Vegas Oddsmakers did Not Like Broncos' First Wave of Free Agency
The Denver Broncos have made a lot of moves since the NFL's legal tampering window opened last week. Three trades, four outside free-agent signings, two homegrown re-signings and a handful of tenders sum up the maneuverings of GM John Elway.
But coming off a third consecutive losing season, and with a veritable exodus of homegrown talent, has it been enough to turn the ship around in Denver? Based on what the oddsmakers in Vegas say, the answer is no.
Bet Online has adjusted their NFL team win totals with the first wave of free agency in the books, which saw the leading betting site alter its projections for the Broncos. Denver's over/under has dropped from 8 to 7.5 wins for 2020.
Is it Fair?
On one hand, I could see how one could argue that the Broncos didn't markedly improve the roster over 2019. However, to say that the Broncos have gotten worse, I'd have to really analyze the gin-gout.
Let's give it a try.
A.J. Bouye replaces Chris Harris, Jr. as CB1
This one is close to being a wash. Although Harris is a four-time Pro Bowler, Bouye is younger.
Jurrell Casey replaces Shelby Harris & Derek Wolfe at DE
This one is a clear upgrade for the Broncos, if you were comparing Casey to Harris or even Derek Wolfe apples-to-apples. We're talking about Denver acquiring a DE who's been to five consecutive Pro Bowls after all.
Meanwhile, neither Wolfe nor Harris has been to even one NFL all-star game. Does Casey make up for losing both Wolfe and Harris? The answer would depend on your view of Dre'Mont Jones, who's entering his second year.
So, in that sense, since the Broncos had two vets depart at the position and only one come in, you can make an argument that the roster took a step back because Jones is still so unproven.
Graham Glasgow replaces Connor McGovern & Ron Leary on OL
The issue here, similarly to the Casey move, is that Graham can't be expected to replace two outgoing incumbents at different positions. Not only did McGovern depart but the Broncos cut bait also with last year's starting right guard — Leary.
Straight up, Glasgow for McGovern, as much as I like McGovern, Glasgow is the better player. But Glasgow can't play both center and right guard. If the equation is that Glasgow replaces Leary at RG while holdover Patrick Morris replaces McGovern at center, it would be understandable if Vegas viewed that as a step back.
However, if it's Glasgow replacing McGovern at center, and Elijah Wilkinson replacing Leary at RG, that would represent an upgrade. But, the buzz has Glasgow playing RG so we're left with...
Verdict: Downgrade (only because Glasgow/Morris is a step down from McGovern/Leary
Jeff Driskel replaces Brandon Allen at backup quarterback
Drew Lock has been anointed by the team as the unquestioned starter heading into 2020. The Broncos never planned for Joe Flacco to serve as Lock's backup and he's since been cut, but Brandon Allen was considered.
The Broncos went with the more experienced Driskel, letting Allen hit the bricks. Driskel isn't the most exciting option but from a veteran fail-safe perspective, the Broncos did modestly improve the backup spot.
Melvin Gordon replaces Devontae Booker at RB
I don't love the contract Gordon got from Denver (two years, $16M) but there's absolutely no question that the Broncos upgraded over the outgoing Booker and improved the running back depth chart by leaps and bounds.
Those are the Broncos' only acquisitions that correspond with an outgoing veteran. Now, let's take a quick look at departed players the Broncos haven't replaced with an outside signing.
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Will Parks, S
Parks accepted a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Projected Replacement: Trey Marshall or drafted rookie | Verdict: Downgrade
Derek Wolfe, DE
Wolfe remains unsigned but for now, we'll consider him departed.
Projected Replacement: Dre'Mont Jones | Verdict: Downgrade (Apples for apples)
Casey Kreiter, LS
Kreiter is coming off a Pro Bowl nod and remains unsigned.
Projected Replacement: Jacob Bobenmoyer | Verdict: Downgrade (experience matters, even at longsnapper)
Ronald Leary, RG
Leary's team option was declined, rendering him a free agent.
Projected Replacement: Depends on where Glasgow plays | Verdict: Downgrade
Joe Flacco, QB
Flacco was cut, rendering him a free agent.
Projected Replacement: Drew Lock | Verdict: Upgrade
The Broncos decided to keep quite a few of their homegrown free agents. The key ones being S Justin Simmons (franchise tag), OL Elijah Wilkinson (RFA tag), DT Mike Purcell (RFA tag), CB De'Vante Bausby (one-year deal), and OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (one-year deal).
There were also a handful of ERFAs tendered, which includes the previously mentioned Marshall, as well as Tim Patrick and Pro Bowl alternate punt returner Diontae Spencer.
Nick Vannett, TE
Vannett was an outside signing that is yet to have a corresponding departure. The rumor is that Jeff Heuerman will end up on the cutting room floor with Vannett in the fold, but until that happens, we have to evaluate the roster based on both being on it.
Although I questioned the need to add Vannett, it's not rational to say he downgrades the roster. As a complete TE, he provides a modest upgrade to the depth chart behind Noah Fant and Heuerman.
Roster Holes Remaining
- Defensive end
- Cornerback (not created by a departure but still needs bolstering)
- Third Safety
- Offensive line
Broncos Getting Back 3 Key Injured Players
The Broncos played most of, and in some cases, all of 2019 without players like OLB Bradley Chubb, RT Ja'Wuan James and CB Bryce Callahan.
Getting them back for 2020 is like signing three Pro Bowl-caliber free agents.
The Final Tally
What this analysis has revealed to me is that indeed, the Broncos still have work to do on this roster. The Broncos could ease a lot of minds by re-signing Wolfe and adding one more outside cornerback like Prince Amukamara but there might only be enough cap room for one of those moves.
However, before any fan panics, keep in mind that the offseason has two separate roster-building components and NFL free agency is only one of them. The oddsmakers might have docked the Broncos by half a win based on what the team did in free agency but with the NFL Draft coming in April, that could change again.
My bet is that by the time it's all said and done, Vegas will eventually return the Broncos to an over/under win total of 8. That is, unless Elway completely botches this draft — but I don't see that happening.