With the start of NFL free agency just around the corner, one can imagine how busy Denver Broncos new GM George Paton is evaluating all of the options available and how they would fit the team.
If Paton’s mindset is anything like that of his predecessor in GM Chairman John Elway, he’ll try to support some of the bigger grid holes ahead of the NFL draw. Let’s take a look at the key positions the Broncos will have to address during the legal sabotage period starting March 15th.
Current players under contract:
- Bryce Callahan
- Michael Ojemudia
- Duke Dawson
- Essang Bassey
- Nate Hairston
- Parnell Motley
When the Broncos released AJ Bouye last week, they created a significant hole on the corner spine’s depth chart. Of the players currently under contract, only Callahan and Ojemudia project themselves as potential starters.
Callahan looked strong in 2020 after suffering a foot injury all season before. He’s carrying a decent $ 8.5 million cap hit, but right now he can be signed up as a starter. Ojemudia had a relatively strong rookie performance, and the coaching staff are hoping to see him improve in Year 2.
However, he is not one that I would like to see lined up on No. 1 receivers until more development is seen. Other than those two players, there are not many inspiring names on the selection.
That makes it imperative for Denver to hire a third-party free agent to refresh this group before the trek begins. There are also many intriguing names available on the position, with Patrick Peterson, Darious Williams, Jason Verrett, Xavier Rhodes, Brian Poole and Ronald Darby headlining the group.
Current players under contract:
- Drew Lock
- Brett Rypien
- Jeff Driskel
Yes, the talk of the off-season has so far been centered around upgrading the QB position, but as we speculate on what type of startup upgrade the Broncos will or will not acquire, there remains a big hole in the backup.
Driskel is one of the most likely cut candidates in this roster. He proved he wasn’t a capable backup last season, so it seems like a good idea to move on and free up $ 2.5 million.
And while Rypien has shown flashes of promise he’s still not a QB, you’d have a lot of confidence to get in and win games if your starter dropped out. He also doesn’t add the same value a veteran would add to guiding the incumbent starter Lock.
Expect Paton to remain active in bringing in an extra quarterback this off-season, whether that’s a marked upgrade from Lock (cue the Deshaun Watson pipe dream), or a veteran to push or help the incumbent with his development.
Current players under contract:
- Kareem Jackson
- Chris Cooper
- PJ Locke
The list above is far from inspiring, but of course it lacks the star of the group – Justin Simmons. Simmons will hit unlimited free agency, and you can bet he will be one of Paton’s top priorities to re-sign.
The fact that Simmons is not under contract for the 2021 season is a major reason why safety is on this list. You’d hope both sides will be able to agree on a long-term extension, but we also thought the same last year before he chose to play under the franchise instead. So there are no guarantees.
In addition to bringing back Simmons, there are still major concerns about the position. It’s possible the team will want to bring back Will Parks, who was brought in late in the season after being released by the Eagles.
Assuming Denver can bring back Simmons, the Broncos will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $ 25-30 million on both he and Kareem Jackson. With that amount already allocated to the position, the team is unlikely to spend much on a third security.
However, it’s worth mentioning that Trey Marshall will be an exclusive royalty-free agent, which makes him a near-guarantee that he’ll be tendered and at least get a chance to participate in a training camp. Will Parks, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent.
The most logical move would be to add depth to the concept, which would be sensible anyway when Jackson turns 33 this year.
While the Broncos may not have many major roster holes, they will really need to zoom in on the aforementioned positions to set themselves up for success on the way to the NFL draft.
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