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Broncos No Bull Roster Review Part 2: Secondary

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A No Bull look at the current Denver Broncos roster, its strengths, weaknesses, and what we can expect to target in free agency and the draft.

BRONCOS VS TEXANS Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

With the free agency season about to kick off for the Denver Broncos, it is a great time to step back, take a look at the roster, and play a little armchair GM leading up to all of the excitement of possible free agent signings, trades, and of course the NFL Draft.

All of this is my own personal opinion based on the tried and true eye test of what I’ve seen from these players on the field. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be leaving out guys that didn’t see the field in any significant way in 2019. Enjoy the discussion, join the subjective debate, and share your thoughts good or bad in the comments.

All snap count numbers come from https://www.footballoutsiders.com/. All contract information is from https://www.overthecap.com. Any football statistics noted are from https://www.pro-football-reference.com.

In case you missed my earlier posts:

Broncos No Bull Roster Review Part 1: Defensive Line

Next up, we’ll take a look at the defensive secondary and find out what holes the Broncos should be looking to fill in the 2020 NFL offseason.

Player Rating Key:

1 - Project / developmental - lacking necessary skills to contribute as it stands today

2 - Backup quality - Can play, but isn’t a guy you want out there every snap

3 - Mediocre starter - Doesn’t bring anything special to the table, but is able to do the job

4 - Good starter - An above-average talent

5 - Blue chip player - Top 10 talent in the NFL at what he does

Unit Rating Key:

1 - Critical Need - lack of talent at starter and depth

2 - Lacking at least one starter

3 - Mediocre need

4 - Solid talent and depth

5 - Elite talent level

Cornerbacks:

A.J. Bouye - 4

NFL: New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos already announced their first trade of the 2020 offseason in giving up a 4th round pick to take the back end of his contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars with essential ends up being 2 years - $26M.

Bouye is coming from a hot mess of a team in Jacksonville and I think him getting to play in Fangio’s defense is going to get him right back on track as a stellar NFL cornerback.

All of the talk from this trade is that he’s not a shut-down guy. That’s fine. Let me remind you that this defense doesn’t play man across the board like Wade Phillip’s 3-4. He doesn’t have to be a shut down corner. This defense isn’t yet even close to reaching its potential and Bouye is going to be a big part of getting it there in 2020. He’s a veteran CB in his prime and this change of scenery is going to be perfect for both him and the Broncos.

De’Vante Bausby - 2

Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Bausby is a guy who was really growing on me early last season. He’s not currently under contract, but he’s a guy that I think is pretty likely to get through Free Agency and get resigned.

He’s got some skill though and flashed in Fangio’s defense as a guy who looked like he could for sure hang at the NFL level. That flash was pretty short lived as he was injured early in October in 2019 with a pretty scary neck sprain.

With the risk level of the player looking so high, the Broncos chose not to tender him at the high price tag of ~$2M. While I’m a fan of Bausby’s game, I think this move is pretty prudent. He’s a 4th year player that hasn’t really broken through yet.

Bryce Callahan - 3

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve got to include Bryce Callahan on this list, but let me be the first to say I don’t know what the heck to say about him other than that the injury risk factor is the biggest known I have to talk about.

On paper, Callahan is a younger version of Chris Harris Jr. He’s a slot coverage specialist with quicks and smarts.

That being said, this is a guy that missed a whole year with a nagging injury. Is he a guy that is going to be able to impress in 2020? Who knows. Because of so many question marks, I’m leaving his rating at a 3. I’m a guy that needs to see guys on the field and we’ve yet to see that with Callahan.

Davontae Harris - 1

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Harris is a guy that to be completely open mostly had me shaking my head in 2019. His game was very rough and there was a stretch in 2020 where if a team needed a catch, just throw to the guy Harris was on and it was almost assured that you’d get sound yardage.

It could be that growing pains are just what Harris needed in 2019 and he could take a big step forward in 2020. I don’t buy that for a hot second though. He got so much action because our team had so many injuries and guys that didn’t step up to what the coaches thought they were capable of being.

It is pretty certain Harris will be on the roster because of his cheap cost as an Exclusive Rights Free agent, but if I were a betting man, I’m not putting money on him being on the week 1 roster.

Isaac Yiadom - 1

BRONCOS TRAINING CAMP Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Remember training camp in 2019? All of us including me were all aboard the Isaac Yiadom express. He was a big hit and was going to be the next great corner for the Denver Broncos.

Pass me a nice big plate of crow. Of the two guys on the back end of this list, I’d honestly take Harris all day, err day without thinking.

Yiadom is going to need to really have the greatest offseason of any cornerback ever to make this team in any legitimate way. Granted he’s a somewhat high draft pick, so there’s always that whole “Elway bias for his draft picks” he can lean on to make the team.

Unit Rating - 2

Until this cornerback unit gets another starting quality boundary corner, they aren’t a complete room. The other factor holding them back is that two parts of their group are big injury questions (Bausby, Callahan).

Safeties:

Justin Simmons - 5

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Simmons isn’t under contract yet, but this guy is going to be back with the Broncos one way or another.

What is there to say about Simmons? He’s perfect in this defense as a free safety. He’s rangy, knows how to diagnose pass plays, and understands how to break on passes and take them away when outside leverage baits an underneath throw in front of him.

He’s the prototypical new age NFL safety and worth every penny the Broncos pay him on his future contract.

Kareem Jackson - 5

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I don’t know that Jackson is a 5 player in any defense in the NFL. But he’s that good to me in Fangio’s defense with Simmons next to him. He’s such a perfect strong safety in this defense.

Jackson is a guy who’s a 9 year veteran in the NFL and made the transition to corner for the Broncos. Everything we’ve seen says that the timing and the transition were both great timing (aside from needing him to move to corner due to injury issues early in 2019). He’s a great tackler, understands how to attack the run (and more importantly when), and is still far above average at pass coverage. Watch any game that the Broncos used him at safety and you are likely to see big plays being made by K Jack.

Trey Marshall - 2

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Marshall is another guy the Broncos get to use the Exclusive Rights Free Agent designation on. He didn’t get a lot of opportunity to see the field in 2019, but at the end of the season saw some significant play time highlighted with a nice forced fumble play on the final game of the season.

Marshall’s impact was far greater on special teams and he’s got a decent shot to be another depth guy in the defensive back room for the Broncos.

Duke Dawson - 1

NFL: OCT 27 Broncos at Colts Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dawson was a guy that got mixed in quite a bit as the season wore on especially in sub packages when we needed more coverage. Sadly, I’m not sure that went according to plan for the Broncos. Dawson didn’t show a high level of play in 2019 with the Broncos and the hopes are that he can season well in his 2nd year in the league.

Unit Rating - 5

I know this group seems to be short on depth, but I have a hard time finding a safety group with as much talent in their two starters as what we see with the Broncos. I fully expect the team to find a replacement for Will Parks as a backup safety either in free agency or (more likely) the draft.

Defensive roster status overall:

Defensive Ends 2

Nose Tackles 3

Cornerbacks 2

Safeties 5