All reports out of Dove Valley suggest the Broncos are going to let Chris Harris Jr. test the market. Barring a change of heart or less interest than expected, it’s looking quite likely that the future Ring of Famer has played his last snap in orange and blue. Without him, the Broncos’ cornerback room will probably consist of two players coming off of Injured Reserve and three players who were benched at different points last season.
There’s a rather glaring hole considering Tyreek Hill, Mike Williams, and Mecole Hardman reside in the division. If John Elway is serious about chasing the playoffs in 2020, they need to find an answer at CB1.
Darius Slay provides that answer.
Why the Broncos should pursue him:
If the Broncos are only going to add one high priced corner this year, I think Slay would make the biggest difference with the rest of the talent on the roster. He can step into the CB1 role that Harris struggled with last year and thrive while the Broncos solve the rest of their cornerback corps. He’s inside/outside versatile and would thrive in the kind of off coverage that Fangio leaned on in 2019.
There is some concern about his age, but it’s important to note that the tape showed very good athletic ability and especially lateral quickness and hip turn. He has a better click and close than Byron Jones does and was a communicator. More than once during plays he’s trying to help others get into the right position. He also has the Richard Sherman-esque ability to read a QB while sticking to his assignment.
He has a very good ability to mirror and capable of matching up last season. It’s notable that while the Lions’ defense was among the worst in the league according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA they were a top 10 team against WR1s. In some ways Slay’s 2019 reminds me of Champ Bailey during the Josh McDaniels’ era in that he was a great player on a terrible unit.
I suspect if Fangio plans to play Darius Slay in more off coverage than the Lions did, he could be a really nice addition to the #Broncos defense. pic.twitter.com/bJnWf5tKPU— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 20, 2020
Why they shouldn’t
There are two big concerns I have when it comes to Darius Slay.
- Trading for him in addition to paying him market value on a new deal would end up costing the Broncos more in terms of capital than simply going out and signing a Byron Jones, James Bradberry, or making amends with Chris Harris Jr.
- 29 isn’t a death knell, but Slay’s game is dependent upon his ability to move through space. He’s a below average tackler and not a physical press corner, so he needs his athleticism to stick to his assignment in trail or off. There is some concern about how he’ll age, and I don’t think he’d be a realistic option to slide back to safety down the road. His play strength is adequate and it hurt his ability to defeat blocks and bring down bigger ball carriers.
Darius Slay is a number one corner that got hidden by a coaching staff that didn’t mold the system around its talent. Matt Patricia asked him to line up along the line of scrimmage and pressing much larger receivers like Courtland Sutton and Michael Thomas when he’s at his best playing soft shot shoe and trailing or sticking to them out of off coverage.
For the most part the Lions’ defense lacked the kind of passing game defenders that will help a corner like Slay thrive. They badly need a stronger pass rush, the linebackers were slow footed, and Bob Quinn traded his best safety in the middle of the season. Because of this I suspect Slay’s charting numbers by places like PFF and others look worse than they really should. There were a handful of broken plays that fell on others in the 5 games I watched, so you know more probably exist.
Adding Slay would give Fangio a proven corner even if Elway is counting on bounce back years from Bryce Callahan and DeVante Bausby, or a third year surge from Isaac Yiadom.. He’d buy them time to draft more talent and still help the current roster put up a fight with the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans’ of the AFC in 2020.
Darius Slay's 2 interceptions from 2019 pic.twitter.com/46IH94p9qh— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 21, 2020
Should they reopen trade talks with Detroit for Darius Slay?
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