Vic Fangio and the Broncos’ first year coaching staff now have their “moment” to rally and build around. At least from where I’m sitting, it looks like there’s very little way the Drew Lock era could have gotten off to a better start. So let’s ride the high and go through a scenario where we build a 2020 roster to capitalize on the most valuable commodity in sports: a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract.
According to Over The Cap, the Broncos will enter the new league year with more than $60 million in cap room even before they cut bait with Joe Flacco, which is a bit of a foregone conclusion at this point. There’s also a distinct possibility that Ron Leary could be let go in order to create another $8.5 million in cap space.
Long story short, we got money. Let’s spend it.
Chris Harris Jr.
DeVante Bausby - RFA
For this part of the mock I’m going to try and follow a conservative optimistic paradox of sorts. If the Broncos finish 3-2 over better over Drew Lock’s five games I could see an attempt at resigning all of the big names. Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s been a number of hints about Justin Simmons being the priority and I think he sticks around on a market setting deal. Everyone else is a bigger question.
Strap held out last summer and had ESPN’s Josina Anderson going to social media to say “pay me or trade me” and was the subject of numerous countless trade rumors up until the deadline this year. He seems likely to test the market, but I think he’s enjoyed his time with the Broncos enough that he’d give them an honest chance to match any deal.
Connor McGovern seems to be the biggest unknown, and when I spoke with Jason Fitzgerald at Over The Cap he seemed convinced that the starting center would leave for greener pastures. I’m not so sure. He’s played really well after a couple of shaky snaps early, brings veteran leadership, and his positional flexibility could have a lot of value if the front office moves on from Leary.
Lastly, there’s the D-line. This marks the first real opportunity for Vic Fangio to begin shaping the front end of the defense in his image, so it’s no guarantee either of the Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis trio returns. I think one will, and Harris’ market seems to be more affordable than Wolfe’s at this moment, though if you want to swap them out I’m not going to fight you on it.
The last couple of offseasons John Elway’s plan for the veteran market has been to provide the coaching staff a manageable two deep roster. It isn’t always successful, but if you look at what he did last year for example it was with that sort of goal in mind. I expect that to continue this March.
What that means is the Broncos will chase help at right guard if Leary isn’t retained, will chase a cornerback if Harris moves on, etc.
Jack Doyle was a name I had circled before he resigned with the Indianapolis Colts last week. Which is kind of the trap of getting too wrapped up on free agents so early. Even still, three of the interesting names that intrigue me this far out:
Byron Jones - CB - Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys scheme is a bit different from Fangio’s and I’d want to take a look over his tape at length. He looks likely to test the market with Jerry Jones set on paying out his nose for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper this spring and profiles as one of the best corners on the right side of 30.
Brandon Scherff - G - Washington
With the way Dan Snyder’s handled the team in recent seasons it wouldn’t surprise me if one of his lone stars works his way out of town. He’s 27 and would slide right in as the starting right guard.
Arik Armstead - DL - San Francisco 49ers
He’s a bit of a bust considering he came into the league as the 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft and hasn’t ever really lived up to that pedigree, but he’s a stalwart run stopper and offers the kind of positional flexibility Fangio wants for his defensive line. If the cost prevents both Wolfe and Harris from returning, Armstead would be a pretty decent role player to take up some of those snaps.
1. Tristan Wirfs - Offensive Line - Iowa
It came down to Derrick Brown or Wirfs. Somehow both slid to me with Trevon Diggs and a couple of other risers going high in the NFL draft. In this scenario I went with Wirfs because I expect to have at least one returning iDL back from this years roster and both linebackers. If all of the buzz is true, the Hawkeye could step in as a day one starter at right guard and eventually slide over to tackle if Garett Bolles improvement is a mirage or Ja’Wuan James does not pan out.
