This is my wish list, not what I think the Denver Broncos will do, but rather what I would do if John Elway suddenly gave me full control of your favorite franchise. You may think differently and I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments... so without further ado.
Well, reports are already out that the Broncos signed Case Keenum.
This isn’t because I think Keenum can’t play well for the Broncos, he could. I just think the cost of this move is going to be prohibitive if the team intends to surround a rookie QB with talent. At the time I’m writing this (4AM EST) the numbers aren’t out, but it looks like a short term deal and Keenum’s value hovered between $18 M-$22ish?
That’s a lot of dough.
I would have reached out to Brock Osweiler, feel out the trade market on Lynch and Siemian and settle in with one of them as the bridge for next season. If for some reason Osweiler refuses to sign and there are worthwhile trade markets for the other two? Maybe Teddy Bridgewater if he’d sign a prove it kind of deal. This isn’t altogether unlikely given his last two seasons and logical desire to prove himself worthy of a serious money in the near future. All reports suggest he’s a great locker room presence and a team player, which is perfect for the plan to draft a QB at 5 to eventually hand the keys to.
Update: Denver disagrees. Case Keenum is reportedly going to sign with the Broncos to start free agency.
I wouldn’t add anyone to the stable from free agency, but rather look at the draft. I’m not a fan of paying premium dollars for the wear and tear another team put on a back’s legs, and free agency by it’s very nature typically provides backs who are nearing the end of their prime and looking for a decent deal while they can still cash in. Hard pass here.
In a related note: While rumors have circulated that CJ Anderson’s deal leaves him a possible cap casualty (he’s tied for the 9th richest deal at the position currently) he’s a proven veteran, quality locker room guy and someone we could move from after the draft depending on how the cards fall. He can be cut anytime over the remainder of his contract without there being a hit to the cap.
Here is the first position that would really benefit from a veteran infusion of talent. Whether it be a tight end or receiver, the Broncos 2017 quarterbacks all had an issue with the offenses options behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. 3 of the 6 pass catchers with 20 or more receptions on the season were running backs, which is a testament to both the state of the protection issues and the targets being provided to the passers.
While anyone would love to add a high upside talent like Allen Robinson, it’s unlikely he’ll fit into the roster and cap situation as a third receiver. I would kick the tires on Terrelle Pryor, who really flashed with the Browns and would provide Sanders the flexibility to move into the slot in 3 receiver sets. His 6’4 frame and straight-line speed could punish defenses for devoting too much attention to Thomas or Sanders and last season with Washington likely dampens his market. Barring that, Cameron Meredith could be worth a look if he doesn’t resign with the Bears, he was out last season but fits the profile, age and probably cost of a third receiver with number 2 upside.
While he’s less physically imposing, Marqise Lee remains my favorite free agent receiver. His pro career has had him catching passes from Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, yet he was still more efficient than names like Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson and Jarvis Landry a year ago. He had 211 catches over the last two seasons and provides inside outside flexibility that allows Musgraves to outmaneuver defensive coordinators.
I love Butt as much as the next guy but believe it’d be wise to add a veteran. If the Detroit Lions are asking for too much for Eric Ebron, there are two names that intrigue in free agency. The first is an obvious one with Jimmy Graham heading to the open market. The former Seattle Seahawk was the most dangerous receiver inside the 20 yard line a year ago, where he scored all 10 of his touchdowns. Rumors persist that he’ll look for a reunion with Drew Brees in New Orleans, and there is some talk of him signing with the Green Bay Packers but if he’s available he leads this list.
After Graham comes Tyler Eifert, though he does come with questions. Eifert has never played a full 16 game and could have an inflated market due to his 13 touchdown 2015 season. One last name to consider would be Trey Burton, the Super Bowl hero who’s likely to cause a bidding war. The best news for me would be his signing with Detroit so Ebron’s price is lowered.
While Justin Pugh would be a huge upgrade at the right tackle position (at this point, a bag of sand could be) his cost in a very bare market leaves me cool on the former Giant. The same goes for Nate Solder, even though the idea of an average left tackle shoving the disappointing Bolles to right is intriguing.
