Where did George Paton’s first offseason leave the Broncos roster? Are they ready to contend?
The major parts of George Paton’s first offseason are now in the book. The Broncos signed a couple of players in free agency, brought back most of their own on one year contracts, and threw a bunch of darts in the NFL Draft.
Questions remain, but there is little doubt this Broncos roster is better than the one that finished the 2020 season. How much better remains an open debate.
Sam Martin, Brandon McManus, Jacob Bobenmoyer
- It never made sense for Paton to spend a ton of resources here this offseason, so I’m glad they didn’t.
- During March the Broncos restructured McManus’ contract and it would now cost $8,925,000 in dead money to cut him this year.
- Sam Martin has two years remaining on his contract, it would cost a little under $1 million to cut him.
Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Patrick Surtain II, Michael Ojemudia, Caden Sterns, Jamar Johnson, Trey Marshall, Duke Dawson, Parnell Motley, Essang Bassey, Nate Hairston, Chris Cooper, P.J. Locke III, Kary Vincent, Mac McCain III
- The position battles here will be fascinating. Broncos will probably carry 10 or 11 DBs on their final roster.
- Fuller, Darby and Simmons look like locks for the roster due to their contract status.
- Fuller, Callahan, and Jackson have contracts set to expire in 2022.
- If the Broncos move Callahan before the season it would carry a $1,333,334 dead cap hit and create just over $7 M in cap space.
- Jackson’s contract makes it unlikely he plays for anyone else in 2021, it’d cost $4.75 million to cut him. There’s no dead cap if he’s traded.
Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Natrez Patrick, Baron Browning, Curtis Robinson
- The Broncos will probably carry four off ball linebackers on their final roster. Baron Browning is a near lock due to his recent draft and subsequent contract status.
- Johnson and Jewell have contracts set to expire after the 2021 season.
- Johnson looks like a lock for one starting job, he’s a very good run defender and an underrated coverage player in zone. Worth noting that moving him carries no dead cap hit and would create $3.384 M in cap space, however.
- Jewell would cost $178,496 to move, doing so would create $2.183 M in cap space.
- Reports out of training camp last year suggest Justin Strnad was pushing Jewell for playing time before he suffered his second season ending injury in as many years.
Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Derrek Tuszka, Malik Reed, Jonathan Cooper, Andre Mintz
- The Broncos will probably carry four edge rushers in 2021. Miller and Chubb are locks.
- I expect the Broncos’ edge rotation to mostly consist of Miller, Chubb, and Reed, barring injury.
- Miller and Reed have contracts set to expire after the 2021 season.
- I do not believe this will happen, but it’s worth noting that Reed’s contract carries just $5,000 in dead money if he were moved, doing so would create $850 K in cap space.
Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams, McTelvin Agim, Shamar Stephen, Deyon Sizer, Isaiah Mack, Marquiss Spencer
- The Broncos will probably carry six defensive linemen onto the final roster. Harris and Jones are about as close to locks as it gets due to performance and/or contract status.
- McTelvin Agim is a near lock due to his draft pedigree and promise, but it would only cost $642,951 to move him before June first and roughly a third of that after.
- In March the Broncos restructured Purcell’s contract. I doubt it comes to this, but if he fails to make the team out of camp it would cost roughly $1.76 million to cut him.
- Williams, Mack, and Stephen have contracts that expire after the 2021 season. Only Stephen’s comes with guarantees, but moving him would create $1.2 M in cap space.
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, DaeSean Hamilton, Kendall Hinton, Trinity Benson, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Seth Williams, Warren Jackson, Devontae Dukes, Branden Mack
- The Broncos will probably carry six receivers on their final roster. Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler look like locks.
- Patrick, Sutton, Hamilton, and Spencer have contracts set to expire in 2022.
- Patrick’s contract carries no dead money if moved. It would create $3.384 M in cap space.
- There were reports before the draft that Hamilton could be traded, if he’s moved the Broncos will eat $170,660 in dead money. Parting ways would create $2,183,000 in additional cap space.
Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Ja’Wuan James, Netane Muti, Austin Schlottmann, Patrick Morris, Quinn Bailey, Quinn Meinerz, Drew Himmelman, Nolan Laufenberg
- The Broncos probably carry between eight and 10 offensive linemen on their final roster. I expect at least three of these players will be tackles. Bolles, James, Glasgow, and Risner are locks due to contract status and/or performance.
- I expect Cushenberry to make the roster due to his draft pedigree, contract, and promise. Worth noting that it would cost the Broncos $236,544 in dead money if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
- It would cost the Broncos $51,448 in dead money if Muti fails to make the final roster out of camp.
- No other veteran lineman on the Broncos has a contract with guarantees. It would cost Denver nothing to move them.
- For the second consectutive year, the Broncos did not draft a single offensive tackle. When asked about it as his post-draft press conference, Paton had this to say:
“We targeted a few that were taken right before we took them, but it didn’t fall our way. We still feel good about our depth. We’ll continue to look on the market—the free-agent market. I think we’re signing five offensive linemen from college free agency. Sometimes it just doesn’t fall. We had a tackle we liked but he was taken right before, that’s just the way the draft goes.”
There’s a number of veteran options on the free agent market that could make sense for the Broncos, including Demar Dotson, Alejandro Villanueva, and Dennis Kelly.
Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Austin Fort, Shaun Beyer, Landon Rice
- The Broncos carried four tight ends on their active roster in 2020. Fant and Okwuegbunam look like locks.
- Beck is an H-back who also logs snaps at fullback. It’d cost nothing to move him if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
- Fort profiles as an H-back, but has yet to log a single regular season snap due to injuries. It’d cost $1,168 if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
- Paton was asked about how he felt about this group during his post-draft press conference:
We have three guys that we like. We’ll continue to look, and we’ll sign some in college free agency. We’ll work the free agent market, and we’d like to add another big guy that can block. We’ll continue to look. Definitely.”
I expect the Broncos to explore the free agent market to try and sign a Y-tight end who can play inline. Three who make sense: Jesse James, Virgil Green, and Richard Rodgers.
Jeremy Cox, Adam Prentice
- The Broncos may not carry a single fullback on the final roster, I doubt they carry two.
- It would cost the Broncos nothing in dead money if Cox fails to make the final roster.
- I suspect Prentice was brought in solely for special teams. He’s too short to serve as a realistic H-back option and Pat Shurmur very rarely uses a fullback. Cox logged 19 snaps on offense last season despite playing in seven games.
Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Royce Freeman, Mike Boone, LaVante Bellamy, Damarea Crockett
- The Broncos will probably carry three or four running backs on their final roster.
- KOA’s Mike Klis has reported that if Gordon receives any discipline from the NFL as part of his arrest last year, Paton will go after his guarantees.
- If Boone fails to make the roster out of training camp it would cost $1.8 million to cut him, $800 K to trade him.
- It would cost the Broncos $249,255 in dead money to move Freeman. Doing so would create just under one million dollars in cap space.
Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien
- The Broncos will probably carry three quarterbacks on their final roster, though there were four at times during the 2020 season.
- Bridgewater is a lock for the final roster due to contract status: it would cost $10 million to cut him.
- If the Broncos trade Drew Lock before June 1st, it would cost $1,559,388. If he is moved after June 1st, it would cost $779,694.
- It would cost the Broncos $750 K to move on from Driskel. Doing so would create $2.5 million in cap space.
- It’s impossible to ignore the myriad of reports tying the Broncos to Aaron Rodgers in the runup to the first round of the NFL Draft. I have heard from a source the Broncos were this close to acquiring Aaron Rodgers. There’s also been speculation an impending deal may have influenced Paton’s decision to pass on Justin Fields for Patrick Surtain II. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported the Broncos are one of Rodger’s preferred destinations:
“It does seem the Broncos kept their options open at quarterback.”
- When asked about the free agent QB market at his post-draft press conference, George Paton said the Broncos are happy with Lock and Bridgewater.
“We’re always looking. You know what the market looks like right now. It’s not great. We’ll see if there is someone who can upgrade what we have, but we like our two. I like Drew and I like Teddy. I think it’s going to be a great competition.”