the same situation everyone else did: The collective bargaining agreement expired and teams had to wait until a new agreement was reached before free agency could begin. Teams could re-sign their own players prior to the end of the 2010 league year, and the draft took place as usual, but that was it until August.

Elway did make a big move in retaining one of the Broncos' own, as Champ Bailey re-signed for four years at $43 million, with $22 million guaranteed... certainly not a sign of the Broncos being cheap. Once the new CBA took effect, some Broncos fans expected Elway to start rushing into free agency to grab anybody he could. Instead, he gave a low-cost deal to Willis McGahee (four years, $9.5M, $3M guaranteed), a short-term deal to Ty Warren (two years, $10M, $2.5M guaranteed), and traded a late-round pick for Broderick Bunkley. That doesn't sound like somebody making a splash in free agency, does it?

It's fair to point out the Warren signing didn't pan out, but even then, it was just $2.5 million the Broncos had no choice but to pay him, and in Warren's second season, he had to take a pay cut to stay with the team. McGahee, though, exceeded expectations, and Bunkley played very well in his single season with the team. McGahee and Bunkley were the first two instances of Elway finding value in a player.

2012: Everyone knows about Elway courting Peyton Manning and that Manning ultimately chose the Broncos. But while Manning was taking his time making a decision, the only other free agency move Elway made was signing Mike Adams to a two-year, $4M contract. And I can remember Broncos fans getting impatient, wondering what would happen if Manning spurned the Broncos and left Elway with nothing.

After Manning agreed to terms with Denver, and certainly got compensated well (five years, $96M, $18M fully guaranteed after passing his physical -- and he has collected more money since), that compensation included conditions pertaining to Manning's neck and passing future physicals. And after that, the free agents who came to the Broncos were noteworthy more because of a certain connection. Jacob Tamme (three years, $9M, $3.5M guaranteed) was the teammate of Manning who followed him to Denver. Tracy Porter (one year, $4M) was the guy who had a pick six of Manning in a Super Bowl. And Joel Dreessen (three years, $8.5M) was a Colorado native and Colorado State University graduate.

But Manning aside, every free agent Elway signed was, once again, a value signing. And of those free agents, Porter was the only one who didn't pan out, and his was just a one-year deal. Once again, Elway wasn't going around committing top dollar to a bunch of players, even as he focused on one big-ticket player.

2013: This offseason was most noteworthy for the guy Elway signed away from a conference rival: Wes Welker. Of course, given that Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady is the QB showdown everyone talks about, it wouldn't matter which favorite target of either QB was signed away by the other team -- it would have drawn headlines, because Manning vs. Brady. Then again, the money Welker got (two years, $12M), while not exactly cheap, was far less than what some expected Welker to get.

Meanwhile, Elway signed offensive guard Louis Vasquez for four years at $23M, with $10M guaranteed. Again, that's not a cheap contract, but the average of $5.875M per year looks pretty good compared to the likes of Jahri Evans ($8M APY), Logan Mankins ($8.5M APY), and Andy Levitre ($7.8M APY), all players who were considered to be better than Vasquez at the time Vasquez agreed to terms with the Broncos.

Elway also gave $5M to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but it was a one-year deal, not the long-term commitment DRC was no doubt expecting. And then comes Elway's steal of free agency, as he paid a mere $4M over two years to Terrance Knighton.

As far as going out and spending a good chunk of change, Elway did that with one player. Ryan Clady was given the franchise tag when the 2013 offseason began, then ultimately agreed to a five-year, $52.5M contract, with $15M fully guaranteed, and an additional $16.5M in injury-only guaranteed, plus a $1.5M roster bonus that happens to be due this season. Since it appears likely Clady will stay with the Broncos through 2015, that means he'll collect $33 million in salary. Sarcasm alert: THE BRONCOS ARE BEING SO CHEAP.

Back to seriousness: What Elway did was reward one of the Broncos' better players, limited a long-term free agent deal to Vasquez, and kept the others on short-term deals, one which proved to be excellent value (Knighton), and the other three proving to be pretty good value for what they were paid. Elway's strategy should be pretty evident by now.

