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How Should The New Coaching Staff Alter The Broncos’ 2017 Offseason Road Map?

When I wrote my offseason road map for the Broncos this year, I did so under the presumption that Gary Kubiak was not going anywhere.  That, of course, was incorrect, and the Broncos have already got a head start on achieving goal #1, a cleanout of the offensive coaching staff.

Now that we know that John Elway has hired Vance Joseph as head coach and Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator, I think it would be prudent to revisit some points on my roadmap–specifically the goals that refer to the quarterback and offensive line positions.

To review, these are the goals in question that I had previously set out:

  • 2. The decision on Russell Okung’s option may come down to the determination on the future of the offense.
  • 3. Cut Donald Stephenson, but don’t rule out bringing him back for cheaper.
  • 4. Prioritize right tackle in free agency and the draft.
  • 14. Pursue a veteran quarterback.

Let’s take each of these one at a time.

It should now be more likely than not that Russell Okung’s option is not picked up–but still don’t rule it out.

This still remains an excruciatingly difficult decision for me, but now that Okung has lost the benefit of an incumbent coaching staff, I would be more interested in listening to Joseph and McCoy to see what possible external options could be out there that may be preferable to Okung when combined with price tags.

Potential External Options At Left Tackle
UFAs Cap Casualties
Matt Kalil Ryan Clady
Andrew Whitworth King Dunlap
Michael Harris Kelvin Beachum
William Beatty
Bradley Sowell
Tony Hills
Jake Long
Ben Ijalana
David Quessenberry

I would still, however, use extreme caution in how I handle Okung’s contract, and the table to the right should well explain why.  Good left tackles do not hit the open market that often, and it is very possible that Okung is still the best option that they have.

I will make a note about the possible cap casualties, this list of which I fielded from by Jason Fitzgerald’s speculation in this article.  Two of the three have experience with McCoy.  I mentioned old friend Ryan Clady in my original roadmap, who had McCoy as his offensive coordinator at the peak of his career. You’ll also see King Dunlap there, who arrived in San Diego at the same time that McCoy did.

Note that a decision on Okung does not have to come until the day before the start of the 2017 league year.  If Clady and/or Dunlap become available before then, and Elway gets a green light from a coaching standpoint on either one, he could make the gamble to let Okung hit the market, and let him bargain with other left tackles out there on a more favorable deal.

Donald Stephenson should still be cut, and now I see little reason to bring him back as the Broncos prioritize improving the right tackle position.

Potential External Options At Right Tackle
UFAs Cap Casualties
Ricky Wagner Sebastian Vollmer
Riley Reiff Austin Howard
Menelik Watson Breno Giacomini
Andre Smith Joe Reitz
Gosder Cherilus Jah Reid
Mike Remmers
Byron Bell
Austin Pasztor
Jordan Mills
Marshall Newhouse
Eric Winston
Matt McCants
Tom Compton
Mike Adams
Nick Becton

The lost benefit of the incumbent coaching staff is far more damaging to Stephenson’s prospects of staying with the team than Okung’s.  And as you can see on the right, the list of potential right tackles is much longer than that of potential left tackles.

I now think it’s safe to say that the Donald Stephenson experiment is over, and the Broncos should move on to someone different.  I still like Ricky Wagner as a potential replacement, but the Broncos have now lost their trump card of Kubiak having experience with Wagner, meaning they may have a more difficult time prying him away from Baltimore.

I’ll also briefly add that while I’m not as concerned about the guard position as I am tackle, Jason did list old friend Orlando Franklin as a possible cap casualty at the position, who did play right tackle under McCoy with the Broncos, and eventually followed him to San Diego.  DJ Fluker, another Charger and former tackle, is also on that list.

