NFL free agency started with a frenzy like no other season in history, with big names switching teams and conflicting reports flying around twitter. The Denver Broncos made more headlines for who was leaving than their returning players or new members, yet they signed some good talent.

The Broncos signed six new players last week and four of them will undoubtedly have an impact on the starting roster in the early fall of 2015. While the top four signings immediately address lost players at positions of need, some are proven assets with experience, health and potential on their side while others are more of a risk and may not see much playing time when training camp closes.

1. Owen Daniels

Owen Daniels is by far the most proven commodity the Broncos acquired last week and the fit was obvious to many, including head coach Gary Kubiak.

“We were talking about free agency and his name came up, and I really just said two things to John. I said, ‘You know, John, you can look at the film and judge for yourself. But I can tell you two things: He’s going to give you everything he has and he wants to win a championship, and that’s the type of player you want on your football team.”

Daniels has been to two Pro Bowls in his 10 seasons and played all of them under Gray Kubiak’s guidance. In his 109 regular-season starts he has caught 433 passes for 5,144 yards and 33 touchdowns. 2013 and 2009 are the only seasons in which he played in less than 12 games.

The potential problem with Daniels is his age. The 32-year-old tight end is at a fragile point for any football player. How much he has left is the biggest question. Last year his best output in a game was only 70 receiving yards, which makes people wonder if he can still be a threat down the field. But out of the pool of free agent tight ends he was the logical choice and if he can return to his 2012 form in which he surpassed 700 receiving yards and caught six touchdowns the Broncos will have made the right move. Daniels signed a 3-year deal for $12.25 million with $3 million guaranteed, per

2. Darian Stewart

Darian Stewart was also signed last week in the hopes that he can replace Rahim Moore, who departed for the Houston Texans. Stewart was a promising prospect but went undrafted out of University of South Carolina. Injuries have slowed his progress but in his five seasons of play he has seen the field in 69 regular-season games combining for 33 starts. In 2014 he played in all 16 regular-season games (14 starts) for the Baltimore Ravens and ranked fourth on the team with 53 tackles. He also played well in both of the Ravens playoff games.

Stewart increased his value greatly this past season. He not only improved his tackling but he also played both the free safety and strong safety positions. His physicality will be a definite improvement over Moore, who seemed to shy away from contact and missed too many tackles. Pro Football Focus ranked Stewart 30th among safeties, 15 spots ahead of Moore. While Moore was better in coverage, Stewart was more consistent in all phases of the safety position.

Multiple sources reported that Stewart’s deal is for 2-years, $4 million, half of the yearly salary Moore signed for. Understandably, Stewart is excited to join the Broncos secondary and said as much in a conference call with the media Friday.

“I feel like I’m the final piece to the puzzle. The secondary, they’re one of the tops in the league, and I felt like they can get it done out there. We have a great organization and we have the personnel in place to get it done.”

3. Shelley Smith

Another glaring need for the Broncos is the offensive line. Shelley Smith, a six-year veteran was acquired last week just a day after losing Orlando Franklin to the San Diego Chargers. Smith is not close to the proven starter that Franklin is but the need for depth at several spots along the line made this move vital. Smith has appeared in 36 regular-season games, combining for 11 starts at both guard positions for the Houston Texans, the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins.

Smith is an obvious downgrade from Franklin but his price tag and presence will both be beneficial to the team. The former CSU Ram played in nine games this year for the Dolphins and according to Pro Football Focus started three of them for a total of 367 snaps. His season was sidelined briefly due to a knee injury and it nagged him as he returned. In a conference call Saturday, Smith acknowledged that he feels comfortable with Kubiak and the system the team will be running.

“Obviously the zone blocking scheme has proven to be a very good system and I think it fits my capabilities pretty well. I’m familiar with it, so the terminology, I kind of know what to expect and what they accept out their players in that system. I thought it would be a good fit.”

Smith was released by the Dolphins and will cost the Broncos very little this year. Smith signed a 2-year, $5.65 million dollar contract, first reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Smith will be competing with Ben Garland for the starting job at left guard and said he is ready to come in a push and compete with everybody. This will be a “make it or break it” year for Smith’s career.

4. Vance Walker

Thursday the Broncos agreed to terms of a two-year, $4 million contract with veteran defensive end Vance Walker. Formerly of the Oakland Raiders and most recently the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, he is a versatile lineman that appears to fit the mold of what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is looking for. Walker felt like during his visit his versatility was the biggest factor.

“I can play any position. Really whatever they need me to do, whether it’s D-End or nose [tackle] or three-technique. It’s a penetrating type of defense, so really wherever they feel that I fit. I spoke with the coaches and they’re pretty impressed that I can play all positions. It’s really wherever they believe I fit,” Walker said Thursday via conference call.

Walker played in a limited role in 2014 and only exceeded 25 snaps in a game in weeks 15 and 16, after playing in 791 snaps for the Raiders in 2013, per Pro Football Focus. He will add some needed depth as the Broncos begin to transition to a 3-4 defense. However, he has been spotty at best and will have to compete with a deep group in order to see significant playing time.

The Broncos had to judiciously use their money this offseason and it appears that they have started out nicely. However, the dealing is not done. Expect to see veteran Broncos players released to make more cap space and additional newcomers to make their way to Dove Valley.

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