2014: Okay, so this is the year in which Elway was, on the surface, freely spending money. DeMarcus Ware's three-year deal was for $30M, and he'll get $20M of that for sure. Aqib Talib's six-year deal was for $57M, and he will get $17.5M of that so far. T.J. Ward got $22.5M over four years, of which he will receive $13.5M. And Emmanuel Sanders got $15M over three years, of which $6M was guaranteed.

However, a closer look tells us a few things. First, Sanders was a value signing, as the $6M guaranteed he got is the most the Broncos will pay him in a single season. He'll collect $4.85M in base salary this year and $5M next year -- a bargain for a veteran No. 2 receiver. Then there's Ward, whose average salary per year isn't even in the top 10 among safeties. And I'm sure every Bronco fan would rather have Ward than, for example, Jairus Byrd, who averages $9M per year (and happened to be a free agent the same offseason Ward was).

Then we come to Ware, who the Broncos certainly committed a lot of cash to, but they can cut Ware after the 2015 season and not owe him another penny. It is fair, though, for people to say that the Broncos made a massive commitment to Ware, in which they were effectively tied to him for two years at $20 million.

That isn't exactly the case with Talib, who the Broncos could have cut after 2014 if things didn't work out, and not owe him another penny. That's because Talib's 2015 salary was guaranteed for injury only, and the Broncos would owe him nothing had he been cut for any other reason. He is still on the payroll, so yes, the Broncos owe him another $6 million ($5.5M base, $500,000 roster bonus). Next season, his $8.5M base salary is an injury-only guarantee, so the Broncos could cut him for performance-related reasons and not owe him anything. If that were to happen, Talib doesn't even collect one-third of the total money in his contract.

Once again, the strategy Elway employed is clear: Look for value in a player and protect yourself when it comes to a long-term commitment -- and in the case of looking for value, Sanders and Ward certainly proved to be value finds.

2015: Yes, it's tough to see Julius Thomas and Orlando Franklin depart because other teams offered big-money deals. Yes, the Broncos might have misjudged the market when Knighton and Rahim Moore took value deals elsewhere. I can understand Broncos fans criticizing Elway for not retaining Knighton and Moore when the teams who signed them didn't pay a lot of money to do so.

But let's not forget Elway went out of his way to retain Chris Harris, who got five years and $42.5M in an extension he signed back in December, of which at least $10M was fully guaranteed. Along with Clady, the Broncos ultimately extended Matt Prater after placing the franchise tag on him, so there's a good chance they will do the same with Demaryius Thomas.

And then there's a guy by the name of Von Miller, who enters the option year of his rookie contract at $9.75M. The Broncos could always opt to let him play out that year, then place the franchise tag on him next season. But if Miller puts together a strong 2015, it wouldn't be surprising to see Elway become more aggressive in getting him signed to a long-term deal, much like he did with Harris once he saw the cornerback had fully recovered from an ACL injury.

As for the other signings, Elway seems more concerned with getting value from the likes of Owen Daniels (three years, $12M, $3M guaranteed), Vance Walker (two years, $4M -- hmm, sound familiar?), Shelley Smith (two years, $5.65M) and Darian Stewart (terms not yet released, but likely a low-cost signing). The same holds true for the re-signing of Virgil Green (three years, $8.4M, $2.5M fully guaranteed).

The perception that the Broncos are being cheap, simply based on what they did last season, is silly. Many of the Broncos' best free agent signings have been in the value department (McGahee, Adams, Knighton, Sanders, Ward, arguably Vasquez) while the biggest contracts either went to retaining Broncos (Bailey, Clady, Harris) or to players considered elite at their position (Manning, Ware, Talib), but contained provisions to ensure the Broncos weren't tied down to the players for too long.

The strategy has worked thus far for Elway, as the Broncos have never missed the playoffs since he took over team operations. Maybe Broncos fans who accuse him of being cheap, need to admit that, regarding free agency, he may actually know what he is doing.