The veteran quarterback options should also open up–as well as potential for both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of comments made on this site about what the arrival of Joseph and McCoy means for both Siemian and Lynch.  The one point that I want to stress is that there is absolutely no reason why the Broncos should give up on either incumbent quarterback.  Siemian is under a very team-friendly contract for two more years, and Lynch has three to four more years on his deal.  I fully expect both players to remain with the Broncos through the 2017 season, and to see what McCoy and Bill Musgrave can do with what they have to offer.  As such, I’m not particularly enthused about arguing over what the future offers for Siemian or Lynch–though if that’s your cup of tea, I certainly won’t stop you.

Potential External Options At Quarterback
UFAs Cap Casualties
Kirk Cousins Jay Cutler
Case Keenum Colin Kaepernick
Shaun Hill Nick Foles
Matt McGloin Tony Romo
EJ Manuel Tyrod Taylor
Matt Cassel Josh McCown
Mark Sanchez Robert Griffin III
Blaine Gabbert
Brian Hoyer
Matt Schaub
Geno Smith
Ryan Mallett
Kellen Clemens
Dan Orlovsky
Josh Johnson
Christian Ponder
Mike Glennon
TJ Yates
Thaddeus Lewis
Kellen Moore
Matt Barkley
Ryan Nassib
Landry Jones

However, I still think it’s prudent for the Broncos to consider adding a veteran option at the position for insurance in case that option turns out to be better than both Siemian and Lynch by the end of training camp.  For reference, here’s a similar table as to what I showed for offensive linemen, with the possible cap casualties again coming from Jason–although I did not add Sam Bradford or Alex Smith as Jason sees those possibilities as unlikely, and I see it as highly unlikely.

One point that I will stick to from my original goal is that the Broncos should not break the bank for a veteran quarterback, with about $7 million per year being the ceiling I’d set. Thus, I would still contend that Kirk Cousins is not a serious option, as he will be able to get much more than that, regardless of whether it’s with the Redskins or someone else.

I’ll briefly make some observations on some of these remaining names, and since McCoy has had varying degrees of success from quarterbacks as diverse as Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, and Philip Rivers, if I were Elway I would be keen on listening to Joseph, McCoy, and Musgrave on who they would recommend to bolster the position.

  • I really hope that the Broncos do not pursue Kellen Clemens despite his previous experience with McCoy in San Diego, as I’ve never seen him as anything more than a career backup. What the Broncos need from this acquisition is someone who has the potential to be a serious starter.
  • With Musgrave on board, a mention of Matt McGloin has to be made.  While I’m not as down on him as I am Clemens, I’m still skeptical of his ceiling.  I also expect that due to the back-to-back duds that Connor Cook laid against the Broncos and Texans that the Raiders will make a serious effort to retain him, and at a price that is likely higher than the Broncos should give him.
  • With Kubiak gone, I would remove Case Keenum from any serious consideration, a point I want to make clear since I mentioned him very lightly in my previous article.
  • Unlike with Keenum, I would still not rule out Tyrod Taylor or Colin Kaepernick if they become available.  Elway still calls the final shots, and he has shown prior interest in both of them.  Whether or not McCoy and Musgrave would be as interested is yet to be seen, but if the Broncos go with either I will trust their judgment in that regard.
  • Finally*, there’s been a lot of talk on here recently about Tony Romo.  Ian Rapoport reported that Romo’s #1 destination outside of Dallas would be Denver, but that the Broncos are not inclined to trade for him. If this is true, I believe the Broncos are correct in that inclination.  Acquiring Romo for not only $14 million in base salary for 2017, but for whatever compensation the Cowboys additionally want is too rich a price.  The Broncos struck gold with potentially damaged goods in Peyton Manning, but Romo is not as good as Manning (few are!) and he carries a similar injury risk that Manning did back in 2012.

    However, should Romo hit the open market, I’ll never say never, and the Broncos should at least talk with his agent to see if they can find a price that will fit into the Broncos’ current cap structure of paying off a dominant defense while trying to avoid the quarterback premium.  However, I still think there will be a team that will pay more than the Broncos should.

*I’m not going anywhere near the Jay Cutler rabbit hole unless and until we hear credible rumors in that regard.