Broncos Given Curious Offseason Grade by ESPN

The Denver Broncos have mostly received negative reviews for their 2024 offseason moves, and now ESPN weighs in.
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton and rookie quarterback Bo Nix.
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton and rookie quarterback Bo Nix. / Ben Swanson/Denver Broncos
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In the immediate aftermath of the 2024 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos were mostly panned by the ubiquitous grades of the national perspective. Each year, the draft punctuates teams' offseason roster-building, with the bulk of any free-agent acquisitions being done in March.

Fast forward to June, and ESPN is singing a slightly different tune. While the Broncos didn't garner an A+ for their offseason personnel moves — which included multiple blockbuster moves including the release of quarterback Russell Wilson and safety Justin Simmons, as well as the drafting of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix in the first round — ESPN's Seth Walder gave the team a B-.

Biggest move: Drafting QB Bo Nix
Move I liked: Drafting Nix
Move I disliked: Losing C Lloyd Cushenberry III in free agency

Seth Walder/ESPN

Considering the dearth of resources at Denver's disposal from a salary-cap perspective, I'm not sure Sean Payton and company could have done a better job this offseason, once the decision was made to rip the Wilson band-aid off and rebuild. The crown jewel of any rebuild is a young franchise quarterback hand-picked by the head coach overseeing the project.

The biggest I had entering the draft was whether Payton and GM George Paton would have the intestinal fortitude to take a quarterback in Round 1. It just so happened that the ideal quarterback for Payton's offense was there at No. 12 overall and happened to be the sixth player drafted at his position. Wild.

Walder is among the throng in the national perspective who didn't like the Nix pick. Most media outside of Denver perceived Nix as a noodle-armed, system player, and the leavings of a stacked, top-heavy quarterback class.

"They waited until the draft to address the position and by the time they were on the clock, five QBs were off the board. It's hard to criticize them for this: There seemed to be no way to move up into the top three for the first tier of quarterbacks.

"Denver drafted Nix at No. 12 overall -- perhaps a bit early but again, hard to knock. When you don't have a quarterback, even the chance of hitting on a rookie is extremely valuable," Walder wrote.

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Indeed. So why was Nix his least favorite move? Curious.

Aside from the obvious fit, we've since learned through outside confirmation, and beyond just the Broncos' public remarks, that Nix was their guy all along, and Payton was nearly apoplectic that the Oregon star was still on the board at No. 12. With his chosen quarterback in the fold, Payton has all but one of the core roster building blocks: a quarterback, a shutdown cornerback, and a left tackle.

All that remains is a true blue-chip edge rusher. But Denver could be sitting on one in Baron Browning. With a little luck by way of the injury bug, Browning has the chance to emerge as a bonafide double-digit sack artist as he enters a contract year.

The Broncos also traded away 2020 first-round wideout Jerry Jeudy, and said goodbye to a pair of team leaders and multi-year starers in free agency in Cushenberry and linebacker Josey Jewell. In free agency, the Broncos couldn't afford to spend big, signing veteran safety Brandon Jones, defensive tackle Malcolm Roach, and wideout Josh Reynolds as the big moves.

It's slightly amusing that of all the personnel departures, Walder is most perturbed by the loss of Cushenberry. Let's face it; even though Cushenberry was a reliable four-year starter, last season was the first time in his career that he produced anything remotely resembling quality play. Let Tennessee wager on whether that was a one-year wonder phenomenon. I have my suspicions.

The Broncos also acquired former No. 2 overall quarterback Zach Wilson and defensive end John Franklin-Myers from the New York Jets. Along with Nix, the Broncos drafted six other players, including Utah rush linebacker Jonah Elliss and Oregon wideout Troy Franklin. The team also signed a crop of college free agents, headlined by Fresno State linebacker Levelle Bailey and Old Dominion running back Blake Watson.

Although not on the personnel side, Payton made two other moves that have been flying under the radar, hiring his long-time lieutenant and former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael as a senior assistant, as well as the coveted Jim Leonhard as defensive backs coach.

Again, considering that Denver absorbed $85 million in dead-money hits to the salary cap after releasing Wilson, finding itself over the cap by tens of millions of dollars ahead of the new league year, what more could Payton and company have done to maximize the offseason? Any rebuild requires some painful decisions, and Payton unflinchingly made them.

The time soon comes to see how all of Denver's offseason machinations take shape. Training camp begins on July 23.

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Chad Jensen


Chad Jensen is the Founder of Mile High Huddle and creator of the wildly popular Mile High Huddle Podcast. Chad has been on the Denver Broncos beat since 2012 and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.