We know John Elway, the executive, isn’t too afraid to make a splash in free agency when the need strikes.
Since Elway became General Manager in 2011, the Broncos have picked up players at the peak of their powers and given a chance to those coming back from injury or with something more to prove, and there is a feel to that in 2017.
With salaries going through the roof in several positions this year, the Broncos splashed $54 million bringing two big bodies to the offensive line, while the defensive front was also the centre of attention leaving Elway to throw his draft capital at potential playmakers–and a much-needed left tackle–at the 2017 NFL Draft
The big man may have become surplus to requirements at the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s exactly the sort of player the Broncos were targeting to plug straight into the offensive line after 2016’s dismal showing. A career left guard, Leary’s arrival sees Max Garcia switch to right guard, and he will be a reassuring presence for rookie Garett Bolles starting outside him at left tackle, Leary’s mean streak, experience and leadership on the line will help as new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson oversees the transition from zone to power blocking. Elway may have missed out on other targets, but he nailed it with one of the top linemen on the market.
The former Kansas City Chiefs star is the unknown quantity. Are his recent injury problems behind him? What role will he play in a backfield previously led by CJ Anderson? Will he even make the 53-man roster? Some talking heads think he’s done after two injury hit seasons. In 2011, Willis McGahee was supposedly done after his worst season led to him to him being cut by the Baltimore Ravens, but he bounced back with a Pro Bowl effort for 1,199 yards for 4.8 yards per carry as the Broncos led the league in rushing. Charles won’t be the every-down back that McGahee was, or the bellcow he was during his nine seasons in Kansas City, but he owns the NFL’s yards-per-carry average, is no stranger to the end zone, and could flourish in rotation in Mike McCoy’s offense if he can find space. Will see more action if Devontae Booker fails to improve on an underwhelming rookie year. Could be one of the best moves this offseason.
The Manchester-born lineman will give Broncos fans in Europe extra reason to pay attention to the offensive line this year following his move to the Mile High City from Oakland. Comes to Denver on a generous three-year contract with injury concerns and was benched last season, but his attitude and size sits with what Elway wants with a meaner line that can protect Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as well as improving the run game. Should start at right tackle if he can see off Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo, and could be an option at left tackle if Bolles struggles, but staying healthy remains his biggest issue going into 2017.
It should be easy for nose tackle Domata Peko to feel at home in Broncos Country after signing a two-year deal. He brings a truckload of experience after 171 games in 11 seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals in the ferocious AFC North. After Sylvester Williams failed to earn a new contract, the Broncos needed to plug a gap on the defensive line and they’ve more than covered that with the very durable Peko in as the starting nose tackle, backed up by cousin Kyle.
At 6ft 2in, 325lbs, there’s no denying that the former Indianapolis Colts defensive end is a big unit addition to a defensive line that was woeful against the run in 2016. If Kerr, who started 36 games in three seasons for the Colts after being undrafted out of Delaware in 2014, can make an impact in his first year in Denver, it will be using his speed off the line to stuff runs and as a menace in the backfield, which could help free up Von Miller and Shane Ray. Expectations appear to be low, but they were in 2013 when Elway picked up Terrance Knighton. Pot Roast would go on to have a superb year on the Broncos’ run to the Super Bowl with a stand-out performance against New England in the AFC Championship game, including a crucial fourth-down sack on Tom Brady.
The Broncos added a second European-born player in March with the signing of Hamburg-born outside linebacker Edebali. An undrafted free agent out of Boston College, Edebali picked up eight sacks in three seasons as a defensive end in the New Orleans Saints’ 4-3 system and played some special teams, but remains a relative unknown. Despite the uncertainty about the player he could be, Elway and head coach Vance Joseph are so confident in his pass-rushing ability in the 3-4 system that they have not signed cover for Shaquil Barrett, who is uncertain to return from injury for the season opener against the LA Chargers on September 11. With DeMarcus Ware now retired and Vontarrius Dora, Ken Ekanem and Deon Hollins yet to see NFL action, Edebali parachutes on to the bench to back up Von Miller and Shane Ray.