Right around the middle of the Broncos’ 0-4 start to 2019, local radio chatter began heating up that it was time for John Elway to scrap the roster and rebuild. It became a popular narrative among certain fans, even despite the fact that the Broncos’ GM had already done the vast majority of the rebuilding.
When Drew Lock took over the Broncos had one of, if not the youngest roster in the entire league. By the end of week 17, the offensive starter with the most experience was Garett Bolles.
Since then, there’s been plenty of speculation that Elway and the Broncos added a ton of talent in an attempt to chase the playoffs for 2020. With that in mind, it seemed like a great time to go back to a series I wrote last year called Most Valuable Bronco. With the new CBA pushing the active roster to 48, MVB will also gain a couple players this year. Beyond that, I made some slight tweaks to the three items I’m using to rank the players, but the idea remains:
1. What do I expect them to bring to the roster going forward?
2. Positional value
3. Salary compared to both past & expected future performance
Let’s get this party started.
48. Andrew Beck - H-back
This isn’t meant as a slight to Beck so much as his place on the roster looks like it depends on the decision regarding Jeff Heuerman. Back when I looked at Pat Shurmur’s roster tendencies it was pretty clear he’d carry four tight ends and it’s pretty obvious Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, and Albert Okwuegbanam aren’t going anywhere.
Even if Beck makes it, all signs point to a drastically reduced role from the one he took over for Andy Janovich a year ago. The Broncos’ new offensive coordinator simply doesn’t make much use of a fullback, which is why the former fan favorite was sent packing for peanuts just months after signing an extension.
If the Broncos had kept Casey Kreiter, he’d have made it here because a long snapper will surely be active on gameday. I just don’t want to guess who will win the long snapper battle between Wes Farnsworth and Jacob Bobenmeyer. On a side note, why do long snappers always have such interesting names?
Great design gets Andrew Beck his first NFL touchdown! #Broncos hit the half with a lead! pic.twitter.com/meG6aljMZR— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 29, 2019
47. Sam Martin - Punter
After the Broncos signed Martin they carried three punters on their roster for 25 days. The hope has to be Martin solves some of the special teams issues that precede Peyton Manning’s last dance.
46. Brandon McManus - Kicker
Barring something nutty, this season will be McManus’ seventh straight in the orange and blue as there is no competitor on the current roster. 2020 will be the season of a three year $11.25 million contract extension he signed partway through the 2017 season, and I remain curious if he’ll earn another one. Since 2015 he’s yet to make more than half his 50+ yard attempts. At least Vic Fangio didn’t ask him to try any stupidly long kicks, even if the kicker got peeved over it.
"I think Vic's been good at rebuilding a culture that's been a little lacking here." Brandon McManus— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 22, 2019
45. Calvin Anderson* - Offensive Line
44. Netane Muti - Offensive Line
This is mostly a hunch based around the moves that happened around these two. The Broncos grabbed Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, and Muti, but no backup tackles over the current group. If you want to argue that it’s a boon to Quinn Bailey, or Hunter Watts you won’t see me argue too strongly. I watched enough Jake Rodgers to think the 9th NFL uniform will be the last he wears barring some sort of lightbulb moment, because the Raiders ate him alive to end 2019.
43. Royce Freeman - Running Back
The Broncos’ 2018 3rd round pick was the first player I ever did a GIF Horse on. I feel as though I’ve learned a lot since then, but I expected him to top 1,009 rushing yards and nine touchdowns his first year. The fact that he’s sitting there entering year three is wildly disappointing, and it’s not as if he hasn’t received opportunities.
In fact, back when I projected the Broncos’ 2019 MVB’s I said this about Freeman:
A big chunk of #Broncos Country got bent out of shape when I suggested Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay wind up in a 1A 1B situation this year.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 27, 2019
Don't know why. pic.twitter.com/518i8hTOUv
Lindsay outperformed him, obviously, but early in the season the Broncos were trying to create a split backfield. Through the first two weeks of the season they both had 72 snaps on offense and while Lindsay became the clear RB1, Freeman’s role as a passing down back provided him enough opportunities that he still finished 2019 with only seven less total snaps.
