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Film Study: What should the Broncos do this offseason?

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An early look at the coaches, free agents and draftees Broncos Country should keep an eye on.

NFL: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
It’s unlikely to happen, but Bridgewater could be a big upgrade over Case Keenum.
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With the Broncos falling to 3-6 and the bye week to stew over the clock management issues that haunted them against the Texans, I thought today would be a good time to step back and look at the names to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the 2018 season. Remember, of course that a ton can change between November and January in the NFL, but with Denver all but playing out the string it’s time to start looking ahead.

The Coaches

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
If Baltimore lets him go, Elway should have Harbaugh on a flight the day this season ends.
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It’s a foregone conclusion that Vance Joseph is coaching for his next job so the candidate to replace him will define the Broncos 2019 offseason, for good or bad. It will mark Elway’s 4th head coaching hire since he took the reigns following the Josh McDaniels’ era. In many ways this coming hire will impact his legacy as much or more than the John Fox one he started out with. The farther Denver gets from Super Bowl 50, the brighter the spotlight on Elway’s errors. He needs to get this hire right, or the critics calling for his own ouster will only get louder.

John Harbaugh

There is no doubt that Harbaugh has to be one of the top names to consider, if he’s available. The current Baltimore Ravens head coach, he boasts a .580 winning percentage and owns one Super Bowl ring thanks to Rahim Moore a memorable playoff run in 2013. Additionally he and Kubiak have the kind of connection that makes a reunion likely.

Harbaugh does come with a number of questions. The Ravens are currently undergoing a longer playoff drought than Denver, which is why he may be available. Personally it looks to me like Harbaugh could be the best name for what Denver needs out of next years coaching carousel and they’d be the beneficiary if Ozzie Newsome’s heir Eric Decosta seeks to hire his own coach.

The Ravens have been a top 10 defense by DVOA in all but one season Harbaugh’s coached the team.

Matt LaFleur

Worked with both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Reputation for a being creative strategist and could probably eek some degree of consistency out of the quarterback position. This year he’s making the best of his first opportunity to play call with an injured Marcus Mariota and one of the least talented receiving corps in football. The Titans O has been pretty bad this year, but Monday night showed a glimpse of what this team could do if Mariota truly is back to 100%.

LaFleur would be the closest thing the Broncos could get to a Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay.

Dave Taub

Almost got the job over Vance the last time Elway hired a coach. He has zero head coaching experience but has been a very successful special teams coordinator over the years. My hope is Denver steers clear as I give a lot of credit for Taub’s success to Devin Hester and Tyreek Hill.

Jim Schwartz

Former Head Coaching experience with the Detroit Lions where Motown did better than you remember (I worked in radio for a Lions station during this time, I remember.) Since then he’s been a DC for the Bills and Eagles and both have been quite good under his guidance. He’s a dark horse, but I could see him as a pleasant surprise if Elway went back to the defensive well.

Schwartz utilizes a wide 9 defensive front that could be a real terror with Chubb and Von.

Another name that should draw Elway’s interest is Eric Bieniemy, the 1st year offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. While the play calling duties fall to Andy Reid, the Broncos could do a lot worse than steal some magic from a division rival’s historically good offense.

There are other names as well, but the above candidates look like the early favorites. Others include Mike McCarthy who could be available as Aaron Rodgers has grown tired of carrying him. John DeFlippo was considered a hot coaching candidate for what he did with Nick Foles in Philly last year, but the first year Vikings Coordinator has been a bit underwhelming with a talented offense so far. I doubt Lincoln Riley or Bruce Arians goes anywhere but Cleveland to work with Baker Mayfield. Jim Bob Cooter may intrigue but has a questionable past. Then, of course, I have a better chance of coaching the Broncos than Josh McDaniels.

The Free Agents

As of right now, it looks like the Broncos will have somewhere between $48 and about $55 million cap space going into next offseason. That’s before they resign anyone (and the Broncos only have 35 players under contract for 2019 as of now), but if Elway wants to add veteran players, he can.

It’s kind of tough to project the cuts that will happen so far out, but here’s a list of the best free agents that could patch holes this year’s team has shown through 9 games.

Defensive Backs

LaMarcus Joyner

Earl Thomas

Kareem Jackson

Tyran Mathieu

It’s a testament to how good Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have been at harassing quarterbacks that the Broncos D ranks 4th by DVOA. Anyone who has watched games this year will tell you that after Chris Harris, the secondary is a complete sieve. That’s what makes their current #1 overall pass defense rating absolutely bonkers.

It doesn’t look like there will be many corners hitting free agency next year that could really change Denver’s performance against perimeter receivers, in fact Bradley Roby may very well see himself the beneficiary of a bare market. If Elway is serious about upgrading the defense this offseason, the best chance to do so would be finding a replacement for Darian Stewart in hopes that it could solidify the Fly Zone against deep passes once more. Joyner is a converted corner who has really hit his stride under Wade Phillips but may be an odd man out with the Rams current cap situation, like the Honeybadger, he’s undersized but would bring a legitimate playmaking presence back to the Fly Zone. Kareem Jackson has proven this season that he can serve as a Swiss army knife, something that could do wonders for the Broncos. Earl Thomas has a problematic injury history and seems destined for Dallas, but could be a huge short term addition.

A player like Earl Thomas would elevate the entire defense.

Offensive Linemen

Ryan Kalil

Mike Iupati

Andy Levitre

Rodger Saffold

Bobby Massie

On its head, the Broncos offensive line hardly needs premium cap space allocated for it, as prior to Matt Paradis injury the Denver line has been dominant in the run game this season. Of course, a fractured leg with ligament damage raises long term questions for the stalwart just as he’s about to hit free agency. Over The Cap expects Paradis to command big money, which could push him outside of the Broncos’ budget. Beyond Denver’s center, the line has questions, especially when it comes to pass blocking. Garett Bolles has been a disappointment at left tackle and Ronald Leary is hurt again. Unfortunately, barring some additional names entering the market Jared Veldheer and his injury questions may be the only decent move Elway can hope to make in the 2019 veteran market.

Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater

I was calling for Denver to take a chance on Teddy last year, but knew then what I’ll say now: John Elway won’t sign him. Unless the Broncos find themselves in position to draft a franchise signal caller 2019 will probably be year 2 of the Case Keenum era.

The Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater for $6 million this offseason. He’ll make a lot more in 2019.

The Draft

It’s a bit of a fool’s errand to guess who the Broncos will target in next year’s draft right now, but it looks unlikely that they’ll finish poorly enough to have a chance at the premier quarterbacks in this year’s class.

In order to get an idea of what players could be available in the 8-20 range of the draft I took a peek at The Draft Network’s past few Mock Drafts. They release one every Monday and if you’re itching to learn about the 2019 draftees I strongly recommend their content.

Here’s a list of the players TDN has mocked to Denver over the last month:

Alabama OT Jonah Williams

Alabama LB Mack Wilson

West Virginia QB Will Grier

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham

While I haven’t dug into college tape enough to really vouch for a guy just yet, a couple of other prospects that intrigue me are Jeffrey Simmons of Mississippi State, Raekwon Davis of Alabama, Greedy Williams of LSU and Rashan Gary of Michigan.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona
It’s probably folly to hope Elway finds a way to land Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.
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What do you think Broncos Country?