It is safe to say that the Denver Broncos are trending in the right direction and have a lot at their disposal for the 2020 NFL off-season as they have lots of cap space, the ability to free up additional cap space and get out from under heavy contracts, 12 draft picks, an incredibly young team, and a franchise quarterback. Plus, they will be getting one of their best players back in 2020 with the return of Bradley Chubb.
This offseason will be one that has the potential to get the team back into the postseason if executed correctly. The Broncos own the 15th overall selection in the 2020 NFL draft, and they have one second-round selection, three third-round selections, and two fourth-round selections. With seven picks in the top half of the draft, they can certainly draft players who will contribute next season.
Before addressing the draft and the strategy going into it, the team has eight players that served as starters or major contributors hitting free agency. The biggest of them is breakout player Justin Simmons, and the team is likely to strike a big deal with him. If not, they will franchise tag him, but he will certainly be back with the Broncos in 2020.
The defensive line will most likely be losing multiple players as Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, and Adam Gotsis will all be heading into free agency.
Wolfe has expressed a strong desire to stay in Denver and may even take a team-friendly contract, but the problem is that his injury history has gotten to the point where he’s unreliable for a 16-game season. In 12 games in 2019, Wolfe had seven sacks (the most in his career), 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss, a forced fumble and 12 quarterback hits.
Shelby Harris had a career year with 16 games started, 49 tackles, six sacks, a forced fumble, and lead the league in passes defended at the line of scrimmage, not to mention the pass batted down to secure the win against the Raiders in the season finale.
Finally, Adam Gotsis has high run-stopping ability and could come at a discount for depth if the team sticks with him.
Likely one or two of these players will be back in Denver depending on the team friendliness of their contracts.
Other major names are Chris Harris, Jr., Connor McGovern, Will Parks, and Jeff Heuerman. Many believe McGovern will be the only player with a chance to return to the team.
Now comes the fun part: getting out from under a couple of monster contracts that will free up additional space to start fishing with in free agency
Joe Flacco will most likely be gone, as it’s Drew Lock’s team and you cannot have a backup quarterback absorbing $20.25 million of cap space. Cutting Flacco will require a $13.6 million dead cap hit, but will free up $10 million in salary cap space. The Broncos basically have no choice but to cut him. If he’s physically unable to perform, he will be awarded an additional $1.2 million as per the collective bargaining agreement.
Ron Leary will also likely be gone and that will free up $8.15 million. His time with the Broncos has been injury-plagued and forgettable after signing a monster contract to leave Dallas. Leary never played 16 games for Denver as he had a major Achilles injury before being plagued by penalty issues in 2019. It is time to move on and backfill him in either free agency or the draft.
The Broncos have a team option on Todd Davis to pick up his $5 million contract for 2020 and it is currently unclear if the team will pick it up. Denver found an absolute gem in Alexander Johnson and could very well look into upgrading from Davis, but that contract isn’t completely unreasonable for a team captain and team leader in tackles.
The problem with Davis is that he doesn’t do anything flashy. He’s consistent, he’s a good run defender, and he’s a good team guy, but had no interceptions, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries, no sacks, one quarterback hit and only six tackles for loss on the season. At $5 million, he’s the 12th-highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL and the names above and below him in terms of pay make his contract feel a little overpriced.
The 2020 free agency class for inside linebackers includes some very enticing players such as Kyle Van Noy, Cory Littleton, Joe Schobert, and Blake Martinez. Reggie Ragland and Danny Trevathan are also some wild cards that could bolster the Broncos’ depth.
The biggest positions of need to address in the draft or free agency are wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback, and defensive line. As previously mentioned, inside linebacker could also use an upgrade, either through free agency or the draft.
Lastly, here are some free agents to keep an eye on:
Amari Cooper – WR
Leonard Williams – DE
Ronald Darby – CB
Breshad Perriman – WR
Jack Conklin – RT
Trae Waynes – CB
Jordan Phillips – DT
Robby Anderson – WR
Andrus Peat – OG
Logan Ryan – CB
Be on the lookout for my four-round mock draft simulation soon and see what players will be available through the simulator and who the Broncos could draft.