Denver Broncos veteran guard Chris Kuper hangs 'em up, retires after eight seasons
By Johnny Hart
|Denver Broncos guard Chris Kuper (73) at Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 11, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)|
For the second time in less than a week, the longest tenured Denver Broncos player has said goodbye to Dove Valley.
A pillar of the Broncos big men for eight years, Kuper never gained any traction after suffering a gruesome dislocated left ankle in the final game of the 2011 regular season.
Kuper would start in six more games for Denver in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, including his one and only playoff start against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round, but the eight-year pro told the Denver Post he didn’t feel like the same player he was earlier in his career.
“The season kind of furthered my idea that this would probably be the end for me,” Kuper said. “I didn't feel good all season. I did my best when I was out there. I just wasn't the same player. And I think that's a big part of my decision, not being the same player.”
After spending his rookie season in 2006 playing behind then-starters Ben Hamilton and Cooper Carlisle, Kuper would move into the a starting role in 2007.
Kuper would play in all but two games from 2007 through 2011, starting all but seven.
But the offensive lineman would continue to see setback after setback involving his dislocated ankle, including an infection and the plate holding together his ankle shattering in 2012.
Kuper underwent surgery last offseason to correct the broken plate and resolve the infection, but the man who also suffered a broken forearm and two broken hands in his career decided enough was enough.
“At certain times in his career he was playing at the highest level you can play at in the NFL,” Kuper’s agent Craig Domann told the Denver Post. “It's unfortunate his career had to come to end because of his past injuries, but it's really in his best interest to move forward.”
Kuper told the Denver Post he wanted to thank the Broncos organization, including owner Pat Bowlen, head coach John Fox and trainer Steve “Greek” Antonopolis, along with all his former coaches and teammates.
How do the Denver Broncos replace Champ Bailey?
By Cecil Lammey
|Former Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey takes a knee during Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
The Broncos went ahead and decided to cut ties with Bailey. It’s a painful decision for Broncos Country, as Bailey has been a long-time fan favorite.
Before Bailey was cut, the Broncos had about $17.9 million available to spend in free agency. Now that they have $10 million more, Denver will have nearly $28 million to spend. With a few more moves, like possibly releasing Chris Kuper and/or Joel Dreessen, the Broncos could have well over $30 million available to them.
Now the question becomes: How do the Broncos replace Bailey?
Looking over the available free agents
, the cornerback position is full of talent. The Broncos will have a nice group to pick from, and they’ll have plenty of money to throw around on the open market.
First and foremost, I expect the Broncos to re-sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He was the team’s best cornerback in 2013, and Rodgers-Cromartie regained the swagger he lost during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.
His contract could pay him around $9 million annually. That price tag is a fair price for a player who was an impact starter for the Broncos in 2013.
Chris Harris is coming back from a partially torn ACL injury he suffered in the playoff game against the San Diego Chargers. His status for the start of training camp is up in the air right now. The Broncos need to add more talent at the cornerback position so they have better depth in the secondary.
One free agent available is Nolan Carroll (Miami Dolphins). He played as a nickel corner with the Dolphins, and he could be a decent spot starter for the Broncos if Harris is delayed in his recovery. Carroll had a $677,000 cap number last year, and his new contract may not pay him more than $2 million to $3 million annually.
Another corner the Broncos could go after is Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans). The 25-year-old played for $1.4 million last year, and his new contract will be much larger. It would be a significant investment for the Broncos to sign him, especially if they spend big money on a safety upgrade like T.J. Ward.
If the Broncos are OK with spending a larger amount, then Sam Shields (Green Bay Packers) could be an option. He’s one of the best young corners in the game today, and he could earn a salary that pays him $6 million to $7 million annually.
How do the Broncos replace Champ Bailey? Replacing a future (likely first-ballot) Hall of Famer is incredibly difficult, but the Broncos need to get younger and faster in the secondary. Any of the players I’ve listed would be fine additions for the Broncos as free agency is set to open up on March 11.