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Broncos’ Country Week 13 Mailbag: By fans for fans

Tackling your questions about Von Miller, Alexander Johnson, Mark Barron, the draft, free agency, and more.

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The Broncos find themselves caught between the Kendall Hinton game and a primetime showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. After Kansas City, Denver closes out the final month of their season with the Panthers, Bills, Chargers, and Raiders. If they can’t finish the stretch 4-1 or better it will mark the fourth straight season with a losing record. Many find themselves frustrated at suffering through the Broncos’ longest losing streak since 1975. It is the worst streak in my lifetime.

In recent years there’s been a persistent swirl in Broncos’ Country that John Elway needs to tear everything down in rebuild. Ever since I started writing for Mile High Report in 2018 it’s been a hot topic. Even as the Broncos did just about everything a rebuilding team does. They traded franchise players like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for draft picks while restarting across every position on offense save left tackle. They brought on a new coaching staff. Over this period the only player who clearly remained untouchable? Von Miller. Even he found himself sweating the 2019 trade deadline.

All things considered, it isn’t at all surprising the Broncos have struggled through this season. It’s not an excuse to accept that a new offensive staff and remarkably young offense losing a preseason to a pandemic isn’t a recipe for success. Injuries only derailed any hope at something resembling normalcy. To date Courtland Sutton and Von Miller have combined to play 31 snaps this season. For comparison’s sake, Justin Simmons has played 823.

The Kendall Hinton game will go down in NFL history. There is no doubt. While it will remain a pockmark on Elway’s tenure and mark the lowpoint of the Bowlen’s ownership, life must go on.

To help all of us do that, I wanted to take a closer look at pressing questions you find yourselves with regarding our favorite franchise. As it always has, Mile High Report is a blog by fans for fans. We’re in this together.

Who would you like to see us draft if we get a top 10 pick? (No QB, in this scenario we keep Lock for 2021) -J.Smith2.0

I’ll admit I’ve done less draft prep this year as compared to last because the Broncos needs remain so fluid. Until last week it looked like left tackle may become a 2021 need and safety remains a huge question mark, for example.

With that said, I believe smart teams invest heavily at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, and the secondary positions. These positions are what you could call “floor” units. Star players will always make a difference in any of them, but the weakest links are what dictate how games will go. Coordinators are paid a ton of money to isolate and exploit mismatches. This year we’ve seen what happens when your center struggles, for example.

Questions about the cap and Justin Simmons means the Broncos could have needs along the defensive line, secondary, and perhaps even edge. At present, I consider boundary cornerback another position that could use a top tier prospect if possible. Regardless of where the Broncos fall in the draft, Elway’s best path forward is to prioritize the best players available. If he isn’t chasing a quarterback, it’d be wise to consider the haul in a trade down.

All this to say, I love DeVonta Smith. Micah Parsons is intriguing because how he’d be able to blend what Fangio’s done in recent years with the pressure packages we’re seeing this season. Kwity Paye and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah both intrigue me because of how Fangio could deploy them.

Does the Jeff Bezos talk hold any weight? - Mudball Matt

I doubt it, but you never know.

When is Von coming back? Think we’ll keep Gordon and Bouye next year? When is AJ getting his extension? Seen any improvement from Cush? -Mike Agnew

  • If Miller doesn’t practice next week in some capacity he probably misses the season.
  • It would floor me if Gordon’s gone right now. I don’t know how the Broncos feel about A.J. Bouye’s play, though I do know moving him would free up a little more than $13 million. Demands elsewhere on the roster could impact his status.
  • Alexander Johnson is a restricted free agent next year and I believe he’ll received a 2nd round tender.
  • I’m excited to see how the running game continues to expand. Cushenberry’s drinking from a firehose this year and has a long way to go, but the Miami game was very encouraging.
The Broncos were devastating on pin and pulls in week 11.

What do we target in free agency? - Caleb

It all depends on the plan with the current roster, really. I spoke with Nick Korte recently and by his estimate the Broncos could have as little as $11 million. If they decide to, they could also create a little over $35 million vs. $2,882,353 in dead cap by moving Jurrell Casey, A.J. Bouye, and Kareem Jackson.

Unless the Broncos decide to pursue a first round quarterback, it makes too much sense to prioritize a veteran backup in 2021. Regardless of performance, Drew Lock’s injury history demands it now, unless the coaching staff believes Brett Rypien or Jeff Driskel could step in and play over an extended period.

The 2020 market was a strange game of musical chairs that left former starters like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston taking peanuts. Right now it looks like Covid will just about bust a chunk of the team’s cap situations. There remains an outside possibility either or both could have to once again. It’s also possible Ryan Fitzpatrick could make the Broncos his 9th NFL team.

Outside of quarterback, it’d make too much sense to bring in a veteran tackle if Demar Dotson isn’t retained. So much so that I hope Elway finds a way to keep him in the fold. A.J. Bouye hasn’t played so well that it would hurt to bring another corner on, but that gets pricy. Safety would make sense, but Kareem Jackson is playing at such a level that it’d make just as much sense to keep him.

