Skip to main content

Only a month remains until the NFL's multi-million dollar feeding frenzy opens for business in what the league has coined the 'legal tampering period'. GM John Elway will utilize this two-day window ahead of the March 18 opening of free agency to get in front of the players the Denver Broncos have targeted on the open market  

Being ultra-aggressive during the free agency is something Elway has had considerable success with in the past. Opening the Broncos' checkbook served him well when he added four vital components that helped propel the team to triumph in Super Bowl 50.

Several of Denver's homegrown veterans are about to hit free agency, including former starters like Justin Simmons, Shelby Harris, Chris Harris, Jr. and Derek Wolfe.

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 admitted recently when talking with Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan (Zac Stevens/DNVR). “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.”

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!

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Harris had a breakout season in 2019 after bouncing around the league before he found a home with the Broncos two years prior. Since then, the front office has only committed to a succession of 'prove it' deals, which might ultimately cost the Broncos the chance of retaining a player with a real upside while also throwing away all the time and efforts the team invested in developing him.

It points to perhaps a new strategy to player negotiations that Elway has shifted towards in recent times. Whereas in the past, he entered into long-term contract extension talks with homegrown players like Chris Harris, Jr. and Wolfe well before they hit the open market, the GM now tends to wait things out so that he can ascertain how supply and demand will set a player's value — an altogether more reactive (as opposed to proactive) approach. 

Waiting it out with homegrown players has the dangerous side effect of leading established and productive players to believe they aren’t as valued or respected by the organization as they feel they should be. That's dangerous territory for any business but especially the high stakes NFL and doubly dangerous when it could potentially leave you undermanned along your defensive line and impotently chasing shadows of the likes of Patrick Mahomes.

As attention shifts to the NFL Combine next week, Elway will surely have one eye focused on the March 18 opening of free agency when he can make some bold moves and attract big names. Leaving so many notable Broncos hanging as prime bait on the open market might be a decision the GM comes to regret, should things not go exactly as planned for him and the Broncos.

Any shrewd GM, including Elway, will be aware of the strategic importance of keeping a clear plan B readily at hand if negotiations with a free agent are unsuccessful. Losing out in the sweepstakes for top targets during the early days of free agency will be very much part of the process, hence why keeping the door open to negotiations with their own free agents will become a vital safety net.

When it comes to free agency, star performers, like Dallas Cowboys' cornerback Byron Jones, will attract a high level of interest from teams, including the Broncos based on what we're hearing, so he's sure to be counting the air miles on team visits as well as counting the dollars when he signs his new contract.

Any shrewd GM, including Elway, will be aware of the strategic importance of keeping a clear plan B readily at hand if negotiations with a free agent are unsuccessful. Losing out in the sweepstakes for top targets during the early days of free agency will be very much part of the process, hence why keeping the door open to negotiations with their own free agents will become a vital safety net.

Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL and @MileHighHuddle.