Before the Denver Broncos' 2021 season began, I reviewed the players set to become unrestricted free agents and the likelihood that they will be extended after the season.
Five weeks into the season, we now have a better idea about which pending free agents are trending toward getting an extension and which aren't. While five games aren't enough to make a final decision, we have some evidence to show whose chances of staying have improved or not.
Every so often, I'll break down those Broncos set to hit unrestricted free agency to give you an idea about which direction certain players are trending.
Let's look at which players, thus far, have improved their chances for an extension and whose have taken a hit.
Chance Improving: Von Miller | OLB
I talked about Miller previously — he may be 32 years old and coming off a significant injury, but he is showing no signs of decline.
Miller has 4.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits in the first five games, plus seven tackles for a loss. The Pittsburgh Steelers game has been the only game thus far in which he didn't get much pressure, though it appears part of that was him being used in coverage instead of in the pass rush.
It's not often these days that a non-quarterback stays with the same team for more than 10 years. But Miller is in his 11th season with the Broncos and, if his strong play continues, he could add a couple more.
Chance Declining: Kyle Fuller | CB
Fuller hasn't had the impact some may have expected when the Broncos signed him within hours after being cut by the Chicago Bears. He's allowed receivers to get open more often than he should, and he was particularly bad against the Steelers.
While I had Fuller down as a player who might stick around, should Vic Fangio stay as the head coach after 2021, Fuller's chances are slipping. His performance against the Steelers really hurt his chances.
If Fuller doesn't improve his play, the Broncos may not just be thinking about letting him go after the season — the team may need to think about trading him while it still can, particularly with other players getting healthy.
Ronald Darby should be back for Week 6, Michael Ojemudia should be closer to returning, and let's not forget that Essang Bassey and Duke Dawson are on the PUP list and they could help with depth later this season.
Chance Improving: Alexander Johnson | LB
The Broncos were dealt a big blow when they lost Josey Jewell for the season to injury. Johnson has had to step into a bigger role as a result.
While Johnson isn't a top off-ball linebacker, he's doing a better job of handling duties than he has before. He's also shown he can be effective in the pass rush, as noted by his two sacks against the New York Jets. It's just unfortunate he dropped two potential interceptions against the Steelers.
At this point, I'd consider Johnson a player who should be allowed to test the market first. He's not somebody who should get a top-tier contract by any means. But between Jewell's injury and Johnson's play in general, I wouldn't rule out keeping him at the right price.
Chance Declining: Kareem Jackson | S
While I pretty much expected that this would be Jackson's last season with the Broncos, recent events have made it clearer than ever that it will be
Jackson did have an interception against the Jaguars, but he's had just one pass break-up otherwise. Though he was leading the Broncos in tackles prior to the Steelers game, that isn't enough by itself to justify keeping him.
More importantly, the recent emergence of Caden Sterns shows that the Broncos have somebody who could likely replace Jackson's production in future seasons. The more Sterns contributes and plays well, the more evident it will be that Jackson won't be with the Broncos in 2021.
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