*Editor's note: This story was first published Feb. 26 and was updated Feb. 28, March 4 and March 7.
Whenever a notable player becomes a salary-cap casualty there's nne constant in my universe: a follow-up question via social media:
"Would (insert name here) be a good fit for the Broncos?" The exact phrasing changes, but the sentiment is the same. So let's answer those questions in regards to some of the players who have officially been released (this is a key designation).
C CHRIS MYERS
A familiar name to Broncos fans, the decision to trade him in 2008 is probably a move the team would prefer to have back, in retrospect. Myers made two Pro Bowl appearances and became one of the league's most effective and technically proficient centers after the Broncos dealt him to the Texans for a draft pick that became fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen.
Myers' ProFootballFocus.com ranking of plus-9.7 last year was the lowest since his first year as a starter (2007, when he played five games at left guard and 11 at center in place of the injured Tom Nalen), but if he gets the chance to return to a scheme that better suits his skill set than the one in which he played during his last Houston season, he could rebound to form that had him in the Pro Bowl as recently as the 2012 season.
OLB TRENT COLE
The Eagles released him Wednesday amid reports that they couldn't agree with him on a restructured contract -- and in the middle of what appears to be a dramatic reshaping of the roster in the wake of guard Todd Herremans' release and Tuesday's reports that running back LeSean McCoy will be traded to Buffalo at the start of the league year.
The 32-year-old's pass-rushing numbers are down from his prime a few year ago; he has 14.5 sacks the last two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker after averaging 9.4 sacks a year from 2006-12. But he can still play every down, and his scheme flexibility ensures that he should have plenty of suitors -- although he won't end up with the same type of contract he had, given his experience level.
LB A.J. HAWK
The Broncos' shift to a 3-4 defense spurred inquiries about the veteran of nine previous seasons with the Green Bay Packers. But given John Elway's comments last week about using Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan as the two inside linebackers, Hawk and the Broncos don't appear to be a good match unless the market dries up, and he becomes a depth option.
Hawk struggled against the run in recent years, and also had increasing issues in coverage; according to ProFootballFocus.com, opposing passers amassed a 105.3 quarterback rating when throwing at him last season, which led to his de-emphasis after 12 games. From that point on, he only worked in the base package, which limited his play count -- he never played even half of the snaps after that.
Hawk still has some use as a two-down linebacker, but likely will not see teams stampeding to his front door.
RB REGGIE BUSH
That's the simple answer -- the only type a 140-character limit affords when part of it is chewed up by re-stating the question. But the question with Bush -- or any running back -- is whether he's better than the top reserves: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman or Juwan Thompson, with Kapri Bibbs also a potential option if he emerges in OTAs. And it's not just a matter of performance, but age and injuries; Bush was never healthy during the final three months of the 2014 season, and his attempts to return to health proved fruitless.
He's a year removed from averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 9.4 yards per reception, so he can be productive. But if it's not at the veteran minimum, the cost-benefit ratio isn't favorable, at least not compared with the stable of younger, fresher running backs that Denver possesses. Even if one of them is converted to fullback, the Broncos still have three running backs who started last year -- and although Ball struggled early, he played through a groin issue that he kept to himself, before it exploded on him with the strain he suffered in Week 5 against the Cardinals. In 2015, he'll be healthy and fresh. I don't think Bush in his 10th year is appreciably better than the first-contract runners the Broncos have on hand.
DE/DT DARNELL DOCKETT
It was no surprise that the Cardinals released him, given his $9.8 million salary-cap hit, recent injury history (he missed 2014 because of a torn ACL), age (34 on May 27) and the Cardinals' defensive dominance without him last year. But even before the injury, his performance had declined; he wasn't as explosive in the pass rush, and his run defense struggled at times. In 2012, he graded out on ProFootballFocus.com's metrics at minus-25.7 for the season, although he was credited with 20 quarterback hurries that year and improved to 22 hurries and a minus-4.6 rating in 2013.
Dockett agreed to terms with the 49ers on March 5.
WR HARRY DOUGLAS
Douglas stepped into the void created by Julio Jones' 2013 injury and had the only 1,000-yard season of his career, and then saw his numbers dip after Jones' return in 2014. But his two most productive seasons were in the last two years, he's now six years removed from an ACL injury, and although he's 30, he appears to be peaking, with the quickness to make catches underneath and the speed to turn some of them into big plays upfield. He moved the sticks on 54.9 percent of his receptions last year (league average: 56.1).
WR BRIAN HARTLINE
His regression in 2014 -- despite starting all 16 games -- was alarming. But even when he put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he wasn't the red-zone threat the Dolphins hoped he'd be; he scored just five touchdowns in those two years.
