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Evaluation Of The 2024 Broncos Offseason Road Map

Now that draft and the bulk of free agency is over, it’s time as always to evaluate my offseason road map, and see how well my preferred goals overlapped with the goals that the Broncos set out for themselves.

This season, I broke the road map into two pieces: a first part of moves I recommended in any scenario, and two second parts that were contingent on what the team decided to do with Russell Wilson. Much to my displeasure, they decided to cut him–thus, the second part without Wilson is binding in this evaluation.

1. Restructure the base salaries for Mike McGlinchey, Ben Powers, Zach Allen, and Alex Singleton

Status: Succeeded

As explained, the three big non-Singleton base salaries were needed just for simple salary cap compliance. Singleton’s base salary remains unrestructured, but still remains available should they need to balance out some more cap dollars in any manner.

2. Restructure (but preferably extend) Garett Bolles and Justin Simmons

Status: Failed for now for Bolles, very unexpectedly failed but possibly understandable for Simmons

Bolles’s contract remains unaltered as he enters the final season under it. I still think it is prudent to give him a two year extension around the structures I set forth back in December, particularly since the Broncos still have yet to draft a tackle since Bolles himself in 2017.

Without the foresight of what would happen leaguewide this offseason, I would have been extremely opposed to cutting Simmons. But before the Broncos chose to do so, there was a massive culling of safety contracts across the NFL. This caused such a massive downward correction of the market, that the Broncos felt that they had to do their part to get on the equilibrium of that correction. I still disagree with cutting him, but now only moderately so–I think his leadership skills would have been worth an extra $7.5 millon over what they instead gave to Brandon Jones for 2024, and there’s another reason why this is disappointing that I’ll address in a moment. But given that he has yet to sign a contract with another team, it’s looking evident that including him in the market correction was accurate at least with regard to finances.

3. Extend Lloyd Cushenberry

Status: Failed

Cushenberry signed a four year contract worth $12.5 million APY with the Titans. This was below the $14 million APY extension for Cushenberry that I laid out. I’m disappointed that the Broncos chose not to beat this offer, and hopefully that does not result in a degradation of performance at center. My hope, as George Paton expressed, is that Alex Forsyth will emerge as a viable starter, and the team did also acquire Sam Mustipher as veteran insurance in case Forsyth is not ready for that duty in 2024. The Broncos also used a 7th round draft pick on Nick Gargiulo, who could also give them another shot down the road at the position.

However, if the Broncos were unwilling or unable to extend Cushenberry, I’m even more disappointed that they did not tailor their free agency to get a 4th round compensatory pick for his departure. Part of that failure to do so resulted from swapping out Simmons with Jones at safety, as described above, since Jones’s contract qualifies him as a compensatory free agent.

4. Exercise the 5th year option on the contract of Patrick Surtain II–but preferably extend him swiftly

Status: Succeeded

Picking up the option was the easiest decision for them to make this offseason. Now comes the harder part in extending him, and as I’ve already laid out what that should look like here. Hopefully this can be done sooner rather than later.

5. Welcome back any of Adam Trautman, Mike Purcell, Cameron Fleming, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey at near minimum salaries

Status: Succeeded on Trautman and Humphrey, to be determined on Purcell and Fleming

Trautman was the Broncos’ only move at tight end, and while this remains a weak position unless Greg Dulcich finally emerges as a threat, it would be even weaker without Trautman. It’s good to have Humphrey back for another training camp, but the drafting of Troy Franklin may make it daunting for him to make the roster. Fleming’s spot has likely been supplanted by signing Matt Peart, while Purcell’s time may be over due to other acquisitions at his position…

6. Acquire an interior defensive lineman

Status: Succeeded

The Broncos signed Malcolm Roach to a two year, $7 million contract, and then traded a 6th round pick in 2026 to acquire John Franklin-Myers from the Jets at a reduced salary.

Overall, I’m happy with these moves, as this was a weak and shallow position. Franklin-Myers should slot in as a starter very well alongside Zach Allen and DJ Jones, and Roach should provide some key rotational snaps as the primary reserve.

My only quibble here, however, is again with the canceling of the 4th round compensatory pick from Cushenberry leaving for Nashville–of which signing Roach was the other part of its contribution. If this was the contract range they were aiming for at this position, if I were advising the Broncos, I would have recommended setting a budget no higher than about $2.7 million APY, to ensure that Roach’s contract would not be enough to qualify him as a CFA, or tried to sign him after the draft if he was available.

7. Acquire a rookie running back

Status: Succeeded

The Broncos did very well for themselves here in drafting Audric Estimé in the 5th round, and followed that up with signing a highly regarded undrafted free agent in Blake Watson. I feel quite bullish that the liabilities at this position, present and future, have been well covered.

8. Acquire a rookie quarterback

Status: Succeeded

The Broncos drafted Bo Nix with the 12th overall pick.