Current top 10 OT rankings in 2020 NFL Draft:— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) December 5, 2019
1. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
2. Andrew Thomas, UG
3. Jedrick Wills, Alabama
4. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
5. Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
6. Trey Adams, UW
7. Lucas Niang, TCU
8. Austin Jackson, USC
9. Matthew Peart, UCONN
10. Josh Jones, UH
2. Javon Kinlaw - Defensive Line - South Carolina
I did not expect the Gamecock to fall this far. He was number 10 on my first Way-Too-Early Big Board and I had this to say about his game:
Offers inside/outside versatility and an enticing burst off the snap. If you watched Georgia get upset by South Carolina, you know full well what he can do to the interior.
Long story short, I ran to the podium.
If you're Denver and this is the board at 11, would you take someone or trade down:— Brandon Miller (@BMiller4164) December 7, 2019
3A: Cameron Dantzler - Defensive Back - Mississippi State
Versatile cornerback who brings experience on the back end. I still need to watch him at length to feel more comfortable about his fit in the Fangio system, but at 6’1 and 190 lbs with his athleticism, the upside is really tantalizing.
My answer to the same question:— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 16, 2019
Houston OT Josh Jones
Fresno St. OG Netane Muti
Missouri DT Jordan Elliott
Mississippi St. CB Cameron Dantzler
XFL S Kenny Robinson Jr. https://t.co/tlbi76LnQX
3B: Antoine Winfield Jr. - Defensive Back - Minnesota
More than once over the last couple weeks I’ve had members of Broncos’ Country ask why Denver would need to look at a safety in this upcoming class. Even looking beyond Simmons and Jackson (who should return) it’s clear that the depth is a question mark. Remember when the Fangio defense was a complete sieve against the run? That’s when Jackson played the slot.
The other big reason a player like the Golden Gopher could make a ton of sense is how he could contribute to the nickel defense. It’s no guarantee Bryce Callahan returns to health or Duke Dawson improves upon his first season. Fangio’s said the slot corner essentially has linebacker responsibilities and Winfield brings a combination of reliable coverage and run support with flashy ball skills.
Antoine Winfield Jr— Chris Mallee (@mallee_chris_24) December 4, 2019
4A: Devin Duvernay - Receiver - Texas
What Drew Lock did against the Houston Texans suggests receiver may not be as big a need as some may think from the outside looking in. Even still, it’d be nice to find an upgrade at the Diontae Spencer role in the offense: a motion guy who threatens the defense before the snap and offers RAC and vertical speed after.
He’s not a finished product as a route runner and may struggle with more physical defensive backs, but he’s a tough SOB who brings reliable hands, obviously the most important trait a pass catcher can bring into the league.
75-yard touchdown reception by Devin Duvernay. #PurpleReign pic.twitter.com/6snSC7ZDIf— Isengard Wizards ♂️ (@IsengardWizards) November 30, 2019
4B: Samuel Cosmi - Offensive Line - Texas
More of a pure left tackle type than Wirfs. Cosmi will probably need a year to add weight and strength to really hit his stride in the NFL, but this far down the board it was too tempting to pass up on giving Mike Munchak two talented prospects to rebuild the offensive line. “Worst” case scenario Bolles makes a jump and Cosmi offers better depth than the team had this year.
5: Jordan Elliot - Defensive Line - Missouri
Even with Kinlaw on board there’s a real need for beef with Gotsis on his way out the door and the current issues: minus Derek Wolfe the Texans found plenty of success running the ball against Denver’s undersized front.
Elliot will need time to develop but offers Fangio a raw Eddie Goldman type. A toolsy 320+ lb behemoth.
6: Clyde Edwards-Helaire - Running Back - LSU
Did you know Theo Riddick is a member of the 2019 Broncos? I know, it’s hard to believe. Way back in camp Rich Scangarello made multiple comments about how he likes trying to isolate running backs on linebackers in the passing game.
All this is to say a passing game back makes a lot of sense for the 2020 wish list and when I was studying Lloyd Cushenberry III last Friday I couldn’t help but notice number 22. He’d look awful nice as a third down option for Lock.
