Last spring, the Denver Broncos said farewell to fan-favorite safety Will Parks after he signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Because the Broncos had a combined $22.5 million invested in the secondary between Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, and Justin Simmons, the team could not retain Parks when he hit unrestricted free agency.
Although Parks reportedly received better offers from the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, he inked a deal with the Eagles that would allow him an opportunity to start for his hometown team.
But it didn’t exactly work out in the City of Brotherly Love as Parks only played in six games for the Eagles and recorded a meager 13 tackles (11 solo) and two tackles for a loss. The combination of injuries, underutilization, and fit ultimately led to the Eagles releasing Parks in early December, allowing the Broncos to claim their former sixth-round draft pick in the final quarter of the season.
Parks originally joined Denver after the No Fly Zone had peaked in Super Bowl 50, and was asked to immediately contribute in 2016. As a rookie, Parks played in 16 games and logged 22 tackles (17 solo), three passes defended, one tackle for a loss, one fumble recovery, and an interception.
Described as a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ by coaches and teammates, Parks emerged as a dependable reserve and special teams player. His loose style of play allows him to fill space and be a fundamental tackler on the perimeter. He also built a reputation for his involvement in some memorable Broncos moments.
As a rookie, Parks converted Simmons’ blocked extra point in New Orleans into a two-point conversion that upset the Saints in the Superdome. Two years later, Parks delivered a devastating hit to Pittsburgh Steelers' tight end Xavier Grimble that forced a fumble preventing a touchdown.
Parks’ second stint in Denver couldn’t have come at a better time for the Broncos who had just lost Callahan to injury in November. Although he no longer donned his original No. 34 jersey, Parks played four games for the Broncos wearing No. 27.
The 26-year old played 147 snaps in Vic Fangio’s 2020 defense and logged 18 tackles (16 solo), one tackle for a loss, and one sack. In fact, Parks only relinquished 16 completions in coverage and one touchdown in just four games.
Headed into his sixth NFL season, Parks will become an unrestricted free agent when the league year begins on March 17. It’s hardly a secret that Denver’s secondary unit is noticeably thin and undermanned.
Simmons could get slapped with a second-straight franchise tag and teammate Kareem Jackson has a $1.5 million option guarantee on his $10 million salary due March 16. Trey Marshall and P.J. Locke currently bring up the rear in a spacious defensive secondary room that’ll most likely add depth at both cornerback and safety in the draft.
This should leave the door wide open for the Broncos to retain Parks in free agency. His versatility and familiarity in Fangio’s defensive system make him a valuable asset for coaches especially with mentoring young corners like Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey.
Parks has played in 66 games for the Broncos. I’m firmly of the opinion that re-signing him to the 2021 roster is a no-brainer.
Last offseason, Parks learned that the grass wasn’t necessarily greener on the other side in Philadelphia. This year, Denver can ill-afford to lose the fan-favorite and veteran DB.
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