3 Glaring Positions Broncos Must Address in Free Agency

The Broncos can ill-afford to neglect these positions before the NFL draft rolls around in April.
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With the start of NFL free agency right around the corner, one can imagine how busy new Denver Broncos' GM George Paton is evaluating all available options and how they would fit with the team.

If Paton's mindset is anything like that of his predecessor in the GM chair John Elway, he will look to shore up some of the larger roster holes ahead of the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at the most important positions the Broncos will need to address during the free agency legal tampering period starting on March 15.

1. Cornerback

Current players under contract:

  • Bryce Callahan
  • Michael Ojemudia
  • Duke Dawson
  • Essang Bassey
  • Nate Hairston
  • Parnell Motley

When the Broncos released A.J. Bouye last week, they created a sizable hole on the cornerback depth chart. Of the players currently under contract, only Callahan and Ojemudia project as potential starters.

Callahan looked strong in 2020 after sitting out all of the prior season with a foot injury. He carries with him a decent $8.5 million cap hit, but at this point in time, he can be penciled in as a starter. Ojemudia had a relatively strong rookie outing, and the coaching staff will hope to see improvement from him in Year 2. 

He is, however, not someone I would want lining up on No. 1 receivers until more development is seen. Beyond those two players, there aren’t a lot of inspiring names left on the roster. 

That makes it imperative for Denver to bring in an outside free agent to buff this group up before the draft. There are a lot of intriguing names available at the position as well, with Patrick Peterson, Darious Williams, Jason Verrett, Xavier Rhodes, Brian Poole, and Ronald Darby headlining this group.

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2. Quarterback

Current players under contract:

  • Drew Lock
  • Brett Rypien
  • Jeff Driskel

Yes, the talk of the offseason thus far has been centered around upgrading the QB position, but as we speculate on what type of starter upgrade the Broncos may or may not acquire, a major hole at backup still remains.

Driskel is one of the most likely cut candidates on this roster. He proved last season he was not a capable backup, so moving on from him and clearing up $2.5M on the cap seems like a no-brainer.

And while Rypien has shown flashes of promise, he still isn’t a QB you’d have a lot of confidence to step in and win games if your starter were to go down. He also does not add the same level of value a veteran would to mentoring incumbent starter Lock.

Expect Paton to continue to be active in trying to bring in an additional quarterback this offseason, whether that is a clear upgrade over Lock (cue the Deshaun Watson pipe dream), or a veteran to either push the incumbent or help in his development. 

3. Safety

Current players under contract:

  • Kareem Jackson
  • Chris Cooper
  • P.J. Locke

The above list is far from inspiring, but, of course, it’s lacking the star of the group — Justin Simmons. Simmons will be hitting unrestricted free agency, and you can bet that he’s going to be one of Paton's top priorities to re-sign.

The fact that Simmons is not under contract for the 2021 season is a major reason why safety is on this list. You would hope that both sides will be able to come to an agreement on a long-term extension, but we also thought the same thing last year before he opted to play under the franchise tag instead. So there are no guarantees.

Beyond bringing Simmons back, there are still major depth concerns at the position. It’s possible the team looks to bring back Will Parks, who was brought on late in the season after being released by the Eagles.

Assuming Denver is able to bring Simmons back, the Broncos will be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-30M for both he and Kareem Jackson. With that amount of money already committed to the position, it’s unlikely the team spends big on a third safety. 

It's worth mentioning, however, that Trey Marshall will be an exclusive rights free agent, which makes him a near-guarantee to get tendered and at least given a shot at competing in training camp. Will Parks, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent. 

The most logical move would be to fill out depth in the draft, something that would be prudent anyway with Jackson turning 33 years old this year. 

Bottom Line

While the Broncos may not have a lot of significant holes on the roster, they’ll really need to zero in on the aforementioned positions to set themselves up for success heading into the NFL draft.


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