Could the Colorado product return and play for the Broncos?
One big area of need facing the Denver Broncos and newly hired General Manager George Paton is the team’s cornerback unit. The unit struggled at times in 2020, dealt with injuries and suspensions throughout the year and is one of the bigger glaring weakness the team has right now. So, I expect the Broncos to add some talent and depth to this position during free agency. One player who could fill this need and potentially interest the Broncos is Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobie Awuzie.
Chidobe Awuzie ranks 2nd in forced incompletions (31) since 2018
Who said DBs can’t catch?? ️ ️ pic.twitter.com/lkgnZ4n7PH
— PFF (@PFF) August 24, 2020
Weight: 201 pounds
Age: 25 years old
Experience: 4th year in the NFL
Chidobe Awuzie played his college ball at Colorado and was a standout player during his time there. He entered the 2017 NFL Draft and was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with their 60th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Since then, he has been a consistent starter in the Cowboys secondary. In his four seasons with the Cowboys, Awuzie totaled 213 total tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 quarterback hit, 4 interceptions, 37 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. This past season for the Cowboys, he played in just 8 games and totaled 38 tackles, 5 pass deflections, and 1 interception.
Why it makes sense
As we know, the Denver Broncos need to add at least one starter and some depth to their cornerback unit this offseason. As of now, Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia are penciled in as two of your starters at cornerback, but the rest of the unit is all up in the air. So, adding a player like Awuzie would be beneficial for the Broncos secondary.
According to Pro Football Focus, Awuzie is currently ranked as the 43rd best free agent available this offseason.
After earning a coverage grade that ranks right in the middle of the league’s corners since 2017, Awuzie epitomizes the league-average cornerback. He’s done his best work in zone coverage, ranking in the 61st percentile in PFF grade, but he’s in just the 35th percentile in single coverage. That matches our scouting report of Awuzie coming out of college, where he looked like an excellent fit in a zone scheme, and that’s likely his best bet once again as he hits free agency.
As Pro Football Focus stated, Awuzie is best suited for a zone-heavy scheme and that’s exactly the type of scheme that Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio typically uses. So while he has had an up and down tenure with the Cowboys who have had their own issues on defense, putting him in Fangio’s scheme could allow him to flourish.
Another reason why I like the idea of adding Awuzie is that he has the size, length, and strength to play the boundary for the Broncos. This could allow Ojemudia and Awuzie to man the boundary spots and allow Callahan to shift to the slot where he is at his best. Now, depth and possibly competition will still need to be added either via free agency or the draft, but signing Awuzie would improve the Broncos secondary if he was signed.
Why it doesn’t make sense
When doing my research on Awuzie, I came across some reports stating that the Cowboys thought about shifting Awuzie to safety last summer. Now, while he played safety a bit in college, moving from corner to safety in the NFL is usually never a good sign or something an aging veteran does to extend their career.
McClay acknowledges consideration of moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety, with addition of Diggs and Reggie Robinson
— KD Drummond (@KDDrummondNFL) April 28, 2020
Now Awuzie did end up playing corner for the Cowboys, but the team had enough concern about his corner play where they explored the idea of moving him to safety.
If you’re one to believe in Pro Football Focus’s grading, a switch to safety might be best for Awuzie. According to Pro Football Focus, he received the 95th best grade out of 121 eligible cornerbacks. He was given a 51.9 overall defensive grade and a 52 overall coverage grade which was the 87th best grade out of 119 eligible players. This past season was Awuzie’s career worse grade during his four seasons. He had an overall defensive grade above 70 twice during his career, so if you sign him, you hope he can return to that sort of form again, but his play has certainly been uneven.
I get why people would like Awuzie and I understand where he played college factors into this a good deal for some, but I’m personally on the fence.
I am intrigued by the fit and hopefully being put in Fangio’s scheme could bring out the best in him, but it’s a risky pick. Add in the Cowboys considering moving him to safety and I’m concerned about playing him at cornerback in a division that has some of the fastest receivers/players in the NFL. I mean, at the end of the day, you’re building a defense that will need to compete with the Chiefs offense and be able to cover the Tyreek Hill’s and Mecole Hardeman’s.
With all that said, he did play in a bad defensive scheme in 2020 with the Cowboys. The Mike Nolan led Cowboys defense was not very good this past season and a change of scenery and put into a better scheme could bring out the best in him.
So as you can see, I am on the fence with potentially adding Awuzie but if it were to happen, I wouldn’t hate the deal.