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Grading the Denver Broncos' Offseason Moves

Welker Signing, Dumervil Departure on Opposite Ends of Team's Curve

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Denver Broncos' offseason makeover is more than halfway complete.

The free-agent market has been open for a month now, and the goods have been pretty much picked over. As a result, NFL franchises and their fans have shifted their focus to the upcoming draft, which will be upon us in a little more than 2 weeks.

Still, before we dive headlong into all the draft hype and hoopla, it's time to take stock of what the Broncos have accomplished so far this offseason and assign some corresponding grades.

We'll tackle the major moves in a rough, chronological order, starting with …

LT Ryan Clady franchised

Peyton Manning's blindside guardian is recovering from shoulder surgery, but he hasn't missed a game in 5 seasons, and the Broncos are still hoping to lock up the Pro Bowler with a long-term deal. In the meantime, a $9.8 million franchise tag keeps Clady in Orange and Blue for another season. Grade: A

P Britton Colquitt tendered

The Pro Bowl-caliber punter, who finished third in the league with a 42.1 net average, received a right-of-first-refusal tender a month ago, meaning Colquitt more than doubled his $615,000 2012 salary but technically remains a free agent with the Broncos retaining the right to match any offer. Grade: B+

DT Kevin Vickerson re-signed

In Vickerson and Justin Bannan, both of the Broncos' starting defensive tackles were unrestricted free agents, and Denver wisely chose to go with the younger and more productive option. Grade A

S David Bruton re-signed

With only four career starts and a single interception in four seasons, Bruton's new 3-year deal might puzzle the casual outside onlooker, but he's an invaluable special-teams contributor/glue guy. Grade B

LB D.J. Williams released

Williams and cornerback Champ Bailey were the longest-tenured Broncos at 9 seasons apiece, but the outside linebacker's off-field issues, his $6 million-plus salary and, most importantly, the 2012 emergence of Wesley Woodyard sealed the fate of Williams, who led the team in tackles in five of his nine seasons. Grade A

QB Caleb Hanie released

Now that Brock Osweiler is through his rookie season, there simply was no need for Hanie. Grade B

G Louis Vasquez signed

Nabbing Vasquez -- a four-year starter for the rival San Diego Chargers and rated the second-best free-agent guard available -- was the Broncos' first big splash of free agency and a necessary one given Chris Kuper's lengthy injury history at right guard. Grade: A

LB Stewart Bradley signed

Bradley, a former Philly standout who struggled mightily and failed to make a single start in two seasons playing in the Arizona Cardinals' 3-4 defense, is back in a 4-3 and expected to challenge Nate Irving and Steven Johnson to start at middle linebacker. Grade C

WR Wes Welker signed

The Broncos needed to upgrade at slot wide receiver or tight end, and all they did was lure the best in the business (a league-high 672 receptions over the past six seasons) away from the rival New England Patriots and into Manning's Mile High arsenal. Grade A+

DT Terrance Knighton signed

Defensive tackle seems to be a perennial need, and the Broncos turned to one of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's Jacksonville favorites, signing the 6-foot-3, 330-pound plugger to a 2-year deal. Grade: B

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed

DRC never played like the Pro Bowler in Philly that he was in Arizona, but he still managed to lead the Eagles with 17 passes defensed in a supposedly down 2012 season and now will be penciled in to start opposite Champ Bailey. Grade C+

DE Elvis Dumervil released

Trimming Dumervil's slated $12 million salary was a must for the Broncos in light of their other moves, and it looked to be a done deal until a March 15 fax fiasco scuttled plans on both sides. A little more than a week later, the spurned, three-time Pro Bowler decided to take a little less money and sign with the Baltimore Ravens. If the Broncos are able to lasso a Dwight Freeney or his ilk later this offseason it will ease some of the sting and raise the grade here, but until then, the plan is to replace Dumervil with underachieving former first-round pick Robert Ayers. Grade: D

Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver Broncos and the NFL since early childhood, and can be found on Twitter @kenpomp.

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