John Elway has the Broncos back on track with the reconstruction the team has needed since it won the Super Bowl five years ago. The hiring of Vic Fangio has worked out well, as Denver improved to 7-9 in 2019 to finish second in the AFC West behind the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs.
Most important, the Broncos look like they’ve found a keeper at quarterback. On another level, some of their 3-4 defensive strengths are being restored with Fangio. That combination, plus ample assets this offseason, provides plenty of promise for what’s to come sooner rather than later.
Here we take a deep dive into the Broncos’ to-do list through free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft.
NFL FREE AGENCY 2020: Ranking top 50 players
Broncos’ top priority: Lift up Drew Lock
The Broncos had to wait until Lock was healthy from his thumb injury, but once the second-rounder from Missouri got his chance to start as a rookie, he went 4-1 with his fearless play, rating a respectable 89.7 as a passer. Lock looks like he can be the franchise guy and needs help to secure that status.
The defense has fewer holes. Denver ranked No. 28 in total and scoring offense. It had the No. 28 passing offense, and the rushing offense ranked only 20th.
The Broncos need to think about an offensive line overhaul. They need more big-play ability in the receiving corps. They also could use a complementary running back to have more receiving impact behind Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.
Part of their commitment to Lock includes getting him a more willing backup who can impart wisdom as Lock tries to absorb a new offense coordinated by Pat Shurmur. Lock did well with the limited support he had last season. Shurmur’s hiring is an indication Denver will do everything it can to give him a significant second-year boost.
Broncos free agents 2020
Here’s a look at the Broncos’ key unrestricted, unsigned players for next season:
- RB Devontae Booker
- RB Theo Riddick
- C Connor McGovern
- G Ronald Leary
- DE Derek Wolfe
- DE Shelby Harris
- DE Adam Gotsis
- DE Billy Winn
- ILB Corey Nelson
- OLB Jeremiah Attaochu
- CB Chris Harris Jr.
- CB Cyrus Jones
- S Will Parks
The Broncos franchise tagged safety Justin Simmons after an exceptional season because he means so much to their defense. Harris could still return for his age-31 season on a relatively cheap, short-term deal despite their pending acquisition of Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye.
Booker and Riddick will be moving on. Leary is gone, and for now, McGovern looks like he won’t be re-signed, either. Harris would be the easy choice over Wolfe for their 3-4 defense.
Broncos salary cap space
The Broncos are in the top 10 of teams with room under the cap with around $57 million available, per OverTheCap.com. They should avoid going wild with that, however, to stay flexible as a rapidly rebuilding team, being more calculated for quality over quantity.
They already made one rather large move in trading for Bouye, who came at only the cost of a fourth-round pick. Should they cut former starting QB Joe Flacco as expected, they will recoup $10 million of the $13.4 million invested in Bouye vs. losing $13.6 million in dead money on Flacco.
Broncos team needs
- Offensive tackle: Garett Bolles hasn’t worked out well on the left side, and he likely won’t be back in 2021. Plus, Ja’Wuan James is coming off a knee injury.
- Wide receiver: The Broncos have Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton, but they need a strong outside No. 1A.
- Guard/center: Leary won’t be back, and they need to be prepared in case they get priced out for McGovern.
- Cornerback: Bouye is coming in, but he’s essentially a possible replacement for Harris, and Isaac Yiadom is a liability outside.
- Defensive line: Nose needs an upgrade. At end, they did draft Dre’Mont Jones last year, but the combination of Wolfe and Harris likely won’t stay intact after free agency.
- Inside linebacker: Todd Davis had his option picked up, but he is limited and will be a free agent in 2021.
- Safety: Simmons will be back but Parks is a free agent and Kareem Jackson, coming off a strong season, turns 32 in April.
Broncos free agent targets
The Broncos need to consider investing heavily in guard. The best splurge targets there are Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff (if he’s not tagged by the Redskins).
Denver, even with Lindsay and Freeman, is rumored to be going after a back as high end as Melvin Gordon. Wide receivers that would make sense to complement Sutton outside with their speed are Robby Anderson and Breshad Perriman.
The Broncos will be in the market for a nose tackle, which brings D.J. Reader, Javon Hargrave and Michael Pierce into play. Michael Brockers would be a great fit to help at 3-4 end.
As for backup help for Lock, they should consider a former Bronco. Case Keenum had success with Shurmur in their lone season together with the Vikings in 2017. Marcus Mariota will have some appeal there, too.
Broncos draft picks 2020
- Round 1, Pick No. 15
- Round 2, Pick No. 46
- Round 3, Pick No. 77
- Round 3, Pick No. 83 (From Steelers)
- Round 3, Pick No. 95 (From 49ers)
- Round 4, Pick No. 118
- Round 4, Pick No. 137 (From 49ers)
- Round 5, Pick No. 178 (compensatory)
- Round 6, Pick No. 181 (From Redskins)
- Round 7, Pick No. 237 (From Patriots)
- Round 7, Pick No. 252 (compensatory)
- Round 7, Pick No. 254 (compensatory)
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2020:
Broncos find a new offensive playmaker
Although one of those fourth-rounders will go away for Bouye, Elway still has an impressive haul of 11 picks with which to work, thanks to making four trades and earning those three comp picks.
With only six picks last year, the Broncos landed three offensive starters in Lock, tight end Noah Fant and left guard Dalton Risner. They should be looking for about three-to-five more over both sides of the ball this year.
In our lates mock draft, Sporting News gives the Broncos Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in Round 1, but offensive line and cornerback also will be considerations. That’s because wide receiver is plenty deep, a position the Broncos can attack if needed in Rounds 2 or 3.
Should they take Jeudy or another wideout first, a good second-round value would be a guard/center such as Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz or Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz. As for the third round, there’s an ideal 3-4 defensive end prospect for them in MIssouri’s Jordan Elliott.
Overall, Elway should be in the best player available game. And if a player at, say, offensive tackle drops a little in Round 1, the Broncos would be in position to move up and get him. With a decent haul, the Broncos can flip a 7-9 team into a wild-card contender.