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How would you turn the Broncos into a Super Bowl contender?

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With free agency and the draft to go, now’s a perfect time to speculate.

With the Super Bowl in the rear view, it’s time to fully shift gears towards the off-season. It’s no secret that with Vic Fangio, Drew Lock, and a notable combination of cap room and draft capital, the Broncos could shock the NFL in 2020.

So I thought I’d take a stab at this whole GM thing. Keep in mind that things could change quite a bit between now and free agency. I’m still working through cornerback tape, so there are draft prospects I’m intrigued by now that I could cool on. Same with free agents. If you missed it, I just wrote about Jordan Phillips. I thought I’d like him more than I did.

Regardless, this is meant to serve as an exercise to demonstrate what the Broncos could potentially do this off-season. If you’d like to work through your own GM experience, Fanspeak has a simulator that’s pretty fun to play with, and of course The Draft Network’s Mock simulator is great.

Without further adieu:

Cap-clearing moves

Joe Flacco - Quarterback

Ron Leary - Guard

Now that the NFL has closed the option loophole where teams receive compensatory draft picks, I do not feel a pressing need to make a move on Todd Davis. He’s a solid starter and keeping him provides me flexibility moving forward.

Flacco and Leary were a different story. The former looked like a bad rookie in most of his starts last season, and moving on creates $10,050,000 in cap space. While I believe Leary’s a capable starter who has had some really nice moments in Denver, he’s yet to play 16 games since coming over from Dallas. Declining his option creates $8,500,000.

According to the Fanspeak simulator, I now have $83,306,455 in cap space.

Re-signings

Justin Simmons - Safety

Conner McGovern - Interior Offensive Line

Shelby Harris - Defensive Line

Mike Purcell - Defensive line

De’Vante Bausby - Cornerback

Will Parks - Nickel

Casey Kreiter - Long snapper

This is one area where it’s a bit of a guess on Fanspeak’s part, but I tried to be give reasonable offers to the players I wanted to retain. Instead of using the Franchise Tag on Justin Simmons, I was able to sign him for $14,000,000 a year with 40% of the deal guaranteed. Since Will Parks has said he wants to play with Simmons and did a pretty solid job as a nickel (plus provides safety depth and special teams value), I offered him $7,500,000 over 3 years with 30% of it guaranteed and he accepted.

All reports seem to suggest the Broncos are far cooler on Conner McGovern than I am, so I tried to keep that in mind. I offered him $21,000,000 over 3 years with 35% guaranteed. This would put him between the EaglesJason Kelce and the Bengals’ Trey Hopkins. To my surprise, he accepted.

The defensive line was a bit tricky. I approached Derek Wolfe first, as he’s mentioned a desire to play for the Broncos for the rest of his career, but also that he wouldn’t provide a hometown discount. Due to his medical history and the mileage on his body, I offered a 3-year contract for $21,000,000 that would give him the same APY as Gerald McCoy of the Panthers. He declined it.

I then made the same offer to Shelby Harris, and to my surprise, he accepted. From there I turned to shoring up the kicking game and found one of the hardest players to negotiate with turned out to be Casey Kreiter. Denver’s Pro Bowl long snapper would not accept less than $1,000,000 per year.

For some reason Fanspeak did not allow me to apply RFA tenders on Purcell and Bausby, but I went to Over the Cap and looked up the tenders. The 2nd round tender would cost $3,278,000 for each.

After finalizing the deals, I had $53,475,455 in cap space.

Free Agency

Byron Jones - Cornerback

Joe Thuney - Guard

Ronald Leary - Guard

Jarius Wright - Receiver

D.J. Reader - Defensive Line

Colt McCoy - Quarterback

Danny Trevathan - Linebacker

Nick Kwiatkoski - Linebacker

Theo Riddick - Running back

It’s worth noting that Brandon Scherff was franchise-tagged by Washington. There were a few other notable free agents that resigned. Robby Anderson returned to the New York Jets for $10,200,000 per year. B.J. Finney re-upped with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lastly, A’Shawn Robinson and Ryan Allen also returned to the Lions and Patriots.

As of now, I don’t think too much of the expected free agent class. So it’s really notable that if Amari Cooper, Anderson, or Breshad Perriamn resign, it could get stupid as teams overpay for depth pieces. With a loaded draft class at the end of funny money season, I chose patience over panic at the position. I did throw out a 1-year flier on a Jarius Wright for $1,000,000 since he had success with Shurmur.

