NFL: Denver Broncos Looking to Protect Five Free Agents

| by Broncos Zone

On Wednesday, Broncos Vice President of Football Operations, John Elway, announced via twitter that Denver has placed one-year tenders on five of their restricted free agents.

The Broncos extended qualifying offers to offensive tackle Ryan Harris, kicker Matt Prater, defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Kevin Vickerson, and linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Some of the details are not yet known, but what it boils down to is this; the Broncos will be allowed to match any contract offers made to the above mentioned players when they hit free agency. Alternatively, if Denver decides to not match the offer of another team, they will receive a draft pick in compensation for said player.

This is a good sign for these players that they will be retained if they sign their tenders. Of course, the players still have to sign those tenders. It doesn't looke like defensive tackle Marcus Thomas is planning on signing his. According to Marcus' agent, Richard Burnoski, Thomas isn't going to sign but rather, wait and see the "language of the new CBA and the terms of free agency in hopes of becoming an unrestricted free agent."

Linebacker Wesley Woodyard sounded like he was leaning toward signing his when he tweeted; "I love Denver and the fans." Entering his fourth year with the Broncos, Woodyard started three games at linebacker last season and was a captain on special teams. The Broncos would definitely like to re-sign him.

Kicker Matt Prater, who reportedly received a second round tender, missed four games last season with a groin injury, yet still managed to go 16-of-18 on field goal attempts and 28-of-29 on extra point attempts. Prater also handled the kickoff duties when healthy, with just over 35% of his kickoffs going for touchbacks, averaging 64.6 yards a boot. The Broncos starting place kicker since 2008, Prater, 26, has scored 316 points for the Broncos since he joined the team. Last season, Prater made $550,000, the second round tender Denver placed on him is expected to be worth a $1.835 million salary in 2011, a sign that the team wants to reward him for his efforts.

Entering his 7th season in the NFL and 2nd with the Broncos, Kevin Vickerson played at both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions last season, and was very productive. Starting in 12 games, Vickerson recorded 42 tackles, 2 sacks, an interception and a forced a fumble. Having just turned 28, Vickerson is one of the younger defensive linemen left over from the Josh McDaniels era. Current Head Coach John Fox will probably use him as a rotational player at the minimum. Fellow defensive tackle Ronald Fields didn't start in any games last season and wasn't tendered by the Broncos, he will most likely be moving on.

Last but certainly not least, is Denver's Right Tackle Ryan Harris. Towards the end of McDaniels stint in Denver, Harris was somewhat thrown under the bus and unappreciated in Denver. The fans, however, have still supported him, and he has publicly said he wants to stay in Denver, it just didn't look very promising for him. That all changed today however, as the team obviously has him in their plans for next season. With little depth behind him, Harris, a four year veteran, looks to become a pivotal part of the Broncos offense in the future. Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow (who at some point is expected to become the starter) is left handed, making his right side -- the side Harris protects -- his blind side. Looking to protect Tebow and ensure continuity on the offensive line, the Broncos want Harris to return.