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Broncos receive solid free agency grades

The goal of NFL free agency is to improve your football team and the Denver Broncos did exactly that.

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The Denver Broncos could end up signing another big name and still have enough salary cap to cover the 2022 NFL Draft picks, but for all intent and purposes the major portion of NFL Free Agency is over. Looking over the moves Denver made to get better and you’d be hard-pressed to find any analysts who didn’t grade their offseason well thus far.

We ran our own SB Nation Reacts survey this week and 96% of Broncos Country thinks George Paton and the Broncos did either good or great in free agency.

I voted ‘A’ myself and that really started with the blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson. A big chunk of their salary cap was eating up by that move with $24 million going to Wilson and another $8.5 million dead money from the three players they had to ship to the Seattle Seahawks to get the deal done.

That said, they were still able to find some good value pick ups. D.J. Jones is one of the league’s premier interior run stoppers and Randy Gregory came at a reasonable price given the insane market for free agent edge rushers. Overall, I could easily see how each of the signings helped make the team better overall and that’s really what free agency is all about.

Analysts outside of Colorado generally agreed with me on how well the team did in free agency. Here were a few other grades on the Broncos free agency moves.

DK Nation

B+: The Broncos have floundered in the years since Peyton Manning retired, cycling through one pedestrian quarterback after another. Wilson arrives with valid concerns regarding how his play has fallen off the past two seasons, but he will undoubtedly elevate the offense. Adding Jones and Gregory to the defense will help Denver keep pace in the all-time arms race going down in the AFC West.

I would like to note that I am not sure where this perception of Russell Wilson’s play falling off at all outside of that stretch of games where he had a freak injury on his throwing hand last season. Two seasons ago he completed his best season of his career completing 68.8% of his passes (career best) for 4212 yards (2nd best), for 40 touchdown passes (best) and 13 interceptions while leading the Seahawks to a 12-4 record.

Colin Cowherd

A+: In this Best For Last segment, Colin Cowherd hands out letter grades to NFL teams, scoring them for how well they’ve done in the offseason. Watch to see why the Denver Broncos’ acquisition of Russell Wilson earned them high marks, and why the Green Bay Packers may need a but of extra credit to make the grade after losing Davante Adams.

For once, I like Colin Cowherd.

Pro Football Focus

Above Average: Broncos general manager George Paton is not messing around heading into his second season, as he kicked things off with the blockbuster trade for Wilson and has not let his foot off the gas. First, Paton made a move to replace interior defender Shelby Harris – who was traded to the Seahawks as part of the package to acquire Wilson — by signing Jones, who is more of a true nose tackle whereas Harris can line up more frequently over tackles. Nonetheless, Jones displayed some pass rush juice in 2021 with a career-high 18 quarterback pressures, and his 43 tackles are twice as many as his next best season.

Next, after trading Von Miller to the Rams last season, they worked to fill the void he left behind with Gregory, who they negotiated with down to the very last second to coax him into joining the team as opposed to returning to the Cowboys. Gregory has yet to play 500 snaps in a season during his career, making this move a bit of a gamble, but he earned 80.0-plus pass-rush grades in consecutive seasons and looks to be trending in the right direction.

PFF grades are odd and their grading system is even odder. Just give us a grade already. I’m going to say this equates to a B-.

Sporting News

B-: The Broncos are doing their best to build a championship potential roster for Russell Wilson, but they aren’t there yet and gave up a lot key draft resources and a couple key veterans, too. There’s a good chance they remain the fourth-best team in a loaded AFC West.

It would seem some outlets are not including Russell Wilson trade into their grades, but I did. If I were to exclude Wilson, I would still probably end up in the B- to B range. Perhaps that is why our own survey was pretty split between the top two choices. What do you think?

Horse Tracks

Why a loaded AFC West could be a good thing for the Broncos
Phil Milani and Aric DiLalla recap the second day of the NFL's Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.

‘You want to play against the best’: How the Broncos could benefit from a stacked AFC West
Plus, more info to know from HC Nathaniel Hackett's media availability on Monday at the NFL's Annual Meeting.

‘We’re lobbying as hard as we can’: President/CEO Joe Ellis voices support for Broncos to play in London in 2022
"I’ve expressed interest on behalf of the team," Ellis said. "Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett is bullish on it, George [Paton] is bullish on it, Russell Wilson is bullish on it. We’re lobbying as hard as we can."

More than five, fewer than 20 bidders for the Broncos
Broncos CEO Joe Ellis declined to disclose any of the candidates on Monday, citing confidentiality requirements. But while Ellie declined to name names, he numbered numbers.

George Paton takes reluctant bow at NFL owners meetings
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton has been around long enough to know Super Bowls are not won in March.