NFL free agency, like anything else about this business, is entirely unpredictable, and attempting to Nostradamus-ize professional football weeks in advance often amounts to intense mental masturbation — only with no glorious payoff.
But because the new Denver Broncos general manager, George Paton, arrives having spent 14 years with another organization, the Minnesota Vikings, there's a high possibility, if not probability, that he'll look to create a pipeline for his former players in purple.
Assuming that happens — again, no guarantees — the Broncos may have their eye on five particular Vikings free agents to bolster the roster in Paton's honeymoon campaign as John Elway's successor.
Here you go, George:
Anthony Harris, S
Harris will be the most expensive of the handful of potential Denver targets. After playing on the franchise tag in 2020, he's projected to draw $14 million annually on the open market, and very well may reset the safety position, deserving or not. The Broncos must answer a few questions at the spot before shopping out-of-house, with Pro Bowler Justin Simmons scheduled for unrestricted free agency and Kareem Jackson a speculated release candidate.
If Paton were to splurge next month, Harris — a ballhawk, similar to Simmons, who notched nine interceptions in 2019 — likely would be the beneficiary. It remains just as likely, however, that Denver simply franchise-tenders Simmons for a second season if a long-term contract doesn't materialize.
Eric Wilson, OLB
Has future Hall-of-Fame pass-rusher Von Miller logged his final down in the Mile High City? Carrying a salary-cap-killing $22.225 million figure for 2021 while coming off a lost season and currently under criminal investigation, the Broncos can decline Miller's option and clear a ton of room from the books.
Vic Fangio coaxed eight sacks out of Malik Reed, but his defense was dying for a rotational spark. The likes of Jerry Attaochu and Anthony Chickillo define "JAG." Wilson, who started 15 games last season, is the type of dependable do-it-all 'backer that Fangio tends to gravitate toward.
Sean Mannion, QB
No, this isn't Drew Lock's would-be replacement, nor a veteran alternative to, say, Deshaun Watson. But rather an upgrade on overmatched backup Jeff Driskel and everyone's favorite third-stringer, Brett Rypien.
Although Mannion has only two career starts, the most recent coming in 2019, he's been tutored by two of the league's best offensive minds — Sean McVay in Los Angeles and Gary Kubiak in Minnesota. Once a top QB draft prospect (2015), the Oregon State product wouldn't break the bank should Denver opt to peruse the bargain bin.
Ameer Abdullah, RB
Speaking of the 2015 draft, raise your hand if Abdullah, he of Nebraska fame, was among your favorite talents to enter that year. *raises hand*
The former second-round pick of the Lions never blossomed into a full-blown star NFL running back, but he boasts the Big Three skillsets — rushing, catching, pass-protecting — as well as the game-breaking speed that Denver always seems to crave. There's a chance Paton remodels the entire RB room with whispers surrounding the respective futures of Phillip Lindsay (restricted free agent), Melvin Gordon (potential DUI suspension), and Royce Freeman (JAG).
Dakota Dozier, OL
Even if left tackle Garett Bolles continues his dominant play and if right tackle "Ja'Wuan James" plays at all, the Broncos need insurance along the interior, behind guards Graham Glasgow (who missed three games last season) and Dalton Risner and sophomore center Lloyd Cushenberry.
Dozier has made 70 appearances and 27 starts since 2014, split between tenures with the Vikings and New York Jets. As a bonus, he's pluggable at both guard and tackle, versatility which is highly coveted by Broncos offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
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