At 28, Hartline is young enough to return to that 1,000-yard form, but at this point, it's clear what he is: a steady, consistent receiver who won't stretch the field, but won't be a liability, either. There are plenty of teams for which Hartline will be a significant upgrade.
RB STEVEN JACKSON**
Some similar concepts apply to Jackson, although he missed just one game last year and has played all but four games in the last two years with the Falcons. Behind an offensive line in transition, he averaged 3.5 and 3.7 yards per carry in the last two seasons.
Jackson turns 32 in July, but it's a high-mileage 32. Only 15 running backs in NFL history have more carries than his 2,743 to date. Those 15 runners started 28 seasons with more carries than that in their past, and just six of them ended with 1,000 yards -- three of them belonging to Dallas' Emmitt Smith. The career per-carry average of those RBs with at least 2,743 carries heading into a season is 3.91 yards.
Jackson can still offer experience and short-yardage effectiveness. But to expect anything more at this point is to go against history.
NT BARRY COFIELD
A high ankle sprain and a groin injury landed Cofield on injured reserve last year, and he missed Weeks 2-10 before returning to finish out the season. A smaller nose tackle (303 pounds), Cofield relies on quickness and stunts to generate pressure from the interior, and in 2013 was credited with 29 quarterback hurries by ProFootballFocus.com.
According to an ESPN.com report, Cofield also has "an undisclosed injury issue." That will undoubtedly affect his viability on the market. But if he can put it behind him, he's just a year removed from being one of the best pass-rushing nose tackles in the league.
WR JACOBY JONES
Jones played five seasons for Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak in Houston, which included his most productive seasons as a receiver -- 2009, when he caught six touchdown passes, and 2010, when he notched career highs in receptions and yards. His offensive production dipped last year with just nine receptions for 131 yards, but he remained an effective returner for the Ravens, averaging 30.56 yards per kickoff return and 9.17 yards per punt return.
Jones will be 31 in July, and isn't going to be an every-down receiver anymore, but he can bring speed in spot use, and he's still one of the best returners in the NFL. The depth of receivers in this year's draft -- including plenty with return potential -- might depress the market for Jones, but it would be a shock if he's not someone's first-teamer on punt and kickoff returns in 2015. He'll get a crack with the Chargers after agreeing to terms on a two-year contract.
TE ANTHONY FASANO
Eclipsed by the emerging Travis Kelce, the Chiefs' decision to release Fasano, who turns 31 on April 20, was no surprise. His playing time dropped in November and December; after Week 9 he was targeted just eight times.
Fasano has always been more of a blocker than a receiving target, but his struggles in run blocking last year were a surprise. As recently as 2011, Fasano received a plus-14.6 rating from ProFootballFocus.com as a run blocker; by last year, it had dropped to minus-10.5.
DE/LB MATHIAS KIWANUKA
After nine seasons, the Giants released the 31-year-old veteran with a failed-physical designation following knee surgery.
Kiwanuka missed five games last year after playing every game from 2011-13, but his production dipped last year even before his season-ending injury. The versatility of the 6-foot-5, 267-pounder helps his cause; he switched between end and linebacker depending on the Giants' needs, and that could give him value to potential suitors, no matter whether they line up in the 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. But his quickness and speed slipped prior to his injury. He could be an experienced backup option for a team in either scheme, but that's probably all.
The Giants saved $4.825 million with his release.
WR TED GINN JR.
As with Jones, Ginn might be a fit given his abilities as a returner, and he can provide some quality off the bench at wide receiver. But with one of the deepest classes of receivers in recent memory available in the draft, the Broncos could use a third-day pick to find a combination returner/receiver, if they see fit. Burse will also be in the mix after a year split between the practice squad and 53-man roster.
OTHER STREET FREE AGENTS ADDED TO THE MARKET:
- CB Will Blackmon, ex-Jacksonville
- G Justin Blalock, ex-Atlanta
- TE James Casey, ex-Philadelphia (visited Denver, per reports)
- DE Ricky Jean-Francois, ex-Indianapolis (agreed to terms with Washington)
- DE Robert Geathers, ex-Cincinnati
- TE Zach Miller, ex-Seattle
- RB Pierre Thomas, ex-New Orleans
- DE LaMarr Woodley, ex-Oakland
- LB Joe Mays, ex-Kansas City
- WR Brandon Gibson, ex-Miami
- G Todd Herremans, ex-Philadelphia
- OT Michael Oher, ex-Tennessee (agreed to terms with Carolina)
- WR Greg Little, ex-Cincinnati
- S Tyvon Branch, ex-Oakland
- G Mike Pollak, ex-Cincinnati
- RB Peyton Hillis, ex-N.Y. Giants
- DT Kendall Langford, ex-St. Louis
- G Mike Pollak, ex-Cincinnati