It was just 3 years ago that the Denver Broncos, led by one of the greatest defenses of all time, won the 3rd Super Bowl in franchise history. It’s been an incredibly tough 3 seasons since. It seems like every bad record was broken in the last couple of years. The team is arguably in one of the worst states its been in recent memory and if General Manager John Elway wants to “win now” he’s gonna have to fill a lot of holes through free agency and the draft. Here’s the list of the top 5 needs.
I know, what about the quarterback? Blah, blah, blah. Here’s the thing, Denver has a top corner in the NFL in Chris Harris Jr, but who else do they have? With Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock set to hit the free agent market, that leaves Denver with 3rd round pick Isaac Yiadom, undrafted rookie Linden Stephens, and Craig Mager. They also would have had Brendan Langley, however, several reports from the local media outlets have said that he is going to be transferring to wide receiver in the offseason. This is by far the weakest position on the defense. There’s very little depth, which was a problem last year and there’s almost no proven talent. Isaac Yiadom struggled at the beginning of the year but did show a lot of improvement as the season progressed. He still hasn’t shown the consistency or enough of anything to prove that he could be a number 2 cornerback.
Possible Fits: Bryce Callahan, Jason Verrett, Kayvon Webster, Deandre Baker, Byron Murphy
2. Middle Linebacker
Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, and Antonio Gates are all in the AFC West and Denver has to play them twice every year, even outside of the division, the defense has been torched by tight ends and that all stems from not having a middle linebacker that is able to cover these guys. They’ve got some good looking talent in Todd Davis, who had a tremendous year leading the team in tackles, and 4th round pick Josey Jewell, a tremendous run stopper, but they don’t have a real cover linebacker. The hope was that safety Su’a Cravens could serve in the role of primary tight end cover guy, but that ended with him being a healthy scratch the last few weeks of the season. With new head coach Vic Fangio running the show, he will likely have another chance to prove himself, but it still won’t fill the hole at linebacker.
Possible Fits: C.J Mosley, Kwon Alexander, Devin White
Here it is, the quarterback. It has been a carousel of poor quarterbacks since the retirement of Peyton Manning after Super Bowl 50. They’ve gone through Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler all in one season and Case Keenum for all of last season and the position has been subpar at best. Keenum will be going into the 2nd year of his 2 year contract with Denver, but his tenure with the team just may be coming to an end soon. It’s unofficial now, but when the new league year opens on March 13th, Denver will acquire veteran Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens. Again, another mere bandaid after Keenum. Statistically speaking, Flacco and Keenum are both very similar which makes it equally frustrating that they are both getting overpaid in their production. Once the acquisition of Flacco becomes official, that will cut the team’s salary cap almost in half. So that leaves them with a decision to make: what to do with Case Keenum. They can try to trade him and gain back the salary cap lost with no dead cap or release him which will leave them with a dead cap cost of $10 million. The other option that John Elway touched on at the NFL Combine is that they may keep him, however that will come with one caveat and John put it simply, “Well, there has to be an adjustment of the contract, first of all, and that’s going to be up to him.” That restructure would likely be a major one. We’ll see how that situation turns out, but that likely takes them out of the running for any free agent quarterback, so if they ever decide that they want to draft a quarterback for the future, it’s going to have to be this year or next year. They can no longer wait and just pick up any veteran quarterback they can find.
Possible fits (this year): Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, Jarrett Stidham, Brett Rypien
4. Offensive Line
Newly hired offensive line coach Mike Munchak is going to help immensely. However, they’re still missing pieces on the line. Hopefully, Garrett Bolles can take another step in his development at left tackle, Ron Leary has been very solid at either guard position and will look to come back from injury stronger and continue to be an important veteran piece on the line and that’s about it for sure-fire pieces. Matt Paradis is arguably a top 3 center in the league and is a free agent. He’s expected to be let on to the open market but Denver still has interest in re-signing him. If they can’t, an in-house option could be Connor McGovern who performed serviceably in Paradis’ absence due to injury. The right side of the line is unknown. As of now, McGovern is the right tackle and performed well there. The team is working on extending the starting right tackle Jared Veldheer, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t look to sign a younger option or upgrade. There are several options in the draft and free agency that can all be potential upgrades this year or in the future.
Possible fits: Trent Brown, Ja’wuan James, Connor McGovern, Dalton Risner
5. Tight End
It’s not so much a talent problem as it is a longevity factor. Currently, the two tight ends on the roster both missed their rookie year. Jake Butt has torn his achilles twice since becoming a Bronco. Troy Fumagalli missed his entire rookie campaign with a sports hernia. Free agent Jeff Heuerman missed his rookie season as well. There’s a lot of potential talent, but no real stats to prove it. Jake Butt was a potential first-round pick if it hadn’t been for a torn ACL during a bowl game and it was expected that he would play like a top talent. While there is potential for these guys to be really good, we just have no idea and I fully expect Denver to go and pick someone up either in the draft or free agency.
Possible fits: Demetrius Harris, C.J. Uzomah, Noah Fant, Caleb Wilson
There are a lot of holes on this team and they are going to have to hit in the draft just like last year and nail their free agent signings. While they probably should be in rebuild mode, John Elway is intent on being “win-now” so he better hit on everything and put together the talent that this team needs to get back to the playoffs.