ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Prior to free agency, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio had his own wishlist that he thought was just that: wishful thinking.
"I said, you know, if I could make it happen it would be a dominant rush end, a strong safety that will come up and really strike fear in an offense and really be a tone-setter, and a premium corner," Del Rio said during "A Night With the Coaches" at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on May 13. "There's no way we'll get that done, but I'd love to see that happen. Any way you can make that happen, Mr. Elway?"
It took Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway a tad over 24 hours after the signing period opened to check off each box, picking up safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
Now that he's had a chance to work with each of his defense's new toys, Del Rio revisited the Broncos' acquisitions after rookie minicamp practice on May 17.
Perhaps the biggest name of the bunch -- Ware, a 7-time Pro Bowler and 4-time first-team All-Pro -- is already impressing Del Rio with both his physical ability and his intangibles.
"He's very explosive," Del Rio said. "I mean in our drill work, the guy's got some juice to be able to harass the quarterback."
"But his leadership has been outstanding, too."
In Talib, the Broncos grabbed a top player from the rival Patriots for the second year in a row. Denver's experience facing the corner the past two years says a lot about what they think of him as a player, according to Del Rio.
"We've gone against him and anytime he's got the respect of your better players, then you know you've got a real good football player," he said.
That isn't to discount Denver's first pickup of free agency, one that should have an impact in a variety of ways. "A guy that'll come down and set the tone," Ward will play a lot of strong safety, where he went to his first Pro Bowl last season. But Del Rio also anticipates using him as a linebacker in some nickel and dime situations.
"You can never have enough bodies, especially in sub packages, to be able to deal with all the multiple wide receiver sets you get," Del Rio said. "And the fact that he can drop down and play like a linebacker role as well, because of his physicality, that's just an added bonus."
It's still way too early to anticipate how the Broncos' defense will come together, but Denver's coordinator hopes the new trio can help restore the heights of the 2012 defense.
"Two years ago we finished in the top of the league and last year… we didn't," Del Rio said. "We like being at the top."
"So we'll work our way back. We've got good players, good design. We're going to work hard. And we expect to be good."