I started off as cautiously pessimistic on Nix being able to become a viable starting quarterback in the NFL, mainly based on early unfavorable biomechanics that MarsLineman has identified. However, that pessimism has been reduced due to a revision that just happened today, that describes Nix as “Gardner Minshew [with] better vision/processing and a bit more mobility”. That might not be a very long term solution at quarterback, but if that’s good enough to stabilize the position for a few seasons while they stock up on talent at other positions, then that’s an improvement. Regardless, no quarterback projection model is ever perfect, and at some point, you just have to take your shot at a quarterback, and I’m glad that the Broncos took that shot.

As for the idea around most media NFL analysis criticizing the Broncos for reaching on Nix, I find that criticism unfounded on the following grounds:

  • The Broncos had no second round pick to utilize for an allegedly more appropriate range to draft Nix with.
  • The Falcons surprised everyone by drafting Michael Penix Jr. at 8th overall, radically reducing the supply of available quarterbacks.
  • The Broncos had the archrival Raiders exactly one pick behind them on the board, who had (and still have) a major need at quarterback.
  • The Rams were also reported to be interested in drafting Nix.

It can be fairly argued as to whether or not Nix will be a viable starting NFL quarterback. But once a team answers that question in the affirmative, as the Broncos did, it’s highly prudent not to mess around, and just get him while you can.

9. Acquire another rookie quarterback

Status: Failed

Due to the uncertainty around all rookie quarterbacks–and there is fairly plenty with Nix, I’m disappointed the Broncos did not raise their odds of finding a viable one by doubling down on the position. In particular, while I am quite bullish on all four of the players the Broncos drafted in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rounds, I was amazed that Spencer Rattler fell all the way to the 150th overall pick, and I wish that Denver had taken a shot on him before the Saints could draft him.

10. Cut Tim Patrick

Status: Succeeded via getting a pay cut

Patrick unfortunately likely had very little leverage to get anything else other than a minimum base salary with a half million in per game roster bonuses due to missing the past two entire seasons. I’m sad for Patrick that it had to come to this, but I’m eager to see him get another shot to bounce back and deliver some of the playmaking ability he showed in Denver beforehand.

11. Cut DJ Jones or approach him with a pay cut

Status: Retracted

There were a few rumors that Jones that could be cut, but once the Broncos decided to cut Simmons, that took care of their one major expenditure that they took out of their budget, leaving more ability to keep Jones on his contract as is. Had I known that Simmons would be cut, I would have not advocated for this goal, and as stated above, I’m happy that Jones is still on the team, and am looking forward to seeing him operate alongside Allen and Franklin-Myers to strength that unit.

12. Hold off on extending Josey Jewell, PJ Locke, Fabian Moreau, or Wil Lutz unless Goal #2 can be met

Status: “Succeeded”

I use scare quotes because the Broncos achieved this by cutting Simmons instead of restructuring or extending his contract. Nonetheless, they did well in extending Locke on a two year, $7 million contract, and (after changing his mind on going to Jacksonville) extending Lutz on a two year, $8.4 million contract. Jewell, on the other hand, departed to the Panthers on a three year, $18.75 million contract that I would have been fine with the Broncos beating, but it may have been for naught if Jewell preferred to reunite with Ejiro Evero in Charlotte. Jewell’s possible replacement was had by signing Cody Barton. Moreau, meanwhile, remains unsigned and has likely been replaced in Denver with Levi Wallace, a signing that I consider a likely upgrade.

And finally, on trading Jerry Jeudy

Other than some very minor moves, like bringing back Michael Burton or cutting Chris Manhertz, there were only two moves the Broncos made that I did not anticipate. One was cutting Simmons, and the other was trading Jeudy to the Browns for 5th and 6th round picks. The Broncos used the 5th rounder to move up for Franklin (a move I liked a lot), and moved the 6th round pick down to the 7th to acquire Zach Wilson (a move I did not like, even with the Jets eating half of his guaranteed salary), a pick they then used to draft Gargiulo.

I don’t think I have a strong opinion on this trade. The Broncos were never going to get much for him at this point, given that he had only one season left on his rookie contract, and that being on a more expensive 5th year option at that. And once Patrick agreed to that massive pay cut, the wide receiver depth chart was deep, and there had been rumors about a Jeudy trade for quite some time. I would have been fine with Jeudy still on the team, and I’m fine with where the wide receiver room stands now without him.

* * * *

Including the decision to cut Russell Wilson, and excluding the decision to keep DJ Jones, the Broncos concurred with eight on my broad goals, and dissented from four of them. This is a higher amount of differences than I usually have with the Broncos’ front offices, but given the unusual circumstances surrounding this offseason, the amount of divergence does not surprise me.

Where the Broncos go for the 2024 season I feel will heavily hinge on what kind of quarterback production they can get. They were not derelict in addressing the position, but I do fear that they may have made the position worse than it needed it to be. Time will tell to see if my fears are founded or not.