When the NFL free agency kicks off on March 18, the Broncos figure to be very active. For one, they have a lot of holes to fill, so there are plenty of reasons for John Elway to go shopping. But in addition, Denver’s general manager will have a lot of money to spend.
Currently, the Broncos are $58 million under the 2020 salary cap, but that number could grow to as high as $76 million once Ron Leary and Joe Flacco come off the books as expected. And if Elway really wants to get crazy, he can free up nearly $9 million in additional cap space by parting ways with Todd Davis and Jeff Heuerman.
How should the Broncos put all of those dollars to use? In the weeks leading up to the start of free agency, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the best players projected to be on the open market, as well as analysis of who would be a realistic fit in Denver.
It continues today with a position where the Broncos have a lot of questions – offensive tackle. On the left side, Garett Bolles has become one of the most-polarizing athletes in the history of Denver sports; his penchant for holding penalties has created a situation where some fans can’t see any of his positive traits. On the other end of the line, Ja’Wuan James signed a big contract with the Broncos prior to last season, only to miss all but parts of three games due to a nagging knee injury. If Denver is looking to move on at either spot, there are options available on the open market:
Top Five Available
1. Jack Conklin – The eighth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Conklin was an immediate starter and big-time player in Tennessee. As a rookie, he was named first-team All-Pro. He can be a dominant left tackle, something that has been on display during his first four seasons. Last year, he was the No. 9 rated tackle by Pro Football Focus, putting him in exclusive company. Conklin will turn just 26 years old in August, which will only add to his value on the open market. He’ll be a $15 million per season player.
2. Bryan Bulaga – In terms of playing the position, there’s never been any doubt about Bulaga’s ability. He’s been one of the best right tackles in football for quite some time. That said, his injury history has prevented him from reaching his full potential and may scare away some suitors. But at the age of 30, he played in all 16 games last season, allowing just 3.5 sacks during the course of the year. That should quell some of the worries about both his health and the fact that he’ll be 31 when the 2020 season begins.
3. Anthony Castonzo – At the end of the 2019 season, Castonzo told the media that he’ll only play for the Colts. If the only options available via free agency are outside of Indianapolis, the left tackle said that he’ll simply opt for retirement. Those are the types of things that get said on the heels of a long season, when the bumps and bruises are fresh. Once offers start coming his way, which will most likely top $10 million per season, his thoughts may change. He’ll turn 32 in August, meaning he has a few good years left, if he wants to play.
4. Demar Dotson – After 10 seasons in Tampa Bay, the veteran offensive tackle could be done with the Buccaneers. While never a great player, Dotson has certainly been solid; a player doesn’t stick with one franchise for a decade unless he has a lot of ability. There will be two concerns with Dotson, however. One, he’ll turn 35 during the season, so he’s approaching the end of the line. Two, he’s started to endure nagging injuries, as a hamstring hampered him throughout the 2019 campaign.
5. Kelvin Beachum – After four years in Pittsburgh and one season in Jacksonville, Beachum inked a three-year, $24-million deal with the Jets prior to the 2017 season. The general feeling in New York is that the left tackle hasn’t lived up to the contract. That might be a bit harsh. In 2019, Beachum allowed four sacks, playing with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks. Such has been the case throughout his time with the Jets, as the franchise has constantly been in flux during his three seasons with the team.
Realistic Options for the Broncos
1. Germain Ifedi – The Seahawks decided not to pick up the fifth-year option of this former first-round pick, much to the delight of most fans in Seattle. During his four seasons with the team, Ifedi became a lightning rod of sorts, drawing the ire of the 12th Man because he commits a lot of penalties and allows ill-timed sacks. Perhaps, however, a change of scenery is all that is needed. The versatile lineman can play tackle and guard, making him an intriguing option for a team like Denver with so many moving parts in the trenches.
2. Mike Remmers – During his eight-year career, Remmers has bounced around a lot, playing for the Buccaneers, Chargers, Panthers, Vikings and Giants. That’s not exactly an impressive-looking resumé. And Broncos fans will remember him from Super Bowl 50, where Von Miller had his way with Remmers en route to winning MVP honors. That said, the veteran did play for Pat Shurmur last season, so Denver’s new offensive coordinator is familiar with his abilities. And he’d provide depth behind Bolles and James.
3. George Fant – During his three seasons in Seattle, Fant mostly served as a backup. That said, the Seahawks had a lot of injury issues at tackle, so Fant saw a lot of action. In each of the last two seasons, he appeared in every game and started a total of 14. So it’s not as though he hasn’t accumulated some experience. The question is whether or not he’s ready to become a full-time starter. That might be a stretch, but he’s proven that he can be a valuable reserve, able to play multiple positions along the line.