There comes a point in sports where availability is a skill. This isn’t meant to diminish how big an impact luck has into a player’s health or question anyone’s ability to play through pain, it’s merely a fact that teams can’t rely on someone who isn’t reliably able to play.
Questions about availability mar two of the players on the following list. Both were big ticket free agent signings a year ago to fill crucial roles, and both saw their 2019 seasons all but end before they began. In both cases the Bronco’s future fortunes only look brighter if they can get back to form.
A quick reminder as to the guidelines I follow:
1. What do I expect them to bring to the roster going forward?
2. Positional value
3. Salary compared to both past and expected future performance
Players 48-43 can be found here.
Players 42-37 can be found here.
Players 36-31 can be found here.
Players 30-25 can be found here.
Players 24-19 can be found here.
18. Bryce Callahan - Cornerback / Nickel
The biggest question when the Broncos signed Callahan a year ago was how the former Bear would fit into a secondary with another top tier slot corner. As luck would have it, that’ll never be an option because an early injury derailed Callahan’s first season and Chris Harris Jr. is now in Los Angeles.
As is the case with most of the secondary, unknowns outnumber the certainties with Callahan. He’s never played a 16-game schedule in his NFL career, and he did not play a snap in 2019 because of the screw inserted into his injured foot bent. If he can return to his previous form, expect him to be a starting corner in base personnel and either slide inside or remain on the boundary in nickel depending on the Broncos options at CB3.
17. Todd Davis - Linebacker
No, Todd Davis sliding down from 14th to 17th is not an indictment of his 2019, as he played as well as I thought he would for Vic Fangio. It also does not mar what I expect from him in 2020. It has more to do with the potential talent ahead of him as well as his own expiring contract. Even before COVID-19 and the looming questions about the salary cap, Davis looked likely to depart after this coming season.
Until he’s gone, however, I expect Davis to continue his role as a steadying presence and solid starter in the middle of the defense. He isn’t flashy and his long speed does hurt him against some of the best athletes he’ll cover, but he more than makes up for it with his ability to read the field, play the run, and drop into space.
16. Shelby Harris - Defensive Lineman
This time last year I expected Shelby Harris to break out under Vic Fangio. After playing the backup nose tackle spot for Vance Joseph, I thought he would shift to more five technique in the base 3-4 and alternate between a one- or three-technique in the nickel. It took the Broncos’ coach four games into the season before Harris took that exact role from Adam Gotsis, which will remain one of my bigger questions about last year’s campaign.
One of the vastly underrated parts to the Broncos' run defense improving after the Jaguars' fiasco is Shelby Harris taking over for Adam Gotsis.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) July 11, 2020
Harris played the most defensive snaps of his NFL career in 2019 and also set career marks for sacks and passes defensed. As he entered free agency, the veteran signed Drew Rosenhaus to be his agent and I thought his departure a certainty. Instead his market collapsed as players like DeForest Buckner were traded to the Colts and Jordan Phillips signed with the Arizona Cardinals. His bad fortune left Elway and the Broncos the opportunity to sign him back for one more year at an extremely reasonable three million dollars.
With both McTelvin Agim and Dre’Mont Jones waiting in the wings it’d be a shock if 2020 isn’t Harris’ last in orange and blue. Expect him to start the season as a starting five technique and shift inside on passing downs. He’s got a good burst, is stout at the point of attack, and has a real knack for clogging up passing lanes.
Every Shelby Harris sack from 2019. pic.twitter.com/p7S88VVAz9— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) July 3, 2020
15. Dre’Mont Jones - Defensive Lineman
I may be too high on a guy who only logged a little over a quarter of the defensive snaps a year ago, but Jones’ has me excited. As expected, he showed better hand usage than your typical rookie after a collegiate career under Larry Johnson. He also fared at the point of attack than I dared hope.
It’s going to be exciting to watch how the Broncos use their line rotation this year. Jurrell Casey, Jones, and McTelvin Agim can create havoc as loopers on stunts. For a coach like Fangio who’d prefer to rush just four, the more players who can maximize stunts, the better.
My biggest complaint about his rookie tape is playing angles in space and securing tackles. He had a couple of big plays slip through his grasp last year.