It sounds strange because the Broncos are 4-7, but I don’t think they desperately need veteran help at most spots.

Does Mark Baron play a game this year? - Matt Bellotte

Outiside of special teams I sure hope not. Josey Jewell’s playing well enough to keep him in his current role.

Do you think the Broncos are picking up Chubbs 5th year option next May? - Rick

Undoubtedly.

What will happen with Von this offseason? - Bear

The Broncos have to decide by March 9th to pick up Von’s 2021 option. If they do so he will count for $22,125,000 against the 2021 cap. Moving him would carry a $4,125,000 dead cap hit and provide $18 million in space.

If Von Miller isn’t on the Broncos roster in 2021, Elway should be fired.

As has always been the case, Von Miller should never wear another jersey.
As has always been the case, Von Miller should never wear another jersey.

Will Phil be back next year? Is a Lindsay extension even on the table?

- A.J. Martinez and John Prescod

I expect Mr. Bronco is wearing orange and blue in 2021. Lindsay’s contract is an open question, however. He will be a Restricted Free Agent next year. I believe he’ll receive a 2nd round tender.

While John Elway mentioned a pay raise for Lindsay at his season ending presser last year, the Broncos haven’t extended their best running back.

How early do we address RB? I can’t imagine Gordon will be brought back - Jalondo

Unless the DUI voids the guarantees in Melvin Gordon’s contract, it would cost $6.5 million to cut him. Such a move would only free up $2.5 million in space, so it’d be a bit akin to chewing off your foot to spite your thumb.

Even if Gordon’s contract made it easier to move him, I have doubts the Broncos would look to do so. The coaching staff believes in him on third down and he’s a reliably physical back displays good vision and very good contact balance. On the field this season, his issue falls along the same line as Lindsay’s: they’ve gotten stuffed a bunch and had to run in sub-optimal conditions. Both have been very good when they’ve reached the open field.

Gordon’s contract expires in 2021, which coincides with unrestricted free agency for both Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. Odds are all three remain on next year’s roster, which makes running back a day 3 type of need in my mind.

Melvin Gordon is Pat Shurmur’s RB1

Your Broncos’ News

Shelby Harris back, Will Parks a Bronco once again, Bryce Callahan to IR - Mile High Report

A lot of roster changes.

Broncos Country is very happy about the return of Will Parks - Mile High Report

Parks joined BCT to talk about coming back to Denver.

Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs Injury Report: Phillip Lindsay was limited - Mile High Report

Here is your Thursday injury report

Snap back to reality: Denver Broncos snap counts & analysis: Weeks 11-12 - Mile High Report

For those who are still paying attention, here they are.

With Bolles locked up, there’s no reason to ignore Justin Simmons - Mile High Report

Joe spoke with Over the Cap’s Nick Korte to pick his brain on 2021, Justin Simmons, and Elway’s negotiations.

The Broncos beat a blitz that makes every OL wrong.

These are the types of man blitzes that allow the defense to make the OL wrong no matter how they choose to block, help deny hot throws, and prevent rushers from running into OL set up to block them.

What can Drew Lock’s recent performances and trends tell us about his future?

Most of the current discussion drowns in the micro considerations of contact tracing, on-site QB meetings in the middle of intensive protocols and just how long and how frequently were masks removed. But what has more long-term relevance is where Lock stands compared with other quarterbacks at similar junctures in their careers — particularly in the last decade. In that range, statistical comparisons becomes relatively reasonable, even as the standards for success as an NFL quarterback continue rising.

Weissman’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.2 | The Draft Network

Broncos Kwity Paye EDGE, Michigan

Denver would have loved if either Trey Lance or Zach Wilson had made it to their pick, but unfortunately they’ll be forced to find a quarterback elsewhere. Adding another talented edge rusher here with Kwity Paye makes a ton of sense if you’re Denver. Von Miller is getting up there in age and is coming off a serious injury which cost him the 2020 season. Paye is an athletic freak who plays with outstanding effort. Being able to have Paye develop and learn under both Miller and Bradley Chubb will ensure that the Broncos’ pass rush will remain as one of the league’s best for years to come.

NFL Week 11 Mailbag: Answering questions on the upcoming QB class, Drew Lock’s future in Denver and more | NFL Draft | PFF

Is quarterback the only position immune from having competition? For example, if you had a below-average starting cornerback — and there’s no debating that Drew Lock has been a below-average starter — would you worry about hurting his growth or his feelings by drafting another cornerback? As it stands, the Broncos aren’t good at the most valuable position on the football field. They should do everything they possibly can to fix that.

Walkthrough: Quarterbored | Football Outsiders

Broncos at Chiefs, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. Phillip Lindsay took about as many snaps from center in the first half of last Sunday’s thought experiment against the Saints as unprecedented emergency quarterback Kendall Hinton did. In fact, the Broncos might have kept things close if they had a more robust Wildcat package. The Saints couldn’t move the ball at all until the Broncos began distributing turnovers late in the second quarter.