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Will this Broncos’ defense be a “One Year Wonder?”

Questions surround many core pieces heading into the 2021 offseason.

NFL Pro Bowl
Will Von wear orange and blue in 2021?
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

I’ve spent a ton of time studying the Broncos’ defense since January. Like many of you I was ecstatic when the Broncos found a way to trade for Jurrell Casey and feel cautiously optimistic that A.J. Bouye will step in and be a number one corner for the rebuilt secondary. After watching Alexander Johnson and diving into Bradley Chubb’s first four weeks of the year, I’m confident this Broncos’ defense could be pretty special.

Yet there remains what I can only describe as something like a sense of impending doom hanging over it all. March feels like a lifetime ago now, back before most of us had any real understanding as to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea that the 2021 cap could be impacted seemed like absurdity then. Now it’s all but certain.

A number of possibilities remain plausible to deal with a completely unexpected revenue loss, but no one seems to know what to expect right now. It’s one reason the Broncos could be wise to stay frugal with Justin Simmons’ camp, even if it casts a rather large spotlight on the contract situations of the entire defense.

The following players are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2021:

  • Todd Davis
  • Justin Simmons
  • Mike Purcell
  • Shelby Harris
  • DeVante Bausby

I did not mention Alexander Johnson, who is also set to become a free agent. If he makes the kind of improvements I expect him to after studying his 2019 tape, there’s little chance Elway does not retain him as a Restricted Free Agent.

If Justin Simmons is as good in his second year with Vic Fangio as he was in his first, the Broncos will apply the franchise tag a second time. It will still be cheaper than what he stands to make in free agency in 2021, barring a total collapse of the Safety market.

The harsh reality with the rest of the impending free agents is COVID makes it a mountain climb to stick around past this year. Todd Davis is a solid player and veteran leader the Broncos already tried to move up for Patrick Queen replace. Shelby Harris now has both Dre’Mont Jones and McTelvin Agim to eat into his snaps by year’s end. Purcell and Bausby are former AAF players, so the league has already given up on them once.

In spring the Broncos aggressively pursued talent like Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye. John Elway was aggressive when he needed to be, with rookie contracts for Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and Bradley Chubb providing excess value. The pandemic and NFL teams’ need to cut seating could make them pay dearly for it.

Von Miller, Kareem Jackson, Jurrell Casey, A.J. Bouye, and Bryce Callahan may sweat phone calls from the Duke this season. All have contracts where the Broncos save more by cutting or trading than holding onto them. If it seems hard to believe John Elway would part with his first ever draft pick, remember he once pushed Peyton Manning into a paycut.

Obviously so much uncertainty means anything is possible right now. Forgive me for ringing alarm bells. I just can’t overlook the fact that as many as nine of Broncos’ projected starters could be gone if the cap shrivels up.

This year’s defense could be special.

It could also be short lived.

Your Broncos’ Links

Simmons and the Broncos won’t get a deal done, yet - Mile High Report

The Broncos love Simmons, and he wants to stay, but a longterm deal will have to wait.

Denver Broncos release ticket policy for the 2020 season - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have announced their ticket policy for 2020 and there will be some huge changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Denver Broncos enjoyed a decade of defensive excellence - Mile High Report

One of the few teams to enjoy sustained defensive success over the last decade has been the Denver Broncos. Will that continue into 2020?

Data analysis: quarterbacks, the salary cap and winning - Mile High Report

Does paying your franchise QB after his rookie deal keep you from putting together a winning team?

Which past Denver Bronco would you pick to be on this year’s roster? - Mile High Report

Aside from quarterback, which player would you pick?

Unheralded Broncos: Andre Townsend - Mile High Report

To remember Andre is to remember some old school Broncos defense.

Denver Broncos roster review: Inside linebacker Josh Watson - Mile High Report

Josh Watson was activated midway through the 2019 season and played primarily on special teams in those games.

NFL Links

NFL owners to have call Friday related to labor disagreements

The divide on key issues between the NFL and NFLPA remains, with hope resting on a Friday call involving NFL owners.

Shaq Barrett’s agent optimistic about pass rusher’s future in Tampa - ProFootballTalk

“There will not be a long-term deal at this time but optimistic about Shaq’s future in Tampa long term,” Drew Rosenhaus, Barrett’s agent, said.

What is Dak Prescott’s future after not getting long-term deal? - ProFootballTalk

Prescott becomes only the third NFL quarterback to play under the franchise tag, joining Drew Brees (2005) and Kirk Cousins (2016, 2017). Neither Brees nor Cousins signed a long-term deal with their respective teams, with Brees leaving the Chargers for the Saints and Cousins departing Washington for Minnesota.

Derrick Henry, Titans agree to terms on four-year, $50M deal

Tennessee agreed to terms with running back Derrick Henry on a four-year deal worth $50 million right before Wednesday’s deadline, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team later confirmed it reached a long-term agreement with the RB.

Jaguars turned down Ngakoue deal that included Pro Bowler

With the franchise tag deadline set to pass without a multi-year deal, Ngakoue can only play 2020 on a one-year deal. He’s set to make $17.778 million on the tender. Pelissero reported that other teams have been told he’d play on the tender, which means the Jags are in no rush to deal him at this point.

Kenny Stills among those arrested during Breonna Taylor protest

The charges for Stills include felony (Class D) intimidating a participant in the legal process, and misdemeanor second-degree disorderly conduct and third-degree criminal trespassing, according to arrest documents. More than 100 protesters marched from a local high school to the attorney general’s home, demanding charges be brought on the three Louisville Metro Police officers involved in Taylor’s killing.