The big ticket is obviously Byron Jones. I didn’t expect him to sign for $45,000,000 over 3 years but started there. It worked. The APY would make him the second highest paid corner in the NFL behind Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins.

I also offered D.J. Reader $24,000,000 over 3 years instead of chasing Chris Jones. With Shelby Harris also resigning, I got two players to fill out the rotation for the rest of Lock’s rookie contract for less than Jones ended up making. If you wanted to find out more about why I’m big on Reader, check out this piece.

With plenty of cap space left, on the second day I turned my attention to a man who’s played in Super Bowls with Tom Brady. Joe Thuney surprised me by signing my 3-year $24,000,000 offer. With the savings (that I didn’t expect) I turned around and re-signed Ron Leary to a 1-year deal for $3 million.

Many in Broncos’ Country may blanch at it, but it made too much sense to pass on Case Keenum. As Jeff Essary mentioned here, he’s had his best season under Pat Shurmur. He’s also a standout person by all reports and would serve as an experienced voice in a callow QB room.

Unfortunately, the Patriots thought even more of him than I did and offered him a deal for $7,700,000 over 3-years. This led me to Colt McCoy who signed for 2-years at 4,000,000 per.

A couple of the big names that I did consider here were Joe Schobert and Corey Littleton. Scotty Payne wrote about Schobert here. In the end, I wound up passing because of my concerns about fit vs. price. To shore up the depth behind Davis and Alexander Johnson, I signed former Bears Nick Kwiatkoski $2,000,000 over 3 years.

I went back and forth on pursuing a third running back since there should be some available in the draft. In the end, I decided to put out some feelers since I had the cap space. Ty Montgomery wasn’t interested in a prove it deal, so I wound up re-signing Theo Riddick for $3,000,000.

Even after all the above moves, I found myself with a little more than $20 million in cap space. To my surprise, Danny Trevathan was still on the market. I passed on him previously because of his injury last year and what I thought the market would look like. In the end, I offered him a 2-year deal for $19,000,000 with 30% of it guaranteed and he accepted.

I leave free agency with $10,925,455 left in cap space and knowing I’d be able to create a little more if I decide to move on from Todd Davis later this off-season. It’s also worth mentioning that the Broncos have a few other players who could be moved later if cap space was needed. In the original Fanspeak calculation, players like Nico Falah could be moved to create a little cap space if needed.

The Draft

A couple of quick notes before I dive into my mock draft. I’m not accounting for compensatory picks because the Draft Network does not account for them at this time. Beyond that, any and all trades are through their machine. Keep that in mind before you tell me the value one way or the other.

30. Andrew Thomas - Offensive Line

When I got to 15, Henry Ruggs was there and I was very tempted to make the pick, but this receiver class is loaded and I want to take advantage. The tackle class isn’t near as deep, and yet both Andrew Thomas and Josh Jones were on the board. Green Bay offered me three picks in the top 126 picks in order to secure the man who will probably break the Combine’s 40-yard dash record.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Andrew Thomas still there at 30. If you read my Way-too-Early Big Board, you know I had him in that first tier of prospects. Even if he isn’t for everyone, he’ll fit the Shurmur offense, have a year to refine his game under Mike Munchak, and provide us a chance to move on from Garett Bolles or Ja’Wuan James in 2020.

46. D’Andre Swift - Running back

I have a rule against drafting a running back too high. Unless the prospect offers ridiculous upside as a receiver, I’m vehemently opposed to it. It’s more important to bolster an offensive line than a backfield to boost a rushing attack, after all.

Then Swift fell, and he’s the one back I’d make the exception for. He’s got the kind of athleticism and vision to pair with Phillip Lindsay in one of the best rotations in the league and would present as an any down scoring threat. The Bulldog also brings the kind of versatility to elevate Shurmur’s offense on passing downs.

62. Denzel Mims - Receiver

If you read my Pre-Combine Receiver rankings, you’ll know I’m far higher on this Bear than TDN currently is. In all honesty, I don’t expect him to be here if the rumors about his workout numbers are true. Since he is, I ran to the podium. In the Broncos’ offense, he’d make Drew Lock more accurate and shows the physicality, hands, and catch radius to be an asset in the redzone.

The Senior Bowl showed how people have slept on Mims, the Combine could really wake them up.

