With free agency, the draft, and all other major landmarks of the offseason now in the books, it’s time to keep me honest and compare how my annual road map did with what John Elway and company decided to do to improve the Broncos.
1. Make adjustments at quarterback
a. Cut Joe Flacco
Flacco was cut with a failed physical designation, and no June 1 designation was used. This does make the Broncos potentially liable for a $1.2 million injury protection payment down the road should he not find another team in 2020, but that is not a large amount to worry about. The Broncos move on from Flacco without much pain after just one season.
b. Do not offer a restricted free agent tender to Brandon Allen, but consider bringing him back for less.
The Broncos also move on from Allen, not tendering him and not bringing him back. He is still a free agent.
c. Set a budget of $7 million APY for a veteran backup quarterback, and ideally acquire one for less.
Status: Succeeded, very under budget
Though Jeff Driskel’s contract is very reasonable, I’m not convinced that he’s the best the Broncos could have done to give Drew Lock help. Seeing more experienced quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston get around the same range makes me feel that the Broncos left some figurative money on the table here. We shall see how Driskel helps out Lock, and hope that Lock starts a full season and continues to take off.
d. Do not rule out acquiring another rookie quarterback.
The Broncos are signing Riley Neal as an undrafted free agent. Neal may help push Driskel and Brett Rypien for a spot on the roster and/or practice squad.
2. Determine possible restricted free agency tenders for several players.
a. Offer right of first refusal tenders to: i. Mike Purcell; and ii. Elijah Wilkinson.
Status: Succeeded, but at a higher tender level.
The Broncos tendered both at the 2nd round level. I always seem to guess the RFA tenders for the correct players but the incorrect level. It’s a little more than I anticipated, but I concur in the judgment that Purcell and Wilkinson needed to be kept using this device.
b. Do not offer RFA tenders to: i. De’Vante Bausby; ii. Joseph Jones; and iii. Cyrus Jones.
c. Determine how to retain Joel Heath for 2020.
Heath was not offered an RFA tender, but he too was signed for a cheaper contract.
3. Make decisions on 2020 options.
a. Exercise the options for: i. Von Miller; and ii. Brandon McManus.
Very obvious and easy decisions on both.
b. Decline the option for Todd Davis.
Status: Failed, but this goal is retracted.
One reason I had leaned toward declining this option was for comp pick purposes. However, changes in the compensatory formula in the new CBA would have disqualified Davis from becoming a compensatory free agent. With this change emerging after I issued my road map, plus the fact that the Broncos turned out to not be in the running for comp picks this time around due to much less interest in their UFAs than anticipated, I now believe that picking up Davis’s option was warranted. Only $500,000 of his salary is guaranteed, so if someone outplays him in training camp they still have the ability to move on if they so choose.
4. Retain Justin Simmons
Status: Succeeded, with the franchise tag
This is a recurring story for the Broncos: use the franchise tag on a star player, but take time in extending him. The Broncos have not failed to reach a multiyear extension before the July 15 deadline under John Elway, and the expectation will be that they can reach such a deal before then this year.
5. Budget $12 million APY for a starting cornerback.
Status: Succeeded, slighly over budget
The Broncos replaced Chris Harris, Jr. by trading for AJ Bouye. While he is due $13.5 million over two seasons, the positive tradeoff for going slightly over budget here is that, much like trading for Flacco, his contract has no guaranteed money left.
6. Budget $11 million APY at center and right guard.
a. Retain one–but not both–of Connor McGovern or Ron Leary.
Status: Succeeded in part, failed in part
Both McGovern and Leary departed Denver this offseason. In Leary’s case, his option was declined, and given he has yet to find a new team, there may be a decent chance that his career could be coming to a close. McGovern, meanwhile, signed a three year, $27 million contract with the Jets.
b. Sign and/or draft an additional interior offensive lineman
Status: Succeeded with both options
The Broncos signed Graham Glasgow to a four year, $44 million contract, signaling that he will be their right guard of the immediate future. As for center, the Broncos drafted Lloyd Cushenberry with the 83rd overall pick. They also took a flier on Netane Muti with the 181st overall pick. The Broncos could be a little inexperienced a center, but at least they have provided more competition there than just Patrick Morris and Austin Schlottman.