The addition of Melvin Gordon makes Freeman’s position on the 2020 roster tenuous. Training camp could see him fighting to prove he’s worth his $1.08 million cap number while cheaper alternatives exist, but if he survives the final cutdown he offers the size and receiving chops to be a decent backup behind the new big two. Gordon has only ever played all 16 games in one season before, after all.
Your Broncos’ Links
The offseason of Drew Lock continues - talking with FO’s Derrik Klassen - Mile High Report
Jeff Essary and Joe Rowles are joined by a special guest on this episode of Cover 2 Broncos to break down Drew Lock’s first five career starts.
Denver Broncos film review: Is Jurrell Casey a “steal?” - Mile High Report
Why were the Denver Broncos able to get Jurrell Casey for just a 7th round pick?
Denver Broncos roster review: Rookie receiver Kendall Hinton - Mile High Report
Hinton is in a crowded receiver room with steep odds to make the roster. As an undrafted free agent, the likely scenario is he joins the practice squad to further develop.
Denver Broncos roster review: Wide Receiver Jerry Jeudy - Mile High Report
The Broncos wide receiver group got a huge upgrade with the #1 selection of the Broncos in the draft. Jerry Jeudy is a guy who looks like a player who will contribute early and often
Denver Broncos starting guards ranked fifth best in NFL - Mile High Report
The Draft Network has ranked the Denver Broncos starting guard combo of Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner the fifth best combo in the NFL in 2020.
Will the Denver Broncos make us cry in 2020? - Mile High Report
Whether they are happy or sad tears, sport comes with big emotions.
2020 All-Under-25 Team: Patrick Mahomes heads NFL’s rising stars
The future at receiver appears bright with A.J. Brown, D.J. Moore, Terry McLaurin and D.K. Metcalf in the mix. I’ll take the underrated Sutton over all of them after seeing him thrive as a bona fide No. 1 option in a Denver offense that suddenly looks spicy. With Emmanuel Sanders traded at midseason, the sophomore Sutton spent many Sundays tangling with top-flight cover men, yet still racked up 1,112 yards and six touchdowns on 72 catches. After a rookie campaign stunted by drops, the Broncos wideout registered just three flubs off 115 targets in an offense weighed down for much of the year by stone-age pony Joe Flacco.
The statistical case for paying a star quarterbacks: Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and more | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
A conclusion to draw from this is, therefore, that winning with a highly paid quarterback is possible, but that player must either have a coach who can elevate the play of those around him (e.g., Andy Reid, Sean Payton, Frank Reich), elevate the play of those around him himself (e.g., Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan) or both (e.g., Kansas City, New Orleans, New England).
This is a really tough thing to predict before the fact, though, as such elevation during a rookie deal could very well be hidden in the resources dolled out to the supporting players during a rookie deal, resources that are immediately curtailed once the rookie deal is ripped up in lieu of a top-end veteran deal.
JC Tretter: NFLPA has not agreed to any reopening plan - ProFootballTalk
“Players: our union has not agreed to any reopening plan,” Tretter wrote. “Any reports about coming back to work are hypothetical. You will hear from the NFLPA when there are new developments.”
Upset Vince McMahon pulls out of XFL bidding, but league could relaunch in 2021 – The Athletic
Vince McMahon has pulled out of bidding for his bankrupt XFL, but dozens of bidders are looking over the league’s financials and interested in relaunching it next February.
Report: Jadeveon Clowney turned down big offer from Browns - ProFootballTalk
The Browns made an aggressive offer to Clowney, who balked at going to Cleveland, Adam Schefter said today on ESPN Radio in Cleveland. According to Schefter, the offer the Browns made was clearly the best Clowney has received, but he didn’t bite.