There will be no easy days for the Denver Broncos as they compete in the talent-filled AFC West. Fortunately, for Broncos Country, GM George Paton has reloaded the roster through the draft, free agency, and key acquisitions.
The high-profile act of acquiring nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson put an end to the Ferris wheel of well-intentioned but mediocre quarterback play that dashed the hopes of a winning season year after year. But progress is not progression.
Although the Broncos' roster is now stronger, deeper, and more lethal, gaps in key positions remain. The organization must continue to hunt for adding additional talent not only to win in the division but to fulfill its potential of competing for a Super Bowl title.
To that end, what holes remain on this roster? The Broncos will have little more than $10 million in available cap space after the last two rookies from the draft class are signed.
Call it an 'Evan Mathis' slush fund — but how could the Broncos use that money to continue bolstering this roster ahead of a 2022 campaign highlighted by a whopping five prime-time games?
The obvious position group that needs reinforcement is at inside linebacker. Paton was purposeful in re-signing the dependable Josey Jewell and inking former Philadelphia Eagle Alex Singelton to a one-year contract.
Both players bring toughness, intuitive play recognition, and leadership. But their lack of top-end athleticism leaves them susceptible to being matched against speedy tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
On the roster is little-known third-year veteran Jonas Griffith. He flashed potential last season and will fight for a starting role. The remaining roster of backups can fill in admirably during short stints.
Unfortunately, the Broncos did not find an answer in this year’s draft, leaving the need for Paton to continue to evaluate remaining free agents. A top option to bring back on a team-friendly deal remains former Bronco Alexander Johnson.
During his four-year stint with the team, Johnson had 249 tackles and 4.5 sacks. New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's scheme is comparable to former head coach Vic Fangio. The learning curve for Johnson would not be steep which would accelerate his ability to contribute.
Another option for the coaching staff to study is former San Francisco stand-out Kwon Alexander.
The Broncos organization made the right decision to bring back strong safety Kareem Jackson. Known for being using his voice to rally his teammates in tough situations, he also plays the role of enforcer of the back end of the defense.
Receivers pay a heavy toll when traversing through Jackson's area of responsibility. Teamed up with All-Pro safety Justin Simmons, they make an effective duo. But at 34, can Jackson run with wide receivers in a division that possesses Olympic-level speed?
Enter Caden Sterns, last year’s fifth-round selection. As a rookie, Sterns earned valuable playing time which will provide him the platform to compete with Jackson as a starter.
To compete for a starting role, Sterns will need to be more effective in pass coverage. In his first year, he earned a Pro Football Focus rating of 54.4 in coverage performance.
To continue to invest and reinforce the position, Paton drafted another fifth-round safety Delarrin Turner-Yell. At this time, the cupboards are bare in the strong safety free-agent market.
Look for the Broncos to ride with the roster they have and add to the mix a training camp cut from around the NFL that the team believes has the raw talent to develop.