Beyond those two, it’s mostly guards and Chris Hubbard. For what that’s worth, I would call Hubbard the minute the tampering period opens (officially, anyways) and keep in his ear ‘til he signed on the dotted line. He played 10 games last year for the Steelers in place of Marcus Gilbert and the team hardly noticed the difference. He’s young enough to improve along with the rest of the unit. (he’s played in 39 games and is barely a year older than Bolles).
As for the guards, Josh Sitton leads the list since Andrew Norwell’s going to be so cost prohibitive. Jack Mewhort, Zach Fulton, Josh Berger, and Jahri Evans would also get interest. Any of the above would be an upgrade over what Garcia has done for Denver. This group is a priority since a strong offensive line is so vital to easing a rookie QBs adjustment to the NFL.
Another area where the market is mostly bare, but a few guys make flyer status. I think Tyrunn Walker is vastly underrated and would be a good depth signing. Pernell McPhee could be an interesting pass rush piece if the price is right. He falls squarely under “edge” player, rather than a pure DL or LB but could be a dangerous weapon if he stays healthy and Woods deployed him correctly.
The only headliner here that’s really worth a look for Denver is Dontari Poe. He could be an upgrade at the nose, but there will be a long line of teams trying to acquire his services. Muhammad Wilkerson is another big name, but one that seems too costly from both a cap and risk perspective to be worth the time. Ndamukong Suh, designated a June 1st cut is going to be able to name his price so he’s another hard pass.
Word is that Todd Davis is looking to stay Denver. If he leaves, it’s likely that the next running mate for Brandon Marshall just left the NCAA. Of the veterans available, few excite.
For the right price, Paul Posluszny would be a good 4th backer to throw out on running downs. He’s older, but solid in all facets of the game. He’s leaving the Jaguars for much the same reason Aqib Talib just left Denver, a younger backer (Myles Jack) is ready to shine.
Avery Williamson (of the Titans) and Demario Davis (Jets) would also be worthwhile guys to take a look at. Cost is a big question, but both would be upgrades on Davis in coverage, even if neither is as good against the run.
If the offensive line is priority 1A and B, then the defensive backfield is 1C. As I’ve alluded to time and again, the No Fly Zone was susceptible to passes to any target beyond the primary receivers last year. The Broncos were a bottom 4 defense against both tertiary receivers and tight ends, and below average defending passes to running backs.
A comeback year from Brandon Marshall will help in some areas, but losing Talib to the Rams and cutting T.J. Ward (8th in coverage efficiency, per PFF) before the 2017 season leaves the secondary in dire straits. Luckily, the position looks like a buyers’ market this spring.
Cornerbacks are typically pretty expensive and since Chris Harris’ best position is actually the slot, finding a veteran addition worth both the cost and roster fit may be tricky. There is one name that’s worth a phone call though: Terrance Newman. The 15-year veteran was outstanding for Minnesota and has the kind of flexibility that would fit in seamlessly with Harris and Bradley Roby. At his age, father time is a threat but that could be a boon at the negotiating table.
As for the rest of the targets here: safeties for days. Lamarcus Joyner is the dream, though he’s unlikely to leave Los Angeles and Wade Phillips. After him, Eric Reid offers the kind of flexibility that can’t be denied. He is a plus defender in the slot, against the run and in deep coverage, and he’s only 26. His support for Colin Kaepernick and the protest against police brutality may leave his market diminished too and I’d be all for snapping him up. He’s a player.
After Reid, Morgan Burnett could be a fit, though he had a bit of a down year in 2017. He offers a similar toolkit to Reid, but is weaker in coverage and a stronger run defender. Tyvon Branch has had issues with injuries but is adept at shutting down tight ends.
Ricardo Allen is more of a free safety, but if the coaching staff feels comfortable with Simmons closer to the line of scrimmage and using a cover 3 look, he’d help. Bradley McDougald could be a decent fit if the Joseph and Woods feel Simmons’ future is at the deep role and the aim is to primarily use a Cover 2 shell.
My 5 Dream additions
- Chris Hubbard - offensive tackle
- Josh Sitton - offensive guard
- Eric Reid - Safety
- Marqise Lee - Wide Receiver
- Tyler Eifert - Tightend
I know that few of the names above have national appeal like a Jimmy Graham, Kirk Cousins or Tyrann Mathieu. They also will cost less which means more quality additions. Remember the name Jairus Byrd, as he was just one of the many free agent Earth shakers to make waves on the opening day of free agency before he ultimately disappointed his new fan base.