The Denver Broncos are going to undergo massive changes over the next two years or so. The first and biggest change (for now) has to be the hiring of a new general manager.
John Elway is stepping down from being the GM, but he is staying on board as the president of football operations. Elway, head coach Vic Fangio, Broncos CEO Joe Ellis and chief communications officer Patrick Smyth are in charge of finding a new GM.
That list of candidates is getting whittled down as of this writing. Many predict by the end of the week that the Broncos will have their new GM in place.
Last week, Ellis commented on what kind of individual he wants in the GM role.
“It’s a lot of things. It’s not just evaluating players, it’s managing a staff, it’s setting the structure and a plan in place organizationally that the coach adheres to. I think one thing that’s very important is player evaluation and doing that in concert with the coach so that the coach and the general manager have an understanding about what kind of players the coach needs (and) the team needs to be successful. That’s a critical component to be able to work with and understand what Vic needs — the players that Vic needs to be successful is a better way of putting it. That more than anything is critical,” Ellis said.
So, what are the three biggest problems the new GM must solve? Let’s take a look.
Competition for Lock
There is no doubt that the Broncos need to find competition at the quarterback position. In 2020, Drew Lock was handed the starting job. The 2019 second-round pick looked good at the end of his rookie season, going 4-1 as the starter and injecting hope for the future in the fan base.
I agreed with the team’s decision to make Lock the unquestioned starter, and I wanted 2020 to be the year we all get to see if Lock can be a franchise quarterback or not. Well, here we are at the end of the season and looking forward to the 2021 season and we cannot say with any certainty that Lock will or will not be “that dude.”
It’s clear that Denver needs to bring in competition for Lock if not outright replace him as the starter. The NFL stands for “Not For Long” and second-round picks don’t get much time to prove themselves at the quarterback position. Heck, first-round picks like Dwayne Haskins or Josh Rosen didn’t get as much time as Lock is getting from the Broncos.
The new GM needs to find the proper level of competition for Lock. Around the league, Lock does not have many supporters as he does here locally. In fact, many in the scouting community think Lock can’t play and see him as nothing more than an average starter at best.
If the new GM believes Lock can’t develop into anything more, then the Broncos need to find a new starter. That means a trade for a veteran like Matthew Stafford. If the new GM believes there’s something more there with Lock, then bringing in free agent competition (like Andy Dalton) would make sense.
Either way, Lock is not going to be the unquestioned starter at the beginning of the 2021 camp.
The new GM will have plenty of decisions coming up with contracts for potential free agents or players who need to restructure their deal. I’m not going to list every contract here in this article, but just know that several key players – both starters and depth players – are potentially on the chopping block for the Broncos.
Von Miller is the first player I want to highlight here. He needs to restructure his contract, as he’s got a $25.6 million cap hit for the 2021 season on his current deal. The team has an option on his contract that must be exercised on the first day of the new league year. If exercised, $7 million guarantees for the veteran pass-rusher. If the team does not exercise his option, then Miller is set to be a free agent and the Broncos will have to eat $4.2 million in dead money.
I’d like to see Miller get one more chance with the Broncos, and Elway wants him to retire as a member of the Broncos. The price tag needs to be set by the new GM (and Elway), but Miller could be back for one more ride with the Broncos in 2021.
Justin Simmons bet on himself in 2020 and he hit the jackpot. Playing under the franchise tag in 2020, Simmons took a chance on himself in a one-year deal instead of taking a lower offer from the Broncos. Now, Simmons is looking to be the highest-paid safety in the league. If the Broncos decide to keep Simmons around, he is not going to come at any sort of team-friendly deal.
His franchise tag paid him $11.4 million in 2020, but that’s not what he should make in 2021 and beyond. Simmons is in the range of making $14.7 million per year like top-paid safety Budda Baker (Cardinals) makes. The days of Simmons coming with a bargain price tag or over.
Finally, another contract situation that bears watching is what happens with running back Phillip Lindsay. A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher to start his career, Lindsay was banged up in 2020 and only rushed for 502 yards in 11 games. He’s set to be a restricted free agent, and the Broncos have a few options with the fan-favorite back.
They can tender him as an original-round, second-round or first-round player. Those distinctions come with different levels of pay and with different kickbacks for the Broncos if Lindsay signs somewhere else. The new GM is going to have to examine what Lindsay has done to this point, how much he could sign for elsewhere and what to tender him as depending on how he feels Lindsay fits in the offense.
Fit with Fangio… and the Next Guy
The most important problem the new GM will have to solve is what happens with his relationship with Vic Fangio. Even though Elway and Ellis may not be in place for 2022 and beyond, and there may be new ownership by that time, the new GM has to fit with Fangio.
Every successful team in the NFL has a GM and head coach who work in tandem to create wins. The Broncos must find someone who can help get the most out of Fangio. The veteran coach is entering his third year as head coach, and this could be the final year for Fangio if the Broncos don’t get on the winning track. In fact, I think Fangio is lucky to have this opportunity when other, more successful coaches are getting fired around the league.
The new GM must make sure that he can work with Fangio, while also realizing that soon he may be working with a new head coach. This is an interesting and weird situation for the new GM, and it’s a bad way to approach things for the Broncos, in my opinion.
This is the way of the Broncos in 2020. The new GM has to wow the former GM in Elway. The new GM has to wow the current CEO who could be gone in 2022 in Ellis. The new GM has to get the blessing of the current head coach Fangio while also knowing that he may be the only man left standing from the group that is interviewing him.
The Broncos are looking for a new GM, and the problems to solve are much more numerous than I’ve listed here. Any GM job should be coveted in the NFL, but the Broncos job comes with baggage that others don’t.
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