Clyde Edwards-Hellaire just carried the whole Bama team and called GAME!— MyBookie Sportsbook (@betmybookie) November 10, 2019
Burrow will get all the headlines but this dude was the key today. Over 100 yards, 3 TDs and runs like this one.... all day long! #GeauxTigerspic.twitter.com/9FSlOvurmZ
7: Khaleke Hudson - X - Michigan
He’s a tweener type who will probably make his hay as a special teamer in the NFL. In some schemes he’d potentially fit as a safety who lines up close to the line of scrimmage. For the Broncos he’d probably fit eventually as a slot guy and or nickel backer. Looks better in the open field than in coverage right now.
Turns out beating the #Texans didn't kill the #Broncos #NFLDraft hopes.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 9, 2019
What do you think? pic.twitter.com/aUiVZJlUit
Your Broncos’ Links
Game ball worthy performances in Denver Broncos 38-24 win over Texans - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos put on a good old fashioned butt whipping on the Houston Texans in front of their own crowd to move to 5-8 on the season.
Denver Broncos 3rd & long: rewriting the narrative - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos have experienced a sudden turnaround over the last two weeks. A lot of that has to do with third down efficiency.
A huge Broncos beatdown means a fired up Broncos’ Twitter after the 38-24 victory - Mile High Report
Following the inspired performances of Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Kareem Jackson, Broncos Country couldn’t get enough of the win.
The race for the AFC 2-seed is alive - Barnwell on what’s next in the 2019 NFL playoffs, who’s involved
The battle for the 6-seed
11. Denver Broncos (5-8) Chance to make the playoffs: 0.1%
Audibles at the Line: Week 14 | Football Outsiders
It is really too bad Drew Lock was hurt for most of the first half of the season, because Denver might have a quarterback.
NFL Week 14 Team of the Week | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
TE NOAH FANT, DENVER BRONCOS Give Fant room to work and look out. He caught all four of his targets against the Texans, including both of his contested opportunities. His early score on a post route was probably the most impressive play he’s made all season in terms of projecting forward. He demolished the defender at the line of scrimmage and adjusted back to the football through contact.
NEW POD! NEW FRIEND! @JoRo_NFL joins us to talk Drew Lock, his love of football, Korean Chicken wings and much more! https://t.co/blOn5zDjAj— The Endzone Podcast (@endzonepod) December 10, 2019
Rashaad Penny suffers torn ACL, out for season - NFL.com
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny will miss the rest of the 2019 season, coach Pete Carroll announced. He suffered a torn ACL in a loss to the Rams, Ian Rapoport reports.
Ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy eyes NFL return in 2020 - NFL.com
Tom Pelissero sits down at home with former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, a man preparing for the second NFL chance he says his entire family needs right now.
Bengals: NFL investigating if Patriots filmed sideline - NFL.com
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Monday that the NFL is investigating if the Patriots had a videographer film their sideline during Sunday’s game in Cleveland.
Bill Belichick says he has nothing to do with taping at Bengals game – ProFootballTalk
Patriots coach Bill Belichick says he was not involved in the issue that arose on Sunday when a Bengals employee reported to NFL Security that a Patriots employee appeared to be filming the Bengals’ coaches.
Packers activate Jared Veldheer, waive Adam Pankey – ProFootballTalk
The Packers activated offensive lineman Jared Veldheer to the 53-player roster Monday, Field Yates of ESPN reports. The team waived offensive lineman Adam Pankey to make room. The Packers claimed Veldheer off waivers from the Patriots on Nov. 27.
Kitchens: Baker Mayfield shouldn’t address other players’ injuries – ProFootballTalk
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield raised eyebrows around the league on Sunday when he said that wide receiver Odell Beckham’s sports hernia injury “wasn’t handled right in our training room” after Beckham got hurt this summer.
Report: Odell Beckham told other players “come get me” in October – ProFootballTalk
Remember the vague possibility that the Browns could have traded receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before the October 29 deadline? Beckham apparently wanted it to be more than a vague possibility.