The offseason is still young and while GM George Paton has made a few fairly significant moves to help bolster the Denver Broncos' defense already, it sounds like the team is not yet satisfied and will continue to address that side of the ball. Re-signing defensive lineman Shelby Harris and retaining edge rusher Von Miller, as well as signing free-agent cornerback Ronald Darby, should significantly help head coach Vic Fangio field an improved unit in 2021.
But could the Broncos be on the precipice of making another splash move According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Broncos are expected to heavily pursue former All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller if and when the Chicago Bears release him.
"The Broncos are expected to make a strong push for CB Kyle Fuller once his release is official, sources say. Vic Fangio coached him with the Bears, while George Paton had a close look at him annually while with the Vikings," Garafolo reported via Twitter.
Fuller will be 30 years old to start the 2021 season and would clear $11 million against the cap for Chicago with a $9M dead cap hit if he is indeed released. However, the release will not be official until Friday and it is possible Chicago may find a trade partner for him yet.
Given Fuller’s large salary cap hit and bonus (projected to cost approximately $14M) and the shrunken cap all teams are facing this offseason, Chicago may have no choice but to release the veteran corner.
Why Fuller Makes Sense for Denver
Given how important scheme fit is for the cornerback position, there is no question Fuller can thrive in Fangio’s match-quarters defense where he thrived under the coach as the defensive coordinator in Chicago from 2015-18, and Ed Donatell, who served as his position coach over that span.
Over that four-year run, Fuller was Pro Football Focus’ 16th highest-graded corner in the NFL, earning an 84.5 grade. The former first-round pick really shined in Fangio’s last season in Chicago in 2018 where Fuller earned first-team All-Pro honors leading the NFL with seven interceptions and 21 passes defensed.
As noted by 9NEWS' Mike Klis, while Fuller approaches the ‘falling off of a cliff age’ for cornerbacks, he has been extremely healthy over his NFL career, registering over 4,100 snaps over the last four years, the highest total of any corner in the NFL. In 96 possible games, Fuller has missed a grand total of two, both of which came his rookie year in 2014.
Given the Broncos’ cornerback room made up of the oft-injured Bryce Callahan and the new arrival Darby, also a constant target of the injury bug, as well as Essang Bassey who's returning from an ACL tear, Fuller’s durable history could really solidify the secondary in Denver.
Finally, and perhaps most notably, is how the addition of Fuller could give Paton maximum flexibility in the 2021 NFL draft. With Fuller in the fold, the cornerback need would be squared away, allowing Denver to pursue a more holistic approach to the draft at pick No. 9.
Edge rusher? Offensive tackle? Linebacker? Quarterback? A trade up or down?
If the cornerback position is solidified by the Broncos obtaining Fuller, the direction Paton could go in his first draft as the team’s general manager, and all the possibilities, would be endless.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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