77. Cameron Dantzler - Cornerback

Standing at 6’2”, this Bulldog is one of the more underrated corners in the draft right now. He’s on the shortest of lists for corners who didn’t get shredded by LSU in 2019. He’ll need to get bigger and stronger to hold up in the NFL, but I like his upside with Fangio and Ed Donatell showing him the way.

83. Bradlee Anae - Edge

Malik Reed, Justin Hollins, and Jeremiah Attaochu performed admirably once Bradley Chubb went down for the year. Keep that in mind with what I’m about to say: Von Miller was the Broncos’ pass rush in 2019. It’s painfully apparent when you watch the Vikings and Chiefs games how badly they need more depth at the position. Maybe Hollins and Reed make a leap, but adding to the pool became impossible to ignore when Anae fell to me on Day 3.

95. K’Von Wallace - Defensive back

TDN lists Wallace as a safety, but he’ll compete for reps as a nickel contributor early. If you’re enamored with Isaiah Simmons’ versatility, it’s important to note how Wallace’s own made it possible. He doesn’t have the best of hands, but he’s among the best slot corners I’ve watched so far.

Wallace would add serious talent to the secondary.

105. Hakeem Adeniji - Offensive Line

He played more than 40 games at tackle for the Kansas Jayhawks and looked competent on the interior at the Senior Bowl. Experienced, athletic, versatile linemen will always woo me, and he provides Munchak with more talent to develop.

126. Marlon Davidson - Defensive Line

I suspect when TDN does their next monthly update. Davidson will not be available this late. Every other major draft site and analyst seems to be floating him as a top 50 player. He’d give Bill Kollar another rotation piece in nickel personnel where he should eventually thrive as a 3-technique.

127. Devin Duvernay - Receiver

He’ll probably need a little time to polish his route running, but this Longhorn offers speed to burn. He’s also a very tough runner after the catch, which should look really good on crossers, slants, and the kind of screens Shurmur will scheme up to get him the ball.

Duvernay brings an interesting combination of toughness and speed.

Projected starters entering training camp

Offense

QB1: Drew Lock

RB1: Phillip Lindsay

RB2: D’Andre Swift

FB: Andy Janovich

WR1: Courtland Sutton

WR2: Denzel Mims

WR3: DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, Devin Duvernay

TE1: Noah Fant

TE2: Jeff Heuerman

RT: Ja’Wuan James

RG: Joe Thuney

C: Conner McGovern

LG: Dalton Risner

LT: Garett Bolles

Defense

EDGE: Bradley Chubb

DL: Shelby Harris

DL: D.J. Reader

EDGE: Von Miller

LB: Danny Trevathan

LB: Alexander Johnson

NB: Will Parks

CB: Byron Jones

CB: Bryce Callahan

S: Kareem Jackson

S: Justin Simmons

Poll

Would you be happy with this off-season?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Heck yes!
    (715 votes)
  • 26%
    You’re fired.
    (252 votes)
967 votes total Vote Now

Your Broncos’ Links

How would you solve the Denver Broncos biggest needs? - Mile High Report

Jeff Essary and I discuss the Denver Broncos biggest needs on the first ever episode of Cover 2 Broncos.

Broncos Drew Lock primed for thrilling 2020 season - Mile High Report

The Broncos quarterback has shown that he has “it.” That he gets “it.” Lock knows to be great he has to put in the work in the offseason. It also helps to talk with PFM.

Turning the page on the Broncos’ 2019 season - Mile High Report

The NFL season of 2019 is over and we look forward to the Denver Broncos next step for 2020.

NFL Free Agent profile: Inside linebacker Joe Schobert - Mile High Report

The tackling machine could be a nice addition to the Denver Broncos defense.

NFL Free Agent Profile: Defensive Lineman Jordan Phillips - Mile High Report

This 340 pound Buffalo Bill almost had 10 sacks in 2019! Would you like to see the Denver Broncos try to get him in free agency?

Digging deeper on the Denver Broncos pass defense - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos are built to defend the modern NFL offense.

Broncos free-agency roundtable: Who stays, who goes and how much are they going to cost? – The Athletic

If they want to go to the high-end market, they can do that. If they want to get value guys and try to sign a bunch of medium-range guys after the first wave of free agency, they can do that, too. They have a lot of flexibility.

