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The Broncos will need to shore up their defensive line this offseason

The Denver Broncos defensive line could be in flux this season with several unrestricted free agents and salary cap decisions on their plate with this position group.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Rowles, Scotty Payne, and I are back at it again today to wrap up the discussion on the defensive side of the ball. Beginning tomorrow, we’ll start reviewing the offensive side of things. Today, we’re talking about the interior of the Denver Broncos defensive line.

They have three unrestricted free agents in Shelby Harris, Anthony Chickillo, DeMarcus Walker, and Sylvester Williams. Add in that realize that Jurrell Casey has a large contract salary cap hit and no dead money, this entire position group could experience a lot of turnover this offseason.

Broncos defensive line position group

Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Chickillo, Anthony DL 6' 03" 270 28 UFA
Harris, Shelby DL 6' 02" 288 29 UFA
Purcell, Mike DL 6' 03" 303 29 Signed through 2023
Walker, DeMarcus DL 6' 04" 280 26 UFA
Agim, McTelvin DL 6' 03" 309 23 Signed through 2024
Casey, Jurrell DL 6' 01" 300 31 Signed through 2022
Harris, Jonathan DL 6' 04" 288 24 ERFA
Heath, Joel DL 6' 05" 293 27 Signed through 2021
Jones, Dre'Mont DL 6' 03" 281 24 Signed through 2022
Peko, Kyle DL 6' 01" 308 27 Signed through 2021
Sizer, Deyon DL 6' 04" 280 24 Signed through 2022
Williams, DeShawn DL 6' 00" 284 28 Signed through 2022
Williams, Sylvester DL 6' 03" 313 32 UFA

Joe Rowles: With all the different scenarios I’ve been working through lately I reached out to Over the Cap’s Nick Korte and PFF’s Brad Spielberger to try and zero in on what the market will look like for Jurrell Casey and Shelby Harris. It’s a bit of an open question, but if the Broncos are trying to win football games in 2021 it makes sense to try and keep both if possible.

Tim Lynch: I like both Casey and Harris a lot, but I think the Broncos might be looking to move on from one or both. Dre’Mont Jones really came on strong late last season and they signed Mike Purcell to an extension. Another guy who played really well last season was DeShawn Williams. Those three guys are all signed through at least 2022 and the Broncos 2020 draft pick McTelvin Agim will have another year to develop.

The question is basically whether or not the Broncos are willing to dedicated cap space to a couple of 30+ defensive linemen heading into a season where expectations might not be very high regardless.

Scotty Payne: Cut Casey, give Shelby a fair 2-3 year deal, bank on Dre’Mont continuing to develop, re-sign Demarcus Walker and make a focus to draft and potentially sign a big name FA if you let Harris go or even if he comes back. The Broncos D-Line does need some talent added to it.

Tim: Define fair for Shelby Harris. I wouldn’t mind bringing him back either, but he was projected to get an $11 million a year last offseason and ultimately ended up signing for much less than that at just $3 million on a one year deal to return to Denver. I don’t think any of us expected that, which leaves me wondering what should be a reasonable expectation for Harris heading into this season.

Scotty: He’ll turn 30 during the summer so you don’t want to guarantee him a ton of money long-term, so 2-3 year deal around 7ish per is probably what he’s looking at.

He deserves to be compensated for what he has done. If the market gets too pricey then the Broncos should move on, but I think it makes sense for both parties to get something done that works for both in the end.

I don’t think he’ll break the bank. He entered the market last year and it was a major dud for whatever reason. Now, he’s a year older and teams aren’t keen on throwing money around it seems so I think he’ll be affordable.

Tim: They’ll have the cap space too if they move on from Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye.

Joe: My question is why cut Casey to chase a big name DL if you can just keep Casey? I get that he was hurt last year, but you have him on a contract with no guarantees and he’s a year removed from owning the Ravens in the playoffs.

Tim: Yeah, I’m not interesting in chasing any big names. If Shelby Harris comes back at a reasonable price, then I am perfectly comfortable with the guys on the roster. Just target the position on Day 2-3 and continue developing guys.

Scotty: Simple, Casey’s not worth the $12M cap hit.

Joe: When you look at the market: Who is?

Tim: Looking at the list, the best defensive linemen out there slated to become FAs are Leonard Williams, Shelby Harris, and Sheldon Rankins.

Scotty: The big name is Leonard Williams, so he’s about it. Casey at 31 coming off a season ending injury is not. Elway took a low risk flier on Casey and it didn’t work out. Move and use that money elsewhere. Enough with bandaid vets. A big reason we’re stuck in this middle ground of sucking.

Joe: But the thing with Casey is you can see about leveraging his current contract into a lower number with some guarantees tacked on.

If you want to cut him to chase Leonard Williams I guess that’s one thing, though I need to study Williams before I can hop on board. Cutting Casey just to create cap space means very little to me.

Scotty: I’m fine moving on. He wasn’t anything special when healthy. Elway’s 2020 vet additions didn’t pan out and should be moved on from. Graham Glasgow fits in that category with Netane Muti, but that’s obviously more difficult.

Joe: I guess where we differ is my approach isn’t just “well they bombed cut them all.” Casey was hurt last year, but his contract offers flexibility and a road forward. I hope the Broncos consider it if their other plans leave them the cap flexibility to do so because he fits what Fangio wants to do and is a year removed from very good play.

Scotty: I’m never keen on keeping 30+ year old vets when they’re declining and injuries start hitting. Casey fits that bill. You spent a 7th rounder on him, it was worth the risk, but time to move on. Dre’Mont stepped up in his absence and Harris is better (if they decide to keep him). Add depth or improve on Harris if possible.

We’ll likely see cap cuts join this list as well. Akiem Hicks is one to watch if we’re looking for a short term add. Totally contradicting myself here since he’s 31, but he’s still playing well and the obvious Fangio connection.

What I would do

Denver would be wise to try and get Shelby Harris back in the building on a 2-3 year deal. Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Purcell are both solid up front, then with DeShawn Williams in rotation they can bring in another draft picks to develop. McTelvin Agim is already there too heading into Year 2, so getting Harris back on a medium range deal would be huge for this defensive front.

As for Jurrell Casey, unless he restructures into a more cap-friendly deal, I just don’t see how at 32 years old, he’ll make much sense. The team will need that cap room elsewhere as they look to lock up young talent.

How would you address the Broncos defensive line this offseason? Let us know in the comments below.