With the Broncos season coming to a close with a losing record once again, Denver heads into the offseason with a ton of spots to fill on this roster if they want to compete for a playoff berth in 2020. Since Drew Lock has shown enough to prove that he will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos next season, John Elway and his crew can put a check mark next to the quarterback position on his wish list. But they still have more holes to fill.
Here are the positions of need the Broncos need to fill in the offseason:
This is the most important part of the team that the Broncos need to fill and hit on. Denver hasn’t had an above average offensive line since 2014 and it has shown. Quarterbacks have run for their lives playing behind this group and the running game has been average as of late. Denver must target a left tackle and that will more than likely come in the NFL Draft. Garett Bolles has struggled since entering the league, leading the NFL in holding penalties year after year and hasn’t proven that he’s been good enough to receive a fifth-year option from the Broncos. Denver has a club option on right guard Ron Leary and it looks like the Broncos will allow him to walk with his injury history. Don’t expect Denver to bring back center Connor McGovern either, unless it is on a huge discounted contract for cheap. The Broncos probably won’t find great value on the open market in free agency, so they will have to look to the draft in April to build their offensive line to protect Drew Lock.
Denver has their No. 1 wide receiver in Courtland Sutton, but now they need to find another weapon for Drew Lock in the passing game. DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick have shown some promise at times, but haven’t been consistent this season. Many people think that Denver should target a wide receiver in the first round of April’s draft, but that would be a mistake because the Broncos need to build on that offensive line first. Don’t forget that there will be a number of weapons in free agency that Denver can target, like Rashard Higgins and Robby Anderson. If Denver does target a wide receiver in the NFL draft, they can target one in the later rounds because of how deep this class is.
The chances that Chris Harris Jr. returns to the Broncos in 2020 are pretty slim. Harris is looking to get a big pay day for possibly his final contract in his career and if the Broncos aren’t willing to pay top-market value for No. 25, he will walk whether Broncos Country likes it or not. If the future Ring of Famer signs elsewhere, Denver will roll out Bryce Callahan, Duke Dawson and Isaac Yiadom. That’s not the trio of corners that Vic Fangio would like to start the 2020 season with, by any means. Denver can bring back DeVante Bausby for the fact that he is a restricted free agent and showed that he can make plays in this league. If the Broncos are unable to find a veteran cornerback in free agency, they will need to grab one in the first or second round of the NFL Draft depending on how their board is built.
Everyone wants to give toys to Drew Lock on offense, but it’s time to give Fangio a toy for his defense. Last April, the Broncos passed up on linebacker Devin Bush for Noah Fant, but this is the year that Elway needs to take Fangio shopping and let him pick out a middle linebacker. It’s time for the Broncos to move on from Todd Davis. The 27-year-old linebacker has struggled and continued to struggle in the passing game for the last two seasons. Davis has allowed teams to game plan against him by forcing him to lineup on tight ends and get beat time after time. There have been a number of plays this season where Davis hasn’t even been able to beat the ball carrier to the edge before allowing him to run up field. Alexander Johnson has proven he can make plays in this defense with his speed and size, but how long can he play running wild? Josey Jewell has also been a disappointment this season for the Broncos. One former Bronco told me that Jewell looked “confused” dating back to training camp. Denver needs to find an all-around middle linebacker that can bring speed and covering skills to this Vic Fangio defense.
This is an area where the Broncos might have to lose one of their top players to free agency between Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris. Both players are great locker room guys, but because of the business side of the NFL, one of them will stay and one will go get paid. Wolfe is coming off a career year with a career high seven sacks in 12 games. Shelby Harris is also coming off a career high in sacks this season and you can’t shy away from his ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. Bottom line is Denver will probably have to replace one of these players and will have a good opportunity to do it in free agency to add some more depth along with Dre’Mont Jones.
The safety position should be low on the list of needs for the Broncos, but it could end up high on the list depending on how Denver handles the contract of Justin Simmons. Simmons has emerged as one of the better safeties in the NFL, but if the Broncos can’t strike a deal with Simmons, they can place the franchise tag on him for just over $13 million. It’s almost a zero percent chance that Simmons is not on this roster next season. Don’t forget that Denver also has Kareem Jackson who shined in his strong safety role this season. Denver can manage to draft a safety possibly with one of their three third-round picks to replace Will Parks if he chooses to sign elsewhere.
Until the Broncos fill these areas of need, they will be sitting on the couch watching the playoffs like they have for the last four seasons. Time for John Elway to get busy.