With the Denver Broncos’ season officially done, it is already time for Broncos Country to look forward to the upcoming season and what it might bring.
The new coaching team, led by Vic Fangio, is already in place, so it’s time to start assessing which players the club could bring in to bolster the roster through free agency.
Some position groups are stacked, but the Broncos have a lot of holes to fill, and they can’t rely on John Elway to produce another draft class like 2018.
Here are five players, who will be free agents next month, that the Broncos should target when free agency opens up in March.Embed from Getty Images
Teddy Bridgewater, QB
As all of Broncos Country knows — and as John Elway admitted recently — Case Keenum is not the long-term solution at quarterback.
The magic that he played with in his lone season in Minnesota never manifested itself in his first season in Denver. Some will say it was the fault of former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for not playing to Keenum’s strengths, while others say Keenum is a journeyman backup and has hit his ceiling.
With new OC Rich Scangarello coming in, the offensive schemes are sure to change and could have a positive impact on Keenum, but with a somewhat weak QB class in the 2019 NFL Draft the Broncos would be wise to bring someone in that can challenge Keenum as the starter.
Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t played a full season of football since 2015 due to injury but, if fully healed, has the potential to be a franchise quarterback.
In his last full season with Minnesota, Bridgewater finished the season with an 88.7 passer rating and 65.3 completion percentage.
He spent this season sitting and learning behind future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, although he struggled in his only start for the Saints, but could finish the season with “Super Bowl winning QB” on his resume.
The risk of injury is there but the potential reward could outweigh that risk. He is a dual-threat quarterback but his stats show he has a pass-first mentality.
Bringing in Bridgewater would allow the Broncos to focus on getting the best player available at #10 in this year’s draft and then look at taking a quarterback in a later round.
His lack of playing time over the last few years would most likely keep his cost low but he will probably want to sign with a team that can offer him a chance to start.
For this to be possible, the Broncos would need to be willing to move on from Keenum either via trade or cutting him and taking on the $10 million of dead money.
If Bridgewater’s contract can be similar to what he got from New Orleans in 2018 — essentially $5m including bonuses — it would help the Broncos feel more comfortable about taking on the dead money from Keenum.
Notable alternative: Robert Griffin III — small price tag with potential upside, however, he is also an injury risk.Embed from Getty Images
Donovan Smith, OT
If the Broncos want to improve their offensive line, they’re probably going to need more than Mike Munchak.
Munchak is not only a Hall of Fame guard, but he also coached one of the league’s best offensive lines in Pittsburgh. That said, he is not a miracle worker and could have his work cut out to transform the Broncos’ O-line in just one offseason.
Left tackle Garett Bolles seemed to have improved during much of last season but still tied for the most offensive holding penalties in the league (7) along with three false starts.
The Broncos’ 2017 first-round pick is still a very raw player that Munchak could potentially mold into a good player, but if the Broncos have the chance to solidify their line right away, there’s no reason not to and let Bolles develop a little more or even move him to another spot on the line.
Donovan Smith, 26, played on one of the worst offensive lines with Tampa Bay last season and he gave up a career-high in sacks, but he hasn’t missed a game in the four seasons he has played.
He is considered one of the top available talents at left tackle this offseason so could cost a pretty penny, but it may be time for Elway to start shoring up the line by shelling out the cash.
Elway already hired the best OL coach in the business so why not give him some talent to transform the Broncos’ offensive line?Embed from Getty Images
Sheldon Richardson, DT
It sounds like the Broncos are working with Derek Wolfe on an extension to keep him in Denver for a few more years, which would solidify one side of the defensive line. Adam Gotsis performed admirably last year and is still growing as a player and should remain a starter.
The middle of the line may be a concern this offseason as Domata Peko, although still performing at a high level, is 34 While Shelby Harris has been a standout player when he’s on the field he hasn’t been able to take over the starting role at DT.
The Broncos were linked to trade rumors involving Sheldon Richardson in 2017 before he was shipped off to Seattle. He then signed with the Minnesota Vikings last year where he had a fairly quiet season, accumulating only 4.5 sacks, but still had 6 tackles for loss and 16 QB hits.
The Broncos could use a strong force in the middle that offensive lineman would be required to give attention to, which would make things easier for the Broncos edge rushers.
Even though Richardson’s season was a quiet one, it was still a bounce-back year for him after only 2.5 sacks over the previous two seasons combined, which could keep his price tag lower.
Adding a veteran that can come in and start rather than going down the draft and development route might interest the BroncosEmbed from Getty Images
C.J. Mosley, ILB
At inside linebacker, 2018 third-round pick Josey Jewell seems to have done enough to take over for Brandon Marshall but Todd Davis, although strong defending the run, continues to struggle against the pass.
C.J. Mosley is a tackling machine with at least 100 tackles in four of his five seasons in the league. He has the speed and versatility to cover running backs and tight ends out of the backfield and is known to be a leader on the field.
It may be difficult to pry Mosley away from Baltimore as talks have already begun to see if the two sides can work out a long-term deal and Mosley is on record saying he would like to stay in Baltimore.
The Ravens also have the option of placing the franchise tag on Mosley in February, but it would cost them around $15m to retain his services, which would make him the highest paid ILB in the league.
If the Broncos can convince Mosley to trade in crab cakes for Rocky Mountain oysters, they could potentially solve the covering a tight end problem that has been haunting them for years.
It could cost them upwards of $10 million a year but fills a position of need with a talented LB still in his prime.Embed from Getty Images
Bryce Callahan, Slot CB
One of the more glaring needs the Broncos have to fill this offseason is the secondary, specifically cornerback.
Chris Harris Jr. is still a high-caliber player, but he can’t cover the entire field. Bradley Roby disappointed in 2018 by consistently getting burned throughout the season.
Injuries also plagued the team, and the young corners drafted in 2017 and 2018 aren’t ready, which is why it’s vital that the Broncos have depth at this position.
Bryce Callahan played for new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio during his four years with the Bears, so he would already have familiarity with the system if he were to find his way to Denver.
Last year, he accumulated 45 total tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. He is seen as one of the best slot corners in the league — after CHJ, of course — and would allow Harris to move to the outside.
The current knock on Callahan is that he has yet to play a full 16-game season. If that’s a risk the club is willing to take, they could offer a short-term deal to show he can stay healthy and will have the compliment to CHJ they thought they had in Roby.
This could also allow the Broncos to bring Roby back on a cheap deal and move him back to the third corner spot where he seemed to thrive.
Notable Options: CB Jason Verrett, S Landon Collins, TE Jared Cook.