The Broncos made a massive splash during free agency that changed the face of their offense, and set up a boom or bust drive for a championship over the next few years. Yep, Caleb Hanie is going to be a stud.

Oh, Peyton Manning? Sure, he should be good too. Maybe even spectacular, and they’ve paired him with former Colts teammate Jacob Tamme along with Joel Dreessen at the tight end position, while also bolstering a promising young receiving corps with the presence of Andre Caldwell.

However, the Manning experiment could be dragged down by a defense that’s ascending, but is still good, not great. The Broncos created a lethal pass rush tandem through the draft last year, bringing in Von Miller to chase quarterbacks along with Elvis Dumervil. Elsewhere on the defense, Tracy Porter was signed to play opposite Champ Bailey, upgrading the secondary and providing a solid cornerback pairing. But with Brodrick Bunkley leaving for New Orleans, there’s a void on the interior of the defensive line, a unit that’s growing and showing promise, and needs to continue its ascension.

We get it, Willis McGahee isn’t an eager young buck anymore, and he’s injury prone. With running backs Lamar Miller and David Wilson slowly creeping up draft boards, there’s a strong temptation to reach early, and add to the backfield. That urge is further fueled by the desire to support a quarterback who’s still recovering from a unique and severe neck injury.

As Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post writes, John Elway needs to fight the temptation to add more offense.

Whether the Broncos ultimately decide on Michael Brockers of Louisiana State, Jerel Worthy of Michigan State or Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, the ideal choice with the 25th pick in the first round would be a defensive lineman. Should Denver double down on offense after spending big on Manning, this team will definitely rank behind New England, Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh as a prime Super Bowl contender in the AFC.

Despite the vast improvement up front and a feared pass rush, the Broncos had the 20th ranked defense in the league in 2011 after giving up an average of 357.8 yards per game. The major defensive weakness was on the ground, where a rush defense improved from its 31st place finish in 2010, but still allowed 126.3 yards per week.

Denver needs a large body to fortify the interior line. Limiting the production of opposing offenses and their ability to grind the clock down will support Manning nearly as much as another running back, as it’ll ease pressure on the passing game, and ideally create fewer late-game situations where a heroic comeback is needed.

And now you want to know the rest of the story…

  • If the Dolphins draft Ryan Tannehill, they should do it to address a clear need at quarterback, and because they firmly believe he can fill that void and become a franchise arm. They shouldn’t do it just to quiet an angry fan base and redeem themselves after a disastrous March hunting for a QB on the open market. [Ben Volin]
  • And if the Dolphins aren’t confident in Tannehill, Quinton Coples is starting to make a lot of sense. [Omar Kelly]
  • Somehow this comes up nearly every year through a former coach, but it’s still mildly terrifying when we’re reminded that intelligent, well respected football minds graded JaMarcus Russell incredibly high on their draft boards. The latest admitted victim is former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who compared Russell’s rise up draft boards in 2007 to Tannehill’s ascent now. [PFT]
  • It’ll likely be either Tannehill or Trent Richardson for the Browns with their fourth overall pick, but later in the first round they need to look at a wide receiver. [Dawg pound Daily]
  • Is a Drew Brees holdout brewing? [Canal Street Chronicles]
  • Janoris Jenkins is what he says he is. [USA Today]
  • Packers Harley? Packers Harley. [Total Packers]
  • Brandon Jacobs still really seems to enjoy saying bad things about the Giants, his former team that put two Super Bowl rings on his fingers. [Big Blue View]