ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Free agency did not end Tuesday. It began. And with salary-cap constraints, the Broncos' forthcoming free-agency plan will be about finding value -- which usually comes a week, two weeks or more after the league year begins.
"Everyone thinks that it just opens yesterday (March 10) and that's the last day of free agency. This is a process that goes all the way through until the trading deadline stops," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said Wednesday after tight end Owen Daniels was introduced to Denver-area media.
The restructured contract for quarterback Peyton Manning did give the Broncos some breathing room, Elway said. According to numbers posted on Spotrac.com, the Broncos' December contract to Chris Harris Jr., recent re-signings of Aaron Brewer and Steven Johnson, the fifth-year option to Von Miller, a restricted free-agent tender to Tony Carter and exclusive-rights tenders to three others chewed up $30,429,000 of the 2015 cap space.
That doesn't even include the recent outlays to tight ends Virgil Green and Owen Daniels, who signed this week.
"You know where we are cap-situation wise," Elway said. "Every little bit helps where we are. It (Manning's restructured contract) did help us."
Offensive line and safety are two positions where Elway mentioned that the Broncos continue to consider potential free agents. They will reportedly visit with free-agent safety Darrian Stewart and defensive lineman Vance Walker on Thursday.
"But we've got 10 (draft) picks," Elway said, referring to the number he expects to possess after the compensatory selections are distributed.
Elway has made it clear he expects to receive some immediate contributions from some draft picks -- as well as young holdovers who saw little playing time last year.
"We've got some young guys that have got to step up," Elway said.
In the interim, if the Broncos do look to supplement their roster in the coming weeks, they will forage for value after making heavy investments in recent months. Their recent history shows that they can find it.
In 2012, the Broncos roared to a league-best 13-3 record with a roster that included seven players signed two weeks or later into free agency that combined to make 74 starts, a group led by tight end Joel Dreessen and defensive tackle Justin Bannan (15 starts apiece), linebacker Keith Brooking (14 starts), center Dan Koppen (12 starts) and slot receiver Brandon Stokley (nine starts). Koppen wasn't signed until Sept. 11 of that year, and Brooking was a mid-training-camp acquisition.
In 2013, the Broncos added veteran defensive end Shaun Phillips during that year's draft; he led the team with 10 sacks for an affordable $1 million commitment. In 2014, center Will Montgomery did not sign until April 2, and he ended up stabilizing the Broncos' offensive line after a midseason shuffling.
So there are options in the coming weeks if the Broncos need to utilize them.
"It's a process," Elway said. "It just slows down. Now you get out of the frenzy of everything, and you can get back to reality and try to find some good football players."
New Broncos tight end Owen Daniels signed his contract and met the media Wednesday at Dove Valley