How quickly a roster can change when a team has the financial space to make moves. In an offseason where many teams are up against the cap ceiling, due to the pandemic and lost NFL revenues, the Denver Broncos were one of the few teams able to aggressively attack roster holes and revamp a 5-11 depth chart.
Thanks in large part to the solid drafting of the last few seasons and a roster structured around a rookie quarterback contract, the Broncos made many smart moves under new GM George Paton.
While Broncos Country is without a doubt happy about the moves, no one can be as happy as head coach Vic Fangio, who could be on the hot seat. After coming off back-to-back losing seasons, Paton essentially went ‘all-in’ on revamping a depleted defense and giving Fangio his best defensive personnel since he called defensive plays for the Chicago Bears.
It’s not just Broncos Country abuzz over Paton's moves but the national perspective, too. According to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, the Broncos were one of the biggest winners this free agency cycle with their targeted moves, landing players at a better value than many other contracts handed out this offseason.
The Broncos' defensive moves: I love that the Broncos' rewarded Shelby Harris , who has been a gamewrecker the last few years. He has made as big an impact as some of the higher-paid free agents out there.
Ronald Darby also fits coach Vic Fangio's scheme, where physical corners thrive, so well. In a thin market, three years of quality starts for $30 million makes a lot of sense. The newly formed front office led by George Paton also signed safety Justin Simmons to a long-term deal, ending any uncertainty that would have come with Simmons playing a second year on the franchise tag. Simmons is worth it, and the deal gave the team more cap flexibility to sign former Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to a one-year, $9.5 million contract (per NFL Networks' Tom Pelissero). Fuller is a better overall corner than Shaquill Griffin and William Jackson (who were available as free agents), has familiarity with Fangio and signed for far less money.
The Broncos still have a few directions they could address before the start of the 2021 season. Given Ja’Wuan James’ injury history and Calvin Andreson’s reported better ability at left tackle as opposed to right tackle, a swing option to compete for a roster spot should be on the table.
With the departure of Phillip Lindsay to the Houston Texans, another running back behind Melvin Gordon, especially one that can provide value in the passing game, might be a smart look. Further, while the linebacker room of Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, and Justin Strnad, an athleticism boost to the off-ball corps wouldn’t be a bad idea.
All-in-all, Paton has done a fantastic job addressing all of the Broncos’ biggest possible roster needs and holes this offseason through free agency. Doing so allows the Broncos to approach the draft with the best philosophy possible, adding the best player that fits the scheme and culture when the team is officially on the clock.
How that will play out remains to be seen, but the Broncos improved as much as any team in the NFL this offseason. Perhaps for the first time since 2015, the Broncos can be playing meaningful football games late in the year.
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