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Best remaining free agents who fit the Broncos

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There’s talent out there. Should John Elway chase it to help fill the remaining holes on the Denver Broncos roster?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
When he played for Belichick Jamie Collins was among the best linebackers in football.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re like me, Broncos football is a bit of an obsession. So with the draft in the rear-view mirror I can’t help but pore over Scotty Payne’s recent article about the Broncos Biggest Remaining Holes and go look at the veterans that could help. Cost is now a significant factor with the Broncos nudging up tight against the cap and carrying a full roster, but there’s veteran talent out there. Does Elway want to his mine for it?

Inside Linebacker

The majority of mock drafts that didn’t peg Drew Lock at 10 had Devin White or Bush going to the Broncos. It could have happened if not for the trade with the Steelers that sent Denver to 20 for an additional second and 2020 third round pick. What’s a bit surprising is how Elway passed on the remaining options, save for Justin Hollins who may get an opportunity after spending most of his collegiate career as an edge rusher.

I’m on record saying Todd Davis and Josey Jewell will look noticeably better in a Fangio defense that doesn’t ask them to turn and run so often, but there’s names out there. Who could upgrade the position?

Jamie Collins

If Collins 2018 tape looked anything like the 2016 film he wouldn’t be available. There was a time when he and Dont’a Hightower looked like the most dangerous linebacker duo in the NFL. That all changed when Bill Belichick traded Collins to Cleveland rather than pay him. The Browns thought enough of the former Patriot to give him a 4-year $50 million contract, but cut ties this spring to save $9.25 million against the cap.

Collins turns 30 in October and will probably need to take a short term prove it contract if he wants to try and cash in one last time. At his peak he’s the kind of interior rusher Fangio looks for in a ‘backer and has tape where he’s a dynamic player in coverage. Rediscovering that form would be key for him going into the 2020 market, which would benefit the Broncos in the here and now.

Rumor has it the Atlanta Falcons are very interested, but they’re among the teams with the last cap space in the league.

Josh Bynes

One of the few beneficiary’s of the Steve Wilks era, Bynes found an opportunity to play significant snaps for just the second time in his career in 2018 and made the most if it. He was on the field for 65% of the Cards defensive plays and finished with 75 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 passes defensed last year. He’s already 29 though, which is one reason teams are probably cool on him.

Darron Lee

Lee is not a free agent, but there were more than a few rumors linking the Broncos to the New York Jet during free agency, and if Mike Maccagnan’s asking price comes down Denver could be very interested with extra 2020 picks to burn.

Defensive Tackle

There’s a fairly decent chance the Broncos feel comfortable with their current crop of defensive lineman and go into camp. Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, and Zach Kerr make for a pretty full room. Still, there may be some want for a nose tackle to man the pivot and there’s talent out there.

Domata Peko

I would think Peko is the most likely free agent to sign before training camp. The 34-year old has said he would like to return to the Broncos and he’s well thought of in the organization. At this point he’d be strictly a run down player and he’s never given much in the passing game, but he’d give Fangio a nose to rotate in for the base 3-4 personnel and could help in short yardage.

Danny Shelton

If Peko is the most probable option, Shelton is the guy I’m most hoping for out of the big bodies. A former first round pick, he wound up with New England after John Dorsey cut ties in 2018. For Denver’s D he’d be a mammoth plugger in the middle of the base 3-4 after being a two gapper for the Patriots last season. He doesn’t provide a whole lot in the passing game, but it’d be significantly more than Domata Peko. The word right now is Miami looks like the favorite as they’re installing a similar defense to what Brian Flores coordinated under Belichick.

Ndamukong Suh

If Peko is the most probable and Shelton’s a realistic “splash” signing, Suh is the pie in the sky. It’s not going to happen unless Suh takes a steep discount. I expect him to do just that for a championship contender if such a deal is out there. Barring that he’ll take the biggest short term option he can.

Swing Tackle

There was some hope in Broncos Country that Elway could find a way to pull Jared Veldheer back into the fold, but with reports that he’s met with New England that seems like a fleeting possibility. Still, there’s a sizable hole left by Veldheer and Billy Turner’s departures. Perhaps the Broncos and Munchak feel comfortable with Elijah Wilkinson as the primary depth, but there’s a couple names to keep an eye on.

Chris Clark

A name many fans should be familiar with. The 33-year old started 27 games for the Broncos in the middle of the Peyton Manning era, but was traded by Elway in August, 2015 when Gary Kubiak took the reigns. He was the starting left tackle for the Carolina Panthers for the majority of last season after Matt Kalil hit IR and didn’t embarrass himself. In the a pinch his experience on both the right and left sides is a big plus.

Donald Penn

Penn asked for his release when the Raiders signed Trent Brown. While he’s nowhere near the player he was back when Oakland had one of the better lines in football, I suspect he’ll return to a competent player away from Tom Cable. Most of his career he started at left tackle, but Gruden’s 1st round pick Kolton Miller forced him to swap sides in 2018.

Others

Sam Acho - Outside Linebacker/ Edge

In the middle of free agency I was among those who thought Aaron Lynch had a pretty decent chance of signing with Denver after following Vic Fangio from San Francisco to Chicago. Alas he resigned with the Bears. I completely missed another linebacker.

Acho signed a 1-year contract with Chicago in 2016 and played almost 500 snaps. After the season the Bears re-upped him for another year, and in 2017 he played 639 snaps for Fangio. His play earned him a two year deal, but things came off the rails when he suffered a season ending injury in October that ended his stay in the Windy City. He finished his time there with 140 tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.

I wouldn’t expect him to be an early signing if Elway and the Broncos are interested. Rather, Acho is a name that may emerge if the current depth at edge fails to impress in the lead up to training camp.

Pierre Garcon - WIDE RECEIVER

This is a move that would signal the Broncos have lost confidence in Emmanuel Sanders and his recovery from a torn Achilles. By and large it’s a pretty nondescript receiver group, but Garcon has had success in the Shanahan style offense Rich Scangarello is looking to install for the 2019 Broncos. I doubt Elway goes here.

Alex Collins, Bilal Powell, & Alfred Morris

Count me among those who did not expect the Broncos to do much at the running back position in the draft. With Phillip Lindsay & Royce Freeman firmly planted atop the depth chart and Devontae Booker locked up for another year, it’s a tough position group to crack. Chances are whoever Elway signs at this point is injury insurance at most. These are the three backs who have had the most success in outside rushing schemes on the market. More likely, the team looks for fresh legs to push Booker and give the Sophomore’s a break in camp.

Tre Boston - SAFETY

Boston is another player who shined in the desert last year. He’s bounced around the league a little after the Panthers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. The only way I see someone like him coming in is if Chris Harris is traded. At that point Elway may look for help in the backfield with Kareem Jackson sliding back to corner. The 6th year veteran could provide quality depth in his stead.

Kayvon Webster - DB

Web spurred speculation that he was set to return to Denver a few weeks before the draft, but alas it’s come to nothing since. This may be little more than a hope among Broncos Country at this point, but the former 3rd rounder has played in multiple systems and has experience on special teams.