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Explaining The Broncos’ 2023 Free Agent Signings

This was an unusual start of the new league year for the Broncos where they were extremely active on the unrestricted free agent market. I cannot recall seeing such a blistering pace in a very long time. There is reason behind why the Broncos did this, of course. But because there were so many signings over a short time frame, I decided to do something a little different this time around: take a pause, let the details of the contracts arrive and sink in, and then proceed with discussion all at once.

I'll break this effort into two pieces. This first part will be a factual look at the contracts that were signed. This article will then be followed up by a second part in where I offer my opinion on what they all mean.

2023 Broncos Offseason Road Map

2022 ended up being one of those Murphy's Law seasons for the Broncos that's liable to strike at any moment to any NFL team. It's also particularly cruel that it had to strike at the time where they're not reaping high draft picks from it, but at least they went into the season knowing that they would not be reaping such regardless of record. The team got caught in two very vicious negative tail end distributions to end up with a 5-12 record.

The first was a ridiculously high amount of injuries. I'm not sure if I can remember a Broncos season that had this magnitude. The Broncos were regularly leading the IR department throughout the season. In sum, the Broncos saw their starting running back, their #3 and #4 wide receivers, their starting left tackle and center on the offensive line, and one each of their starting edge rushers, linebackers, and cornerbacks spend considerable time on injured reserve. And this doesn't even get into multiple games missed by almost every major wide receiver and offensive linemen on the team, as well. There are very few teams that could come out of those type of injuries with a good record.

And the second was an unusually bad choice at head coach, with Nathaniel Hackett becoming the very rare coach that didn't even make it out of his first season. And this was quite deservedly so, as he looked like he was in over his head from the start of the season and just continued to progress more toward that conclusion as the season progress. Unlike, say, Josh McDaniels, Hackett did not contain non-coaching aggravating factors, but it was evident that the Peter Principle remains a constant. I hope Hackett can find a good job elsewhere in the NFL even if he proved quickly he is not head coaching material.

Resolve the first tail end distribution with better luck, and the second with better skill, and there's a great chance for the Broncos to bounce back. But as with every team with every offseason, there's always work to be done, and as always I'm here with my opinion through my annual offseason road map.

2022 Trade Deadline Examination

One of my least favorite NFL discourse routines is when observers concoct various trade scenarios approaching the regular season deadline. The discussion is entertaining, to say the least, but as is regularly demonstrated each season, the actual trades that happen are usually far less substantial. As such, I've been reluctant to add more fuel to the fire. But when someone as highly respected as Adam Schefter (as relayed by Andrew Mason) says that "he would be 'surprised' if the Broncos didn’t trade away at least one player before the trade deadline", then I suppose there may be an obligation to comment.

I'll just discuss a few players, in order of most to least likely to be traded.

Randy Gregory And The Future Of Edge Rushing In Denver

As the Broncos' 2022 regular season commences today, MarsLineman has a very good post up on sister site Biomechanical Review analyzing Randy Gregory, and here is the ultimate conclusion:

For a team like Denver, which is likely now entering a championship window, Gregory can offer some meaningful playmaking– both in run defense and as a rusher– as long as he is utilized correctly (not as an every down player), and kept healthy. And a deep roster of edges/ pass rushers behind him is a necessity. Thankfully Denver seems to have taken these factors into consideration when building significant depth at OLB.

However, long term expectations should be kept in check. Gregory will be turning 30 this upcoming season, and it’s possible, perhaps probable, that a steep decline in effectiveness is lurking around the corner. Once Gregory starts to enter his 30s, his reliance on sacral area borrowing may significantly limit his effectiveness– once his burst starts to fail, he will be unable to win his matchups with the same combination of raw effort/ strength. Hopefully Gregory can contribute meaningfully in the short term, while managing and maximizing a shrinking pool of ‘burst’ over the longer term.

I'd like to briefly add a few contractual observations that support the findings here, and suggest that the Broncos may be in concurrence with the idea that Gregory's five year contract on paper may in practice be much shorter.

Russell Wilson Contract Extension Details

As first reported by Adam Schefter early this morning, Russell Wilson has agreed to a five year extension with the Broncos appended to his previous contract, keeping him under contract in Denver through the 2028 season, when he will turn 40. Late this morning, Mike Klis provided full details of Wilson's contract, of which has now been uploaded to Over The Cap, as follows:

YearBase SalaryProrated BonusRoster BonusCap Number

italics - fully guaranteed salary
*vested guarantee on 5th day of 2024 league year

Russell Wilson Should Now Be Poised To Set Quarterback Contract Benchmarks

Last month, I set out some guidelines of what a Russell Wilson extension could look like. The core aim was to settle in at an APY neatly in between that of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, but still giving Wilson cash flow and guarantee structures that would be at or near the top of the NFL.

However, I also said this:

There are also plenty of other quarterbacks that could push metrics up with their own extensions. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will be eligible for such for the first time after this season, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray will be pushing for their own extensions, and even Baker Mayfield could make things move if he proves his first overall pick pedigree given that he got a fresh start in Charlotte just last Wednesday. Wilson could benefit more if any of those players sign contracts beforehand.

Well, Kyler Murray did just that on July 22. And this contract now makes it clear that what I set out last month as a possibility no longer is so.

The Long Term Look, as of July 2022

The past week, I crafted out some potential contract extensions that could lie ahead for Russell Wilson, Bradley Chubb, Dre'Mont Jones, and Dalton Risner. Should all those players be extended along those lines, it will put considerably new expenditures on the Broncos' roster to manage. As such, it's worth taking a peek on what this means for other players on the roster and for the team as a whole.

Contract Extension Examination: Russell Wilson

The Broncos made a massive change to their identity when they traded for Russell Wilson, given the high caliber of player he is, and the commensurate compensation they gave up to trade for him. He is going to be the face of the franchise for many years to go, and the Broncos will recognize that at some point with a similarly massive extension.

Contract Extension Examination: Bradley Chubb

Bradley Chubb was drafted with an pick that was unusually held high by the Broncos, at 5th overall. Since then, the first four years of his NFL career has been a rollercoaster: an outstanding rookie season and a Pro Bowl 2020 season, but a torn ACL in 2019 and lingering foot injury problems in 2021. With so much injury variance in his history, this puts plenty of uncertainty in what his next contract should look like.