The Broncos Could Be Major Players in Free Agency
By: David Buskirk
In 2021 the league is facing a potential cap drop, and because of this it is likely that there will be more trades and stars on the free agency market than ever before. As of now the Broncos are projected to have $18,550,052 in salary cap according to spotrac.com.
The Broncos have a few big names slated to become free agents. Justin Simmons, Alexander Johnson and Shelby Harris are the most notable unrestricted free agents. I predict Simmons and Harris to be back in 2021. Tim Patrick and fan favorite Phillip Lindsay are both restricted free agents and I fully expect both to be back via tenders. Von Miller will also be a hot topic since he has got a team option worth $22,225,000, which for even a hall of famer coming off a season ending injury is too much money.
The Broncos on the hot seat include Cornerback AJ Bouye, and Defensive Lineman Jurrell Casey. The Broncos could trade them for late round draft picks or release them to clear $23,151,588 in cap space. This would give them the ability to make some big moves. Here are some of the big names I expect to be on the Broncos radar come this offseason if they are not franchise tagged or resigned by their current team.
When it comes to needs on the Broncos roster, I think about the cornerback, linebacker, and Defensive line positions. At cornerback the Broncos have Bryce Callahan, who was one of the best cornerback in the league in 2020 that plays best in the slot but is versatile and can play on the boundary also. The Broncos also have 2020 3rd round draft pick Michael Ojemudia who struggled in his first season, but showed promise down the stretch. Ojemudia plays best on the outside. Here are some options to help upgrade over AJ Bouye.
- William Jackson III
Jackson played well in the Bengals backfield earning a 72.4 (22nd ranked) Pass coverage rating among all cornerbacks in 2020. After being drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Houston, he was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle and had to undergo season ending surgery. He has proven that he can stay healthy since then and is still only 27 years old. PFF predicts a market value of 13.33m a year for Jackson. Jackson is my favorite cornerback in this year’s free agency class.
- Shaquill Griffin
Griffin posted a 64.8 (46th ranked) pass coverage rating in 2020 while coming away with 12 pass deflections and three interceptions on the year all the while playing through injuries. Against the Dolphins in week 4 he didn’t allow a single reception all game and has shown high-end play. Griffin is projected to cost about 9.5m a year.
- Chidobe Awuzie
Awuzie posted a 52 (87th ranked) pass coverage rating in 2020. However in 2019 he came away with a 70.5 coverage rating. The difference between 2019 and 2020 is mostly due to Byron Jones leaving to the Dolphins in 2020 via free agency .Awuzie is best suited as a number 2 corner in my opinion. Awuzie is projected to cost around 9m a year.
At linebacker the Broncos have Josey Jewell expected to come back for his fourth year after proving he is a reliable starter, and Alexander Johnson is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Since every team needs at least 2 good linebackers the Broncos may look to upgrade at the position. Here are some options currently projected to enter free agency in 2021.
- Lavonte David
One of the best linebackers of his generation. Lavonte David is still playing at an incredibly high level past the age of 30. In many ways, he has been the archetype for the modern linebacker that counters the league’s shift in offensive philosophy away from smash-mouth football and toward speed and efficiency of his own, in addition to exceptional coverage skills. He is a three time all-pro talent that would be a game changer on defense. David is expected to cost around 13.33m a year according to PFF.
- Jayon Brown
Brown is an undersized, modern-day linebacker who has earned the 10th-best coverage grade among linebackers in the league via PFF since 2018. He is a good coverage linebacker, but below-average as a run defender. Brown performs best in zone coverage and has the fourth-best forced incompletion percentage since 2017. Brown is expected to get around 11.88m a year.
- Matt Milano
Milano is another modern-day linebacker who has the 11th-best coverage grade among linebackers in the league since 2018. He is excellent at matching up with running backs in single coverage and held his own when asked to line up over the slot. Milano’s tackling has been an issue as he missed 36 over 2018 and 2019. However the coverage value makes milano an intriguing option given the importance of matching with offensive weapons. Milano should be able to get around 11.25m a year.
On the defensive line the Broncos have Shelby Harris, who I hope will return, Dre’Mont Jones, and Jurrell Casey who can play the outside spots. Jurrell Casey however was injured for most of 2020 and the Broncos can clear over 11m in cap space if they move on from him. The Broncos have the option to replace him with McTelvin Agim, who was a third round pick in 2020, however, I feel more confident in him as a rotational player. It is likely the Broncos decide to start Jones and Harris, while having Mike Purcell in the Nose tackle position. However there are a couple great Giants defensive lineman that may become free agents.
- Leonard Williams
One of the most proven in the class, Williams gas graded well in every season in his six years of his career. He excels at Run defense as he ranks in the 86th percentile in PFF run-defense grade since entering the league. Williams is a above average pass-rusher with a career-high 13 sacks this season, he’s yet to break a 72.0 pass-rush grade for his career. He is very valuable and would be considered a franchise player on the defense. He is projected to make 20m a year.
- Dalvin Tomlinson
Tomlinson is a above-average run defender and a below-average pass rusher. He ranks in the 82nd percentile in PFF run-defense grade since 2017 and he knows how to finish plays. He can play all over the defensive interior and represents one of the best nose-tackles in this class.
If the Broncos were to secure any of the cornerbacks, linebackers or interior linemen I have listed I would be happy about it and you should too. I am very excited for this offseason and the bevy of moves it will bring with it. Let me know what players you want the Broncos to go after in the comments.