Eagles, Bills among potential landing spots for Amari Cooper - NFL.com

4) DENVER BRONCOS: Although Courtland Sutton had a breakout campaign in 2019, losing veteran Emmanuel Sanders midway through the season via trade hurt. The Broncos have a good ground attack and defense but need another dynamic playmaker in the pass game for QB Drew Lock. Why not sign Cooper? He would certainly improve this unit and do well in a situation where he doesn’t have to be the No. 1 guy, pairing with another Pro Bowl-caliber player like Sutton to form a nightmare duo. The only thing I don’t like about Cooper being in Denver is he’d be in the AFC West (sorry, Derek).

Broncos, Steelers, Giants could execute a 49ers-like turnaround - NFL.com

So, heading into 2020, the Broncos have an intriguing 23-year-old quarterback. And that’s not the only promising young piece on this offense. Running back Phillip Lindsay, an undrafted free-agent signee in 2018, has opened his NFL career with consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Courtland Sutton (1,112 receiving yards) looks like a legit WR1, while DaeSean Hamilton closed out last season with the two most productive games of his young career. And maybe tight end Noah Fant can help Broncos fans forget the team took Jake Butt one selection before George Kittle in the 2017 NFL Draft. (Sorry.)

Then there is Fangio’s defense, which played quite well despite the fact that Bradley Chubb missed the last three months of the season. The Broncos allowed the 10th-fewest points per game (19.8). Linebacker Alexander Johnson was a breakout star, while Von Miller remained a menace off the edge. With seven wins, Denver actually enjoyed its most successful season in three years. And honestly, if not for the last-minute heroics by a couple of GOATs — Mitch Trubisky and Gardner Minshew — this team could have hit the postseason in the AFC.

But that was last year. Let’s talk about this coming year, because I love Denver as a playoff team. We still have a long way to go before training camp, but Broncos fans should feel very good about this team’s chances — yes, even with the AFC West featuring the defending champion Chiefs and improving Las Vegas Raiders.

Broncos need to hit draft’s sweet spots to chase down Chiefs - Denver Broncos Blog- ESPN

The 2020 NFL draft is filled with players at positions of need in Denver: wide receiver, cornerback, defensive line and offensive line.

NFL Draft Links

ESPN’s Todd McShay mocks CeeDee Lamb to the Denver Broncos - Mile High Report

Would you like to see the Denver Broncos take WR CeeDee Lamb if he were still on the board at number 15 in the 2020 NFL Draft?

A Sit Down Conversation With Prince Tega Wanogho | The Draft Network

Auburn left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho is the latest natural pass protector who teams will hope to turn into a better run blocker.

NFL Links

Sanders has rewatched Titanic SB loss ‘5 or 6 times’ - NFL.com

”I watched the Super Bowl at least five or six times, and it’s like when you watch a movie like the Titanic and hope the ship doesn’t sink, and the ship sinks over and over,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said Wednesday, per Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.

Steelers sign GM Kevin Colbert to one-year extension - NFL.com

The Steelers announced Tuesday they have signed general manager and vice president Kevin Colbert to a one-year extension that keeps him with the team “through at least” the 2021 draft.

Eagles add former Broncos offensive coordinator, make additional staff changes, per reports - CBSSports.com

Doug Pederson is bringing some outside voices under his wing in an effort to aid Philly’s offense

Le’Veon Bell on Adam Gase: Everybody blows things out of proportion – ProFootballTalk

“Everybody blowing everything out of proportion,” Bell said, via TMZ. “Water under the bridge — we’re fine. We good . . . Jets for four more years unless something drastic changes.”

Raheem Mostert willing to return Damien Williams’ Super Bowl jersey – ProFootballTalk

“If he calls me and he’s like, ‘Hey, can we swap jerseys back?’ then I’m more than happy to,” the 49ers running back said Wednesday, via Matt Barrows of TheAthletic.com, “because I know the sentimental value it has to him.”

Jerick McKinnon “willing to do whatever” to stay with 49ers – ProFootballTalk

“I’m willing to do whatever . . . The organization knows I want to be a part of this team, so when that time comes there will be a talk between both parties,” McKinnon said, via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.

Chiefs should break the bank for Patrick Mahomes ASAP – ProFootballTalk

With the cap always climbing, contracts quickly become obsolete. Mahomes is worth 20 percent of the total cap in any given year, and the Chiefs should be happy to pay that to him.

2020 Free Agent Profile: Guard Brandon Scherff | The Draft Network

Dominant guard play is hard to come by, so the promise of Scherff’s presence in the run game and his versatility in pass protection are going to swoon some teams. The only question here is which teams have the money to spend and the need at guard to make a compelling pitch?