As the circus that is NFL free agency nears teams will be poised to try and make another step closer to winning a championship. Some teams are closer than others and the Broncos for a fourth-straight season will be in contention. Each addition to the team will be vital to whether they win the battle of free agency or lose another opportunity for success.

Three players’ names have come up in recent talks about who to sign with Denver. Their 18 remaining free agents will clearly have an impact on who they pursue outside of their roster but some likely positions will be in dire need of some new faces. Jordan Cameron, Mike Iupati and Pernell McPhee are big names but could spell big busts if they land in Denver.

Cameron entered the NFL in 2011 out of the University of Southern California and worked his way to being an elite tight end, but only for one season. Over the other three years he has been plagued by injuries.

As Julius Thomas prepares to enter free agency it is almost a foregone conclusion that he will not be back with the team. The knee-jerk reaction to his departure would be to sign Cameron. He is the best pass-catching tight end available and has shown he can be a tough person to guard in space. However, he and Wes Welker both are one big hit away from hanging up their cleats.

In 2014 Cameron battled to get onto the field after suffering a third concussion in less than two years. Paired with that injury was a reoccurring shoulder problem. As a result he missed six games and in the remaining contests he looked like a shell of himself. He could not be relied on as a blocker and he simply was not the main target for Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, most likely due to a lack of chemistry.

After hauling in 80 catches in 2013 for 917 receiving yards, his 2014 numbers matched up closer to his first two seasons in the league. He caught only 24 passes for 424 yards. The 2013 season was the only year in which Cameron displayed that he can be a top-ten pass catcher at his position and that is not enough to land a deal with the Broncos. More importantly, his injuries make him far too much of a risk at any price tag and someone will likely pay him more than he is worth due to the depth of free agent talent.

Next area of serious concern for the Broncos is the left guard position. Much like tight end, the Broncos have an unrestricted free agent on the roster in Orlando Franklin that appears to be headed elsewhere. That leaves only Ben Garland and Michael Schofield around to try and step up, an idea that surely frightens John Elway and Peyton Manning. The Broncos will look to free agency in order to find a veteran player to fill the role.

Mike Iupati has been a proven commodity in the National Football League since his arrival in 2010 but his size, recent performance and the enormous price tag he will command should keep the Broncos on the sideline in the bidding war for his services.

The first thing that jumps out when people mention Iupati joining the Broncos is the hypocrisy of his size and that of Orlando Franklin. The likely excuse for Franklin leaving town is his size. Both players are listed on their team sites as being 6’5” but Franklin is listed 15 pounds lighter than Iupati at 316. Franklin has also shown more versatility along the line.

Iupati has been nearly as healthy as Franklin, starting in 75 games in his five year career but in 2014 a glaring problem appeared. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) he allowed seven sacks and graded out at negative 7.5 rating in pass blocking. However, Iupati was a dominating run blocker, ranking second among guards per PFF. Overall he ranked tenth just behind Franklin, who was far more of a balanced blocker.

Another reason for Franklin’s likely departure is the price tag he is reportedly asking. He is seeking a multi-year deal worth around $7-8 million per year. Iupati will be also seeking a deal in the same neighborhood. The Broncos simply have so many needs to address and after franchise tagging Demaryius Thomas they only have the possibility to sign one more large contract. Iupati, while a proven guard, is no better than the man they have already on the roster and both appear too expensive to keep. The Broncos will have to either look for a far cheaper free agent or draft a player from a rich pool of talent in April.

Lastly, another name that has recently surfaced is McPhee who played with the Ravens and Kubiak in 2014. The reason for him not being an answer in Denver is not his performance. He played extremely well in a 3-4 defense last season while on his way to a second-place ranking on PFF in that system. The reason is, he is simply not needed and his position is not near the top of the team’s priority list.

Coming off of season in which he recorded 7.5 sacks and 27 tackles in only around half the snaps of Von Miller he made an impact on opposing offenses. He would be a nice addition to any team but sadly the Broncos do not have the cap room to sign backup players to multi-year, multi-million dollar deals. That fact is made even clearer after the Broncos went and got several linebackers in last year’s draft class.

Von Miller stayed relatively healthy last season and will be the focal point of Wade Phillips defense in 2015. If Miller can repeat a season in which he played in 944 snaps, per PFF, than there will simply be very little need for McPhee’s services.

Saturday unrestricted free agents will be contacted by interested teams, Monday those players’ contracts will expire and they will be allowed to sign with new clubs. Of the 11 remaining Broncos unrestricted free agents, few will be returning. Elway must avoid flashy names like Cameron and Iupati and be careful to prioritize needs with the remaining cap space. March will be huge test for Elway and his legacy. Hopefully the team will have made a step forward and not back when the smoke clears.

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