On football: Broncos brass rebuilding team in new mold | VailDaily.com

On football: Broncos brass rebuilding team in new mold

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado

Give the Denver brass credit. It certainly knows how to make an impression.

Newly hired head coach Josh McDaniels and General Manager Brian Xanders are reshaping the Broncos in their mold. Actually, that’s an understatement.

More appropriately, the duo’s doing everything short of hooking up C4 explosives to destroy what Mike Shanahan built.

What will come out of this jumbled mess? Hopefully, a strong, aggressive football team.

Already, even Broncos junkies will have a hard time recognizing names on the roster. Gone are nine players who started on defense last season. That’s a blessing.

While players shuffle out, they are also coming in. Denver has been the most active team in free agency, signing seven players to deals as of Saturday with more likely on the horizon.

The Broncos haven’t been the only busy team. Kansas City traded a second-round pick for New England’s Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel. Detroit made waves by exploring trade options for Jay Cutler, yes, that Jay Cutler.

Here’s what this all means to Denver next season.

Defense gets stronger

If readers remember correctly, I blasted the Broncos’ defense midway through last season, saying it would be their downfall. I was correct, but I’m not patting myself on the back because any idiot with half a brain could see that. Except for Shanahan, I guess.

Thankfully, the new regime is clearing out the guys who celebrated for making tackles 11 yards downfield and adding ones who will bring an attitude to the D. It’s starts with Brian Dawkins, whom Denver inked on Saturday.

Don’t know who Dawkins is? He’s a 13-year veteran and seven-time Pro Bowler at safety. He’s also a guy who would rather lose his left foot than miss a tackle.

Sure, at 35, Dawkins is old. I don’t care. He brings an immediate attitude to the defense that’s been lacking since Al Wilson called it quits.

The Broncos were hardly done with Dawkins. They made solid pickups at safety (Renaldo Hill, Dolphins), linebacker (Andra Davis, Browns) and defensive tackle (Darrell Reid, Colts).

Look for Denver to continue to bolster the defense with more signings in the coming days.

Cutler traded?

When news leaked that Cutler was being mentioned in trades with Detroit and Tampa Bay, I was shocked. Happily, I found out it was those two teams and not the Broncos that were looking to deal.

Cutler is still immature, but his natural abilities should fit in well with McDaniels’ scheme.

Denver is doing its best to keep its offense on par with the top of the league. Running backs J.J. Arrington (Cardinals) and Correll Buckhalter (Eagles) were added for depth. I expect one, or both, to play a versatile role out of the backfield like the Patriots’ Kevin Faulk.

I’m not sure what to expect of newly-signed Jabar Gaffney. McDaniels is well-aware of his skills from his days with New England, so I’ll trust him here.

Kansas City makes bold move

I’ll repeat for clarity, the Kansas Chiefs picked up both Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from New England for a second-round pick.

That sounds like a steal, and probably is. What were the Patriots thinking? They essentially handed Cassel to the Chiefs for nothing.

Or, here’s how I see it (remember, I’m biased). New England coach Bill Belichick knows Cassel’s production last year was more because of the Patriots explosive offense and not because of the career backup. Belichick knew with Tom Brady coming back next season, there would be no room for Cassel.

What does Belichick do? He slaps Cassel with the franchise tag to avoid losing him for nothing and gains a second-round pick out the deal. Well played, Coach.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping happened.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.

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