7. Budget $10 million APY at defensive end by retaining one–but not both–of Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris
Status: Succeeded, over budget, but with two veterans
As I mentioned earlier, the market did not value the Broncos’ UFAs as much as I thought it would, and Wolfe and Harris suffered in particular for it. Harris returned to Denver on a one year, $3.25 million contract, while Wolfe had to settle for a one year, $3 million contract with the Ravens. Whatever the case, the Broncos retain some depth on the defensive line, retaining Harris while also drafting McTelvin Agim with the 95th overall pick.
CORRECTION: cjfarls reminds me that I totally forgot about the acquisition of Jurrell Casey’s contract via trade. Adding Casey to the roster is very much like adding Bouye: acquiring a premium contract but with minimal guarantees that gives the Broncos much flexibility regarding Casey’s future beyond 2020.
8. Budget $10 million APY for a veteran wide receiver–preferably a speedy one.
Especially given that other parts of my road map came in considerably under budget, I would have still preferred for the Broncos to bring in someone like Robby Anderson or Breshad Perriman or even old friend Emmanuel Sanders to give this position some experience. Instead, the Broncos are going to roll the dice on youth at this position, using their first two picks on Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. There’s plenty to like about their prospects, but I worry that 2020’s production at this position could lag a bit as these rookies learn the ropes. Hopefully I’m wrong, and Elway’s gamble pays off here.
9. Budget $2.5 million for a backup running back.
Status: Succeeded, far, far over budget
I’m still not wild about paying Melvin Gordon $16 million over two seasons, but at least, like he always does with excellence, MarsLineman has checked my opinion and stated that this signing made the Broncos’ offense a lot better. Let’s hope this expenditure does indeed pay off, and that both Gordon and Phillip Lindsay can keep the running back position taken care of for the next two seasons.
10. Re-sign Jeremiah Attaochu to a one year contract.
The Broncos were able to retain him for 2020 at $1.5 million. I look forward for him to continue to contribute as a reserve edge rusher behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
11. Re-sign Casey Kreiter to a multiyear contract.
The Broncos decided to go a different direction at long snapper and signed Jacob Bobenmeyer instead. There’s no good reason to get worked up on a long snapper, so I’m fine with the Broncos’ judgment here.
12. Give Phillip Lindsay a one year extension to do him right after vastly overperforming his UDFA contract.
Status: To be determined.
I don’t know if this will happen or not, especially after signing Gordon to a premium contract, but time will tell. My offer for now still stands on the table for the remainder of the 2020 offseason.
13. Let Adam Gotsis and Will Parks walk, unless they are willing to re-sign for cheap.
For Gotsis, his immediate career is in question after his knee injury. Parks, meanwhile, lived up to his Philly Will nickname by signing with the Eagles on a one year, $1.5 million contract. I wish Parks the best in Philadelphia, and I hope he can earn a starting role there that he was not going to be able to reasonably get in Denver.
14. Provide competition for Colby Wadman.
Wadman won’t even get to compete; he was cut to make room for Sam Martin on a three year, $7.05 million contract. The Martin contract is another contract I’m not wild about, but I vastly prefer signing a veteran, especially after it became evident the Broncos weren’t going to be getting comp picks, instead of burning a draft pick on one.
15. Decline the fifth year option for Garett Bolles.
A lot of pixels were spilled over this discussion, but in the end the reasoning I always held with Bolles’s contract prevailed: I found it riskier to be stuck with a bad problem of being on the hook for a guarantee should Bolles end up injured, than to be stuck with the good problem with having to pay Bolles a few million more by offering him a franchise or transition tender in lieu of the fifth year option. Bolles will also be eligible to become a compensatory free agent should the Broncos choose to part ways with him after the 2020 season is over.
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This was an offseason in which Elway heavily concurred with my recommendations. The only major dissent that I retain is the lack of veteran talent at the wide receiver position, and the only minor dissent may be at the backup quarterback position. We’ll see how that affects Drew Lock’s development, but on the whole I am in favor with Elway’s plan to try to rebound in 2020. The play of Lock will go a long way in determining whether that will happen.