As I've written many times since the 2019 season ended, the Denver Broncos are facing an exodus of talent, and it comes mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Two defensive backs, and three defensive linemen, are poised to hit unrestricted free agency in March.
As a result, the Broncos have multiple holes to fill personnel-wise on defense. Now, it's entirely possible and likely that a couple of those holes will be filled by the front-office re-signing a homegrown free agent. However, based on age, injury history and market value, the odds are, the Broncos will be forced to let some depart, all five of whom were starters last season.
It stands to reason, then, that the Broncos' primary free-agent pursuits will be on the defensive side of the ball. Armed with at least $62 million in cap space, the Broncos will prioritize cornerback, defensive line and possibly inside linebacker, according to 9NEWS' Mike Klis.
We've been telling the listeners of the Huddle Up Podcast for a couple of months now to expect the Broncos to utilize free agency as its intended — to fill immediate roster needs — while turning to the draft to bolster the offense and depth. The Broncos do have some needs on offense, and of them, here's what Klis expects the team to explore via free agency.
On offense, the Broncos will also look to add a veteran backup quarterback, and possibly a receiver. And while they probably would have to wait until the draft to find a new offensive tackle (free agency is flooded with aging left tackles and solid right tackles and the Broncos are locked in with Ja’Wuan James at right tackle) they must address center Connor McGovern’s free agency and possibly one more interior blocker.
What happens next for the Broncos in free agency and the draft? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
First thing's first; the Broncos have to get busy on trying to re-sign the homegrown free agents whom the front office envisions as part of the future. S Justin Simmons is the only one we know for sure the team will go to any length to keep in Denver, because GM John Elway has said so. That could mean applying the franchise tag to buy the team time to negotiate long-term.
Let's take a look at the other key homegrown guys.
Chris Harris, Jr. | CB: GM John Elway tried to get Harris re-signed ahead of the trade deadline last fall. It was a low-ball offer, which Harris declined. Harris now is committed to testing the market and what interest he finds will determine whether the Broncos pursue him.
Derek Wolfe | DL: Wolfe has maintained an open posture publicly, proclaiming a desire to remain in Denver, so long as any offer the team makes is "fair". Considering how good Wolfe was in Fangio's scheme, it'd be a good bet to assume the Broncos make a play to re-sign him.
Shelby Harris | DL: For Harris, it's "about the money". He hired agent Drew Rosenhaus so that he could maximize this earning opportunity on the open market. With a projected value of $11.7M/year (Spotrac), odds are, Harris lands elsewhere.
Adam Gotsis | DL: Considering he finished the year on injured reserve and had to undergo knee surgery, Gotsis is going to have to accept a one-year 'prove it' deal. There's a good chance that offer comes from the Broncos, somewhere close to the veteran minimum.
Connor McGovern | C/OG: The only former starter hitting free agency from the offensive side, McGovern could be on the brink of getting paid. I've talked to knowledgeable people around the league who believe McGovern could command $8-10M/year on the open market, which would all but guarantee he suits up for someone else in 2020 and beyond.
As it relates outside free agents, read this article for a breakdown of all the veterans the Broncos have been tied to in the NFL rumor mill. Most of them are (shocker) defensive guys, including multiple D-linemen, cornerbacks and inside linebackers.
The Broncos will use the draft to build the offense, while, as Benjamin Allbright has said, using free agency to 'buy' a defense.