Broncos hope draft is a talent grab after filling needs in free agency

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After the Denver Broncos were essentially one-and-done in the opening flurry of free agency, when they signed quarterback Case Keenum, president of football operations/general manager John Elway vowed that the team would be more active in the coming weeks.

And the Broncos indeed did the bulk of their work in free agency in the second week and beyond, signing defensive lineman Clinton McDonald, cornerback Tramaine Brock and punter Marquette King. They also made trades for tackle Jared Veldheer as well as safety Su’a Cravens.

"We’ll look at everything we can do," Elway said. "… We don’t look at it like free agency is that first weekend and that’s it, it’s over. There are players who can help us after those first few days."

Elway has also said he prefers to use free agency to fill needs and the draft to reel in the best players on the board, no matter the position. And while time will tell if the Broncos were right about those recent acquisitions, they each were brought in to fill a particular role.

Brock, for example, is a player that coach Vance Joseph became familiar with during their time with the San Francisco 49ers. Joseph believes Brock, who has 40 career starts, will help the Broncos affirm their decision to trade away Aqib Talib.

While the Broncos expect Bradley Roby to take Talib’s spot in the starting lineup, they want Brock to challenge Roby for that job as well as give them a proven player who can be the third cornerback in specialty packages. The Broncos utilized those over 60 percent of the time last season.

"In our hearts we feel like Roby is ready to go," Joseph said. "… He’s got to come back this year and compete and win the No. 2 job. Signing Brock was huge for us because Brock has been a starter on winning football teams and on top-five defenses. It’s going to be interesting to watch those two guys compete and make each guy better. You need three [cornerbacks] to play great defense."

McDonald, too, came with a specific role in mind. The ninth-year veteran can play in multiple spots along the defensive front, which will be a boost with Derek Wolfe coming off neck surgery. McDonald has had at least five sacks in a season three times and has four seasons with at least 14 games played.

Joseph believes McDonald, a team captain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will have a significant presence in the locker room, as well.

"Clinton McDonald, the folks in Tampa just rave about him and the locker room presence that he has," Joseph said. "Obviously as a captain and not really being a full-time starter, kind of a rotational player to be named captain, that speaks to him."

With the draft class at tackle considered to be fairly thin, the Broncos still bypassed signing one as free agency opened and instead made a deal for Veldheer, who closed out the 2017 season on injured reserve (ankle). And while Veldheer has made all but 10 of his 101 career starts at left tackle, the Broncos project him to replace Menelik Watson at right tackle.

Veldheer also can be an effective mentor for left tackle Garett Bolles, who had woes with penalties and his technique as a rookie last season.

"Jared has played a lot of football," Joseph said. "… We’re looking forward to getting him in and helping our young guys grow."

King, who was released by the Oakland Raiders on March 30, is the Broncos’ latest addition. He is expected to replace Riley Dixon, who was a seventh-round pick by the Broncos in 2016. Dixon has been the team's punter in each of the past two seasons, but in their review of last year’s 5-11 playoff miss, the Broncos became concerned with lost field position on special teams.

With eight picks overall -- all in the first five rounds -- the Broncos hope they’ve done enough to make the draft a search for talent over need.