Denver Broncos Free-Agent Rumor Mill Roundup: Pre-Combine Buzz
Welcome to our Rumor Mill Roundup where we collect and parse through all the free-agency buzz connecting the Denver Broncos in one place. The Broncos are poised to open free agency with at least $62 million in cap space and as many as 12 draft picks should GM John Elway want to make deals on the trading block.
Last week we began our first Rumor Mill Roundup and already, so much more information has since emerged that hints at what the Broncos plan to do in 2020 free agency.
On the doorstep of the NFL Scouting Combine, more buzz is sure to be kicked up next week. Without further ado, let's get into what emerged this past week.
Spending Will be on Defensive Side of the Ball
9NEWS' Mike Klis confirmed what we have been reporting since the offseason began; the Broncos are going to prioritize the defensive side of the ball in free agency.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce why. All of the Broncos' most immediate roster holes, with only a couple of exceptions, are on the defense. D-line, cornerback and off-ball linebacker, in particular, are glaring needs.
The Broncos could perhaps get by without adding an ILB from the outside, but the D-line and cornerback depth has to be addressed. It's good to have Klis point out the obvious, though.
Harris, Jr. Amenable to Staying, Points Finger at Elway
Chris Harris, Jr. has been quite vocal since the season ended about two things. One, he's excited to test the open market and two, a return to the Broncos still very much on the table.
In an interview with Justin Adams and Nicki Jhabvala on 104.3 The FAN this past week, Harris pointed the finger at Elway when pressed on whether he'll return to the Orange and Blue.
“That’s not a question for me, though,” Harris said on Presidents Day. “You gotta ask John Elway that. People put it on me. It’s not me. You know? It’s not on me. They make the decisions of what they want to do. If they want me back, then I’ll be back.”
Considering that we've also been told by insider Cecil Lammey that Dallas Cowboys' CB Byron Jones will be the Broncos' top free-agent priority, perhaps fans should count on Harris returning. But don't rule it out.
Shelby Says Broncos Missed an Opportunity
Shelby Harris has kept an open mind to re-signing with the Broncos, but at the same time, he's recently hired powerhouse agent Drew Rosenhaus and is ready to pack his bags for another NFL city should another team outbid Elway for his services.
Rumors of Harris commanding somewhere in the region of $12 million per season are open to debate, but we learned recently that Harris would have been amenable to an accord with the Broncos long before he became an unrestricted free agent, had the team approached him with a serious offer last season.
“100 percent, obviously. We always said if we could have got something done before the end of the season, one it would have been way cheaper, but then two, I would have had no problem staying here for years to come,” Harris told 104.3 The Fan. “They have their way of doing things. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. If they would have definitely came with a legit offer before the season or early in the season, I definitely would have been listening.”
It was also reported by Pro Football Network that the expectation within Dove Valley is that Harris is as good as gone.
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Wolfe Expected Back
In that same report by PFN — thanks to insider reporting from the likes of Benjamin Allbright and Tony Pauline — we learned that the Broncos expect to get Derek Wolfe re-signed.
That comes as good news, considering the gaping hole of inexperience the Broncos currently have on the D-line. It's also encouraging because we know Wolfe was one of a small handful of carry-over veterans who thrived undeniably in Vic Fangio's complex scheme.
Parks to Have a Bigger Market Than Expected
Will Parks is hitting free agency alongside his teammate and class of 2016 fellow Justin Simmons. Simmons is the Broncos' top free-agent priority, though, while Parks would appear to be several rungs down.
However, that's not to say that Parks won't have a market for his services. NFL Network's James Palmer reported this past week that Parks will indeed find a modest demand for his services when he hits free agency.
The Broncos will let him test the market before deciding on making a serious offer. Don't be surprised if Parks finds work and a multi-year deal with the likes of Vance Joseph's Cardinals or with another team who employs a coach who's worked with him before.
Broncos Considered a Favorite to Land Slay
The Detroit Lions are listening to offers for Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay. The Broncos could be among the 'multiple teams' who've contacted Detroit about Slay's availability and cost.
According to PFN's Tony Pauline, the Broncos are one of two favorites to land Slay via trade. Denver will compete, per Pauline, with the L.A. Rams, who also have eyes for Slay.
Broncos Predicted to Land Pierce
Let's say the Broncos do in fact re-sign Wolfe. That still would leave one starting defensive end spot wide open. According to Pro Football Focus, that spot could end up being taken by former Baltimore Ravens' DL Michael Pierce.
PFF ranked Pierce as its No. 42 free agent. He would make some sense in Denver, at the right price. But his name being connected to Denver is of the most speculative kind. Pure crystal ball stuff. Don't take it to the bank.
Bears Release Amukamara & Gabriel
The Chicago Bears released two players who figure to be on the Broncos' radar. CB Prince Amukamara and WR Taylor Gabriel find themselves unemployed but it won't be for long.
Amukamara thrived under Fangio in Chicago and would ostensibly fill the No. 2 cornerback role well, allowing Bryce Callahan to play the slot and leaving open the possibility of the Broncos either re-signing Harris, Jr. or paying Byron Jones.
Gabriel also played with Fangio in the Windy City and would check the 'speed demon' box the Broncos are coveting at the wide receiver position. Both former Bears could be had on the relative cheap in all likelihood, which also makes them prime Broncos' targets.
Broncos Predicted to be 'Suitors' for Cooper
The fly in the ointment? Cooper is expected to command a contract that approaches $20M/year. When you realize that the Broncos can't afford to throw max contracts at every A-list free agent on the market, combined with the 2020 draft class being replete with WR talent, the true likelihood of Cooper ending up in Denver is slim-to-none.
Not that he wouldn't be a great fit and a boon to Drew Lock and the offense. He absolutely would. But there's a more-than-decent chance the Broncos could find a similar talent in the draft for pennies on the dollar of what Cooper would cost.
Oddsmakers Like Bridgewater's Chances at Landing in Denver
Sportsline released the seven most-likely landing spots for free-agent QB Teddy Bridgewater with the accompanying odds. The Broncos were listed as one of them.
Speaking of odds, it was definitely 'odd' to see Denver mentioned as a top suitor for Bridgewater because it's one of the last places in the NFL he's likely to garner interest. He wants a starting job and big money, neither of which will the Broncos be willing to offer.
This was simply the case of Sportsline making the most obvious recognition that the Broncos are in search of a backup to Lock. Bridgewater has bided his time in New Orleans these past two seasons and will find a starting job and a commensurate pay-check on the open market.
For more Broncos' free-agency buzz, don't miss last week's edition of the Rumor Mill Roundup.