Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason.
You can pose a Broncos- or NFL-related question for the Broncos Mailbag here. Follow Ryan for more daily updates on Twitter.
Do you think John Elway regrets not hiring Kyle Shanahan as head coach? The jury is out on Vic Fangio, but Elway doesn’t seem to embrace the talented offspring of local Bronco legends (Shanahan/Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey).
— Tyler, Fort Collins
It seems like I get one of these John/Kyle questions every other week and probably with good reason since Shanahan interviewed with the Broncos during the January 2017 hiring cycle. The Broncos turned to Vance Joseph, who was fired after two years and only 11 wins, and Fangio was 7-9 in his first season. Is the jury out on Vic? For sure and that’s understandable considering how parts of 2019 unfolded. As for McCaffrey, he was selected eighth overall in 2017 by Carolina; the Broncos had the 20th pick so it would have likely cost them a 2018 first-rounder (which turned into Bradley Chubb) to move up 15 spots.
Hey Ryan, with the news of Washington cornerback Josh Norman being released, could he be a possible pick-up for Denver? His physicality could fit perfectly in Fangio’s system.
— Sam Kempter, Cedar City, Utah
Norman is eligible to sign with a team immediately because he’s already been released. At 32, he’s older than Chris Harris. Four of his 14 regular-season interceptions came for Carolina in its NFC title-winning year of 2015. The Panthers subsequently pulled the franchise tag before the 2016 draft, making him a free agent and he landed with the Redskins. He missed only six games in four years with the Redskins, but didn’t win a darn thing. That would play into where he chooses to play next. I talked to an informed source familiar with Norman’s play. They said he can still play, but needs to be in a zone-based system and in front of a safety he can trust. Norman has never been a speedster, which plays into his comfort level playing zone instead of man.
One of the biggest offseason questions seems to be whether Denver will retain cornerback Chris Harris and the general consensus at the moment seems to be Denver won’t pay him what he wants. My question: Do you really believe a soon-to-be 31-year-old cornerback coming off a career-worst season can really fetch the $15 million or so he wants on the open market? Do you see a scenario where he doesn’t get the money he wants testing the market and ends up taking less than he desired to stay in Denver?
— Steve, Forks, Wash.
I say with complete confidence the Broncos aren’t going to pay Harris what he feels he’s worth ($15 million per year); they offered him a three-year, $36 million contract at midseason 2019. Now, Harris returning to the Broncos will depend on if Elway wants to move up from the $12 million average number and, more importantly, the other 31 teams don’t believe Harris is a $15 million per year player, either. That is the scenario I see if Harris returns with the Broncos: He doesn’t get what he wants on the open market so chooses to stay where he’s comfortable and is confident he will be used properly. You’ll see plenty of chatter about Dallas’ Byron Jones (who is a free agent) and Detroit’s Darius Slay (who is under contract) over the next few weeks. With or without Harris, the Broncos have to do big-time work at the cornerback position.
Shelby Harris stated that he wants to stay in Denver, but on the other hand, he wanted to be paid for his kids’ future. When I hear words like that, it makes me think that he just wants to stack his chips. The question: Will Harris continue to play like he has played the last two years? Or him knowing that his contract was about to be up, he elevated his game for money for his kids’ future as he has stated? I hope that Shelby is coming into his own and not just for the money. What do you think?
— Sam Jones, Fairfield, Calif.
Harris will be 29 when the 2020 season opens, but has played only 56 games. His best football could be in front of him. But there is no disputing his birth certificate — he knows this will be his first and last kick at the big-money can. For that reason, Harris should go to the highest bidder, which would include a two-year guarantee. That would set up himself and his family financially. Harris knows what he’s doing: His preference would be to stay with the Broncos, where he is a versatile fit for Fangio’s defense. BUT … and it’s an expensive “But” … the price must be right for the Broncos and Harris. I don’t expect their numbers to match. If Harris leaves, it will put the onus on second-year defensive end Dre’Mont Jones.
I was looking at all the good teams out there that could have made it to the Super Bowl and what it takes to get there. What’s the problem with the Broncos the last three years? I love the Broncos, but what are we going to do this year to catch Kansas City?
— Brian Roling, Denver
Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback, quarterback! Just look at the final eight teams in the playoffs: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Ryan Tannehill (Titans), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Deshaun Watson (Texans) and Russell Wilson (Seahawks). Only Tannehill’s status is unclear moving into 2020. Having a reliable quarterback covers up a lot of other warts on the roster. The Broncos will lean on Drew Lock this year to establish the same kind of continuity.
Have the Broncos ever considered moving Phillip Lindsay to slot receiver? It looks like he would be almost impossible to cover.
— Ken Giese, Prosser, Wash.
I’ll meet Ken in the middle on this topic, which I hadn’t given any thought to prior. Lindsay has 70 catches in two NFL seasons, but has also rushed for 1,037 and 1,011 yards, respectively. He is best-served to play running back. But, to Ken’s point, I would like to see Lindsay utilized as a receiver running those types of routes, particularly if offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can scheme up a linebacker-vs.-Lindsay match-up on the perimeter.
Ryan, what do you think about the Broncos picking up former Buffs receiver Nelson Spruce? He’s been pretty beastly in the XFL so far this year. He’d definitely help give us some much-needed depth in the receiving corps.
— Max, Boulder
I had to educate myself on Spruce when this question dropped in. Spruce, 27, had 294 catches in his Colorado career, but has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game. He has been with the Rams, Bears, Chiefs and Chargers since 2016. He had six catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in Los Angeles’ loss to Dallas on Sunday. From a big-picture standpoint, it will be interesting to see how many players (if any) from the XFL are signed by the Broncos. Remember, they signed nose tackle Mike Purcell after the AAF folded and he was a starter by Week 5.