14. Ja’Wuan James - Right Tackle
Ja’Wuan James placement this high on the MVB while playing a grand total of 63 offensive snaps a year ago should really hammer home the emphasis on “value.” After James got hurt in week one, Elijah Wilkinson tried his best, but was a marginal right tackle. The fact that Wilk is now the competition for the starting left tackle job gives you a real idea as to the coaching staff’s opinion of Garett Bolles.
James is valuable in no small part because there’s no real replacement for him on the roster. He’s a right tackle capable of holding up alone on the edge against most opponents, which allows the blocking scheme to slide away from him. Having that kind of player at one bookend can help to alleviate the pressure on other parts of the line, which should raise the boats for everyone.
We know now that James was playing on what amounts to one leg for the #Broncos in week 14. Still has a nice kick slide on the 3rd and 12 touchdown to Fant. pic.twitter.com/hv5Ha6BtHO— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 4, 2020
13. A.J. Bouye - Cornerback
Did you know Vic Fangio thought enough of the former Texan that the Chicago Bears offered him the most money during his 2017 free agency? Instead he chose to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped form one of the best pairs of corners with Jalen Ramsey until things fell off the rails in 2019.
At his best, Bouye is an inside/outside corner who is capable of playing off or up on opponents. He plays a physical style of coverage and displays a very good ability to mirror, even if he isn’t quite as quick as Chris Harris Jr. was. He isn’t a ballhawk, but does display very good hand-eye coordination, and it will benefit him to have the kind of pass rush Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Jurrell Casey should provide.
It’s impossible to ignore the impact COVID may have on the Broncos’ roster when ranking Bouye. Acquiring him from the Jacksonville Jaguars was a brilliant gamble by John Elway, but also means he could be gone a year from now regardless of his own play.
Your Broncos’ Links
No preseason for the NFL in 2020 - Mile High Report
The NFL is doing its best to have a 2020 NFL season, but the preseason won’t be a part of it.
Denver Broncos roster review: running back Phillip Lindsay - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos have a starting running back in Phillip Lindsay, but they have him potentially splitting reps with Melvin Gordon in 2020. Is that going to pan out?
NFL Playbook: What is the Yankee concept? - Mile High Report
Let’s take a look at how Pat Shurmur has used the yankee concept in the past, and how it might translate here in 2020 with the Denver Broncos.
De’Vante Bausby thinks the Broncos continuity on defense will help them - Mile High Report
The former AAF cornerback joined Broncos Country Tonight to talk about the start of training camp and the start of the season.
Training Camp to begin with delayed start after NFL, NFLPA reach tentative agreement - Mile High Report
The NFL offered to scrap preseason games and do daily coronavirus testing among other player-friendly terms to help get team training camps underway.
How will the Broncos handle potential NFL cap constraints next year? - Mile High Report
Jeff and Joe take a deep dive into the cap to talk about who could potentially be moving on from the team if Denver has to make cuts next year due to the news that the salary cap could potentially be cut significantly next season.
Are the Denver Broncos making a mistake with Justin Simmons? - Mile High Report
Justin Simmons will be playing under a 1 year Franchise Tag. Did the Denver Broncos make a huge mistake?
DWI, weapon charges dropped against Bills DL Ed Oliver
Charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and unlawfully carrying a weapon against Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver stemming from a May 16 arrest in Houston have been dismissed.
Mark Davis wanted Henry Ruggs on Raiders for ‘last six months’
The Raiders have spent the last few years looking less like the Silver and Black and more like something else. Owner Mark Davis believes WR Henry Ruggs III will help usher in a return to their historically successful, and speedy, ways.
Mike Zimmer, Vikings finalizing multi-year extension
Mike Zimmer won’t enter a lame-duck season in Minnesota. Tom Pelissero reports the Vikings are finalizing a multi-year contract extension with the 64-year-old coach.
Fans required to wear face coverings at NFL games in 2020
All fans attending NFL games this season will be required to wear a face covering. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy announced the league-wide plan Wednesday.
NFLPA approves eight teams’ IDER plans for COVID-19
Infectious disease emergency response (IDER) plans submitted by the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins have been approved by the NFLPA, according to the union’s release of information. The other remaining 24 teams have submitted plans that are still under review as of midday Wednesday.