The Broncos have to make decisions in free agency, both on their own players and those from other teams. They also have to make decisions on players who are still under contract but they may find it best to part ways with prior to the 2020 season.
This is my “Keep or Cut?” series.
In this series of articles, I will examine the players that are on the roster bubble for the Broncos – for various reasons. Some players are just past their prime and not worth the money anymore. Some players have a price tag that is too high and the team could move on in a money-saving effort. Some players are a combination of both.
There are only a few players to look at before free agency, but some of them are big names and important former (and current) starters for the Broncos. The Broncos have around $60 million in cap space right now, but with a few cuts here and there, that number could grow to around $90 million. That extra money could come in handy as the Broncos are expected to be one of the most-active teams in free agency this offseason.
Next up, starting inside linebacker Todd Davis. Should the Broncos keep or cut? Let’s take a look.
The Broncos have a potential out built into the contract for Davis. In 2018, Davis signed a three-year, $15 million contract with a $3 million signing bonus and $6 million guaranteed. The out was there before this season in case the Broncos wanted to use it.
In 2020, Davis is on the books for a $6 million cap hit, but there is only $1 million remaining in dead money. That means the team would free up $5 million in cap space if they were to let the veteran linebacker go.
He hasn’t really been a disappointment for the Broncos and that’s what makes this such a difficult call. Davis is coming off back-to-back seasons with 80-plus tackles and is known as a humble leader in the locker room. There are other options out there in free agency, but those players are going to be more expensive than the $6 million hit Davis counts as in 2020.
Getting Picked On
The tackle numbers looked great again for Davis in 2019, but many teams were picking on him in coverage. He hasn’t really lost a step, but Davis was never one to put up against these receiving tight ends that are making big plays around the league.
While his tackle numbers in 2018 (83) and 2019 (82) were nearly identical, you saw a severe drop off in his coverage ability. In 2018, Davis had a whopping seven pass breakups with one interception returned for a touchdown. In 2018, he only had one pass breakup and just seemed a little short anytime a key pass in an important situation came his way.
It was clear down the stretch in 2019 that opponents were planning on throwing it at Davis. That plan worked for the teams going up against the Broncos in December as they moved the ball over the middle of the field with ease. Davis is still a sure tackler, but he was having to make tackles because teams would complete passes against him and in his zone.
Tight End Central
Looking at the rest of the division and one can easily see why coverage ability for an inside linebacker is a must-have quality. Noah Fant had a fantastic rookie season for the Broncos, yet he may be the fourth-best tight end in the division.
The Chiefs have a superstar in Travis Kelce. He’s a favorite target of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and can make most any defender look silly – especially in the red zone. In an uneven year for Kelce, he still led the league with 1,229 receiving yards from a tight end.
The Raiders found an emerging talent in Darren Waller. He finished second to Kelce in receiving yards by a tight end last year with 1,146 yards in 16 games. No matter who the quarterback is for the Raiders going forward (Tom Brady?), Waller should remain a big part of what they do in the passing game.
The Chargers should keep Hunter Henry in 2020 and beyond. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent, but the Chargers have a strong interest in retaining his services according to the team sources I talk to in Los Angeles. They are making a quarterback change with Philip Rivers moving on, so keeping a guy like Henry would give them a steady presence on offense. Henry only played in 12 games last year, but he still finished No. 9 in terms of receiving yards (652) by a tight end.
Davis is not a bad linebacker whatsoever, but with his skill set in this division he looks worse.
This is an incredibly tough call. Going into this article, I was not sure whether I would conclude to “keep” or “cut” Davis. I really like his game and his story as he came into the league undrafted out of Sacramento State and the Broncos stole him away from the Saints as they tried to sneak him through to the practice squad.
That being said, I’m not going to keep him for the story. I vote cut for Davis.
His elevated price tag and these star tight ends in the division mean the Broncos must force themselves to find an upgrade. Even if Davis is “okay” as a starter, the offenses they face demand that he must be better.