KUSA—Where the Denver Broncos are already generating offseason buzz is with their No. 5 overall draft pick.
Which is great, except on a 5-win team, needs are many. The Broncos will seek upgrades at up to eight positions – quarterback, tight end, tackle, receiver and running back on offense; pass-rushing defensive lineman, inside linebacker and cornerback on defense – and they only have one pick in the first round and three in the top three "starter" rounds.
“We're going to have to look at free agents since they come first,'' general manager John Elway said last week at his state-of-the-Broncos press conference.
Free agency and the trading period opens March 14. Here are the dream free agents the Broncos should covet at each of their eight positions of need, followed by a consolation prize at each position:
Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints
He's not coming here, but you can wish. Kirk Cousins would instantly make the Broncos a playoff contender. Brees would make the Broncos a Super Bowl contender.
Brees turns 39 next Monday, but it's easy to project he has two more good seasons in him. He'd make the most sense if the Broncos also want to draft a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick.
The Broncos wouldn't use the No. 5 selection on a QB if they signed, say, the 29-year-old Cousins.
Brees is still a top 5 quarterback – he ranked No. 2 to Alex Smith with a 103.9 passer rating after completing 72.0 percent of his throws for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions this season. Cousins ranked 12th this year in passer rating, but ranked in the top 9 in the other significant passing categories.
Brees wants to break all the career passing records, which he can start doing in 2018. He needs just 1,496 yards to surpass Peyton Manning's 71,940, which Brees should accomplish by game 6 next year.
Brees and Tom Brady are tied for third with 488 touchdown passes, 51 shy of Manning. So Brees would figure to need two more seasons that are better than Brady's for that mark.
Brees has 142 regular-season wins and 7-5 postseason mark with a Super Bowl title.
Cousins has 26 wins, none in the postseason.
There would be concern Brees has been a dome quarterback, but wasn't that the concern when Peyton Manning became a free agent in 2012?
The reason why Brees probably wouldn't consider coming here if he is set free by New Orleans is because he has a small window to win. And from the outside looking in, the Broncos are at least a medium-sized window away.
More likely QB target: Tyrod Taylor, Bills
He's scheduled to make $16 million in 2018 but he's expected to be available for trade, or released.
He'd make sense if the Broncos zero in on a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick.
Tight end: Tyler Eifert, Bengals
The Broncos can hope Jake Butt will be ready to become an impact player after redshirting his rookie season to recover from his second ACL surgery, but it's more realistic to gradually bring him along in 2018.
Denver's D would be the first to acknowledge the Broncos' offense desperately needs a receiving threat at this position, particularly in the red zone. A first-round pick in 2013, Eifert had 13 touchdown catches in 2015 – when Cincinnati's secondary coach was Vance Joseph -- but he's since had multiple back surgeries.
Jimmy Graham is also available but he'd be much more expensive than Eifert, who might be had on a make-good contract.
More likely TE target: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jets
He's battled alcohol demons but his past year of sobriety led to a career-best 50 catches, although for only 357 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Broncos' front office has not been against bringing in talented players with a checkered past.
Offensive tackle: Ja'Wuan James, Dolphins
He's 26 and – get this – a right tackle whose strength is pass protection.
The Broncos have tried the $6 million right tackle strategy the previous two years with Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson. They should budget a few more million for this position this offseason.
More likely OT target: Nate Solder, Patriots
He's a left tackle, which means Garett Bolles would move to the right side. Solder is about to turn 30 and his 6-foot-8 frame is starting to get beat up. He may welcome a return to Colorado, but he won't come cheap.
Running back: None
Le'Veon Bell played for $12.1 million this season after nixing a five-year contract worth $15 million per season.
Bell is great, but that's way too much for a running back. It would be better for the Broncos to keep C.J. Anderson at $4.5 million in 2018 than sign a free agent.
This is a young man's position and the Broncos are expected to wait and try and draft one within the first three rounds.
Receiver: Paul Richardson, Seahawks
With or without Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have two needs at the receiver position: A speedy, home-run threat, and a savvy, first-down machine from the slot.
Richardson, the former Colorado Buffalo who turns 26 in April, is much like Sanders was as a free agent in 2014 – a slow developer who came on in his fourth season. Richardson had 44 catches for Seattle in 2017 for a robust 703 yards and six touchdowns.
More likely WR target: Albert Wilson, Chiefs
The Broncos' backup secondary couldn't cover him in the season finale, when he had 10 catches for 147 yards.
An undrafted free agent from Georgia State, Wilson, who turns 26 in July, would be a solid No. 3 receiver with No. 2 receiver potential.
3-4 defensive end: Sheldon Richardson, Seahawks
The Broncos need an interior pass rusher they haven't had since Malik Jackson left for free agency two years ago and Derek Wolfe began experiencing neck issues.
Richardson is a player the Broncos have previously tried to acquire through trade. He was dealt from the Jets to the Seahawks a week prior to this season he did not make much impact as a defensive tackle in Seattle's 4-3 system.
He is a 3-4 defensive end and the Broncos play a 3-4. He had 8.0 sacks in 2014 and 5.0 in 2015 but only 2.5 combined in his past two seasons.
More likely DE target: Dominique Easley, Rams
The Patriots' first-round draft pick in 2014, Easley had 3.5 sacks with the Rams in 2016, but then tore his ACL in training camp. He has suffered multiple ACL tears but he may be a medical risk worth taking on a make-good contract.
Inside linebacker: None
This is another position the Broncos figure to fill through the draft. Brandon Marshall is the team's three-down linebacker who is scheduled to make $5 million in 2018. Todd Davis is a run-stopper who will become an unrestricted free agent.
It's unlikely both return. Washington's Mason Foster could be a possibility from free agency, but the Broncos want to find a young linebacker who can run with running backs and big enough to cover tight ends.
Cornerback: Darqueze Dennard, Bengals
There is a good chance the Broncos will promote Bradley Roby to their starting left cornerback position while making a business decision to part with Aqib Tailb.
Bernard Langley and Marcus Rios each flashed promise as rookies, but it would be a surprise if they emerge as the No. 3 corner on a team that has boasted three outstanding corners the past four years.
Chris Harris Jr. will return at right cornerback/slot defender. He'd like to stay outside, but he's so good as a slot defender the Broncos may have to continue using him in his dual role.
Dennard was the Bengals' first-round draft pick in 2014 when Joseph was his position coach.
More likely CB target: Terrance Mitchell, Chiefs
A restricted free agent who could be had if the undrafted product receives an original round tender, Mitchell has been the cornerback opponents target when they didn't want to risk throwing to Marcus Peters' side. But Mitchell can play both sides and he did have 4 interceptions this year, and the Broncos desperately need some ballhawks.