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How the Broncos could improve the cornerback position in 2021

The Denver Broncos have a lot of needs heading into the 2021 offseason. Here’s how they could improve their cornerback situation.

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

With President of Football Operations John Elway stepping back from control over the roster and President/CEO Joe Ellis announcing he will not seek an extension after this season, the 2021 offseason instantly became one of the most important offseason’s in recent Denver Broncos history.

Elway and Ellis set about to hire former Minnesota Vikings Assistant General Manager, George Paton, to take the reigns of the Broncos franchise in the hopes of returning the team to playoff form. With these changes, we thought it would be a good idea to begin breaking down each position group and discussing the Broncos’ options to improve. At the end of all this series of posts, we’ll take a look at the whole picture and analyze what Paton could do to field a competitive team this season and beyond.

We’re going to start with the defense and the first position group Scotty Payne, Joe Rowles, and myself are going to discuss will be the cornerbacks. This position group was beleaguered by injuries all season long and is one that certainly looks like it needs to be bolstered before the season.

Broncos cornerback position group

Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Bassey, Essang CB 5' 09" 191 22 Signed through 2022
Bausby, De'Vante CB 6' 00" 176 28 UFA
Bouye, A.J. CB 6' 00" 186 29 Signed through 2021
Callahan, Bryce CB 5' 09" 184 29 Signed through 2021
Dawson, Duke CB 5' 11" 197 25 Signed through 2021
Hairston, Nate CB 6' 00" 196 26 Signed through 2021
Holder, Alijah CB 6' 01" 185 25 Signed through 2021
Motley, Parnell CB 6' 00" 184 23 Signed through 2021
Ojemudia, Michael CB 6' 01" 200 23 Signed through 2023
Toliver II, Kevin CB 6' 02" 192 25 RFA

Joe Rowles: For me the plan at cornerback depends in part upon the plan at QB. If the Broncos are playing this year as a “let’s just see where we’re at” type of season it doesn’t make sense to be real players for Marshon Lattimore or spenders in free agency.

If the plan is to sit on their hands, pretend to compete and go young it makes sense to dump A.J. Bouye and see if Bryce Callahan has any trade value. Both will be 30-years old with a significant injury history. Trading Callahan would carry a $1,333,334 dead cap hit and free up $6,812,500 in space. As a trade acquisition Bouye carries no guaranteed money and jettisoning him frees up $13,375,000.

Scotty Payne: First, cut A.J. Bouye. If you can get some value from him via a trade, go for it, but either way, it’s time to move on.

That leaves Michael Ojemudia and Bryce Callahan as your starters. Now, how they address this position depends on what they do elsewhere on the roster. They could go after a high priced corner via free agency or get a top corner like Surtain or Farley at 9th overall in the draft.

Either way, with Pat Mahomes and Justin Herbert at quarterback within the division and offensive weapons like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Keenan Allen, Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs and others, catching passes, you will need a strong secondary.

Luckily for Paton, Vic Fangio should be able to help aid him to find a good scheme fit at corner this offseason.

As for who’s currently on the roster, everyone but Ojemudia and Callahan should have a roster spot secured. Bouye should be released or traded and the rest appear to be depth at best.

Joe: I do think it’s a good sign that over Paton’s time with the Vikings they spent more draft capital on receiver and cornerback than any other position group. The Broncos boss surely understands what the passing game means in today’s NFL.

So far I’ve watched a couple games of Patrick Surtain for one and some bits of others on Caleb Farley. If the plan is to build for the Fangio defense, I really like what the Hokie could bring if he can come back from a year off and build on his 2019 tape. He’s fluid in space with a quick trigger and offers the size and ball skills to battle with the best in the West with time. Keep in mind that I’m still working through the tape though.

Scotty: I do think the high amount of high picks spent on corner with the Vikings was more of a Zimmer thing. The success rate with those picks haven’t been great either which led to multiple high picks spent on the position the last few years.

  • You had three corners selected in 2020: Gladney in the 1st round, Dantzler in the 3rd, and Harrison Hand in the 5th.
  • Mike Hughes in the 1st in 2018.
  • Mackenzie Alexander in the 2nd of 2016.
  • Trae Waynes in the 1st of 2015.
  • Xavier Rhodes in the 1st of 2013.

Quite the draft capital spent on corner the past decade by the Vikings.

Tim Lynch: A good pass rush and a solid scheme can lessen the need for top flight cornerbacks, but I think the only guy I’d move on from is Bouye and the free agents. Then look for some value in free agency and Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Then let them all compete for the team in training camp.

Joe: With the way COVID-19 went, it could squeeze teams around the league and there could be some nice options in free agency.

What I would do

I agree with Scotty here that they should cut A.J. Bouye. He is currently the second biggest cap hit behind Von Miller and with zero dead money incurred it makes sense to move on here to get that $13.375M in extra cap room heading into free agency.

From there, they should target a solid scheme fit in free agency that won’t break the bank and continue to use Day 2 draft picks to collect young cornerbacks to compete in training camp with those already on the roster. Joe is likely right that the COVID-19 situation in the NFL last season could create some interesting options in free agency.

What do you think the Broncos should do with their cornerback situation? Let us know in the comments section below.