Every offseason, the free-agent frenzy looks like madness. NFL teams throw cash at players like it’s Monopoly money and many players cash in with big bucks in the first wave of the craziness.
Fans get very excited about a new big-money player joining the team, making the start of free agency fun and giving off the allure of promise for the upcoming season. The second wave of free agency is not nearly as exciting to the casual fan, but it is just as important as those big splash free agents.
This is where many of the value free agents are found who become significant contributors to a team. This offseason, the Denver Broncos have enough cap space to go all-in free agency.
The team can make a big-splash signing and sign some second-wave players who will undoubtedly out-play their new paycheck. The Broncos will need to break out the checkbook because they must fill some significant holes on their roster.
The first positions in line to be addressed when free agency begins are cornerback, interior offensive line, and interior defensive line. However, should GM John Elway bring the Monopoly money or be frugal?
Here are two options for each position, one big splash signing and one second-waver to fill those voids.
Big Splash: Byron Jones
Jones literally leaped onto the NFL scene at the Combine a few years back and Jerry Jones couldn’t help himself by taking him in the first round. Jones has been a solid player in his five seasons, but not spectacular.
He was decent when playing safety in the first three seasons, but he tended to shy away from contact. Upon switching to cornerback, he became a better contributor. The switch of positions will come with a bigger paycheck.
Cornerbacks get paid in free agency and Jones is in line for a big payday. He would be a good fit playing zone in the Broncos defense and his versatility would be a large plus.
The Broncos secondary has some question marks right now and they need to be answered this offseason. If the Broncos want to make a big splash at cornerback, Jones fits the bill. He is also 27 years old and entering his prime contribution years.
Second Wave: James Bradberry
Bradberry does not come with the same fanfare as Jones does. However, he will come with a much lower price tag. Bradberry has good size, length and adequate speed.
He offers decent run support and has a resume of starting-caliber success. He would fit well in the zone scheme of the Broncos defense. He is also only 27 and entering his prime contribution years.
Vic Fangio’s defense doesn’t require elite level cornerbacks to have success. Bradberry would not break the bank and would be a solid starter.
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Big Splash: Brandon Scherff
Scherff is an elite level talent at guard and would offer an immediate upgrade to the Broncos offensive line. He has lived up to his first-round billing and is recognized as one of the best guards in the game today. He is going to get big money from a team, even if he comes with injury concerns.
His age, 28 years old, and his injury history, should make the Broncos hesitate especially since some of their last offensive line signings with injury history have not panned out.
Second Wave: Joe Thuney
Thuney is an under-the-radar free agent prospect at guard. He has played well for the New England Patriots and has learned from one of the best offensive line coaches in the game, Dante Scarnecchia.
If he were to sign with the Broncos he would be joining a team with another fantastic O-line coach in Mike Munchack. Thuney has started all sixteen games in every season he has been in the NFL, so there is little injury concerns. He is 27 years old with versatility to play at guard or tackle.
His talent is just too good to pass up and the Broncos must fix their offensive line issues with a young quarterback set to start in 2020. Elway can afford to front-load his contract this season to hedge their bet against later years.
Big Splash: Chris Jones
Jones wreaks havoc on the interior defensive line and would be an upgrade to anything the Broncos trotted out this season. If he doesn’t get the franchise tag, he will get Aaron Donald/Fletcher Cox type money.
He has elite level pass-rushing skills and in the pass happy NFL, defenses need a good interior pass rush. He would immediately make the Broncos the best pass rushing team in the NFL.
Second Wave: Danny Shelton
Shelton is not the interior pass rushing presence that Jones is by any stretch of the imagination. What Shelton does have is good athletic ability for his size and he's a space-eater.
He is a solid run stopping force and can help keep the off-ball linebackers free to make plays. Shelton struggled early in his career, but has since turned it around the past two seasons. He is entering his prime at just 26 years old and with elite-level edge rushers around him, he may get to the quarterback more often than people expect.
Nothing against Jones, but tying up almost $50M per season on two defensive players is a bridge too far for my blood. The Broncos have a need for a big interior presence to help stop the run and they have two promising young players in Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker who are poised to make a big leap for the interior pass rush.
Shelton would come much cheaper and that money could be spent elsewhere to bolster other roster needs.