When the Denver Broncos, they signed arguably the best free agent in NFL history. That’s certainly debatable, but there’s no doubt that Manning is one of the best to ever play his position, and if he can give the Broncos even a shell of what he used to be, it will turn out to be a historic signing.
In order for Manning to be successful, it’s important that he’s surrounded with talented players who can get open and make plays down the field. The Broncos have a couple of guys who were high draft picks, but outside of them, the competition will be interesting.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will obviously return as the team’s top two receivers, and newly signed wide receiver Andre Caldwell who came over from the Bengals will probably end up as the number three or four. Another guy with some big play ability is Jason Hill, who came over from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I’m not so sure those won’t be the top four receivers on Denver’s roster, but I think the only spots that are “guaranteed” are those top three that will go to Thomas, Decker, and Caldwell. Outside of those three guys, I think it’s open season as far as the Denver receiver group goes. Obviously, a lot will depend on what kind of rapport Manning builds with them throughout the offseason, and here are some names to watch out for:
Brandon Stokley, 13 years
Stokley was signed a few weeks after the Broncos signed Manning, and Stokley was actually pretty instrumental in bringing Manning to the Mile High City. The last time Stokley was in Denver, he was pushed out because of the team’s insane depth at the position. Now, he has a really good shot of playing a #3 or #4 role for the team, especially with his chemistry with Manning. They played with each other in Indianapolis, where Stokley had his only 1,000 yard season in his career. He knows how to get open in clutch situations.
Mark Dell, 2nd Year
Essentially, this will be Dell’s rookie season. He was a guy that many people felt would make the roster last season before he was injured and missed all of 2011. He had a 26 yard reception in the team’s opening game of the pre-season against Dallas before he went down. Many feel like he has a good shot of making the roster.
D’Andre Goodwin, 2nd year
Smaller receiver but an interesting guy. Goodwin is a guy that has great speed and quickness, and could be an asset as a slot receiver. We haven’t seen much of him as a receiver, and he wasn’t overly productive in college, but his athletic skill set is really intriguing.
Tyler Grisham, 3rd year
Grisham hasn’t had a catch since 2009 when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he signed with the Broncos to a future contract and is a really solid blocker. Not a spectacular athlete by any means, but he will compete.
Greg Orton, 2nd year
As a rookie from Purdue last year, Orton joined the Broncos late in the process and many were intrigued to know how he did since he had made a name for himself in another football venue. After nearly giving up the game, Orton found a niche in the Arena league, and was arguably the best player in that league. The Broncos picked him up and he wound up on the roster after the season concluded.
Tim Toone, 3rd year
Toone was Mr. Irrelevant back in 2010, but has floated around the league despite having insane athletic ability and speed. Toone was compared to–who else–Wes Welker coming out of college because of his ability to return kicks and play the slot, but it just hasn’t worked out for him. It would be really cool to see Peyton Manning make him a star.
Eric Page, Rookie
The Broncos didn’t draft a receiver, but they signed a couple of good ones as undrafted free agents who could have easily gone anywhere from the fifth round on. Page originally was going to Tampa Bay but decided there was a better situation in Denver, and he will now compete for a spot. Page is a tough receiver who can also return kicks/punts and work the seam. He has solid athletic ability and plays much faster than his 4.56 timed speed. He’s in a good spot with the Broncos, who have a need for his services as a receiver/returner.
Gerrell Robinson, Rookie
The big receiver out of Arizona State should be on the practice squad, if nothing else, because of his chemistry with Denver’s new QB of the future in Brock Osweiler. Robinson wasn’t much of a factor until his senior season when both he and Osweiler broke out. He is 6’3″ 227 and is a mismatch in the red zone. I like his potential.