The Denver Broncos entered the offseason with one goal in mind: Get back to the Super Bowl. The team believes that the moves they have made this offseason will help them do just that.
The last time the Denver Broncos made the playoffs, they had future Hall-Of-Famer Peyton Manning steering the ship. Manning had some monster seasons with the Denver Broncos, but the team has not found the same success since Manning’s retirement in 2016.
As highlighted by fellow PFN Writer Andres Maldonado, the team has gone in many directions while trying to replace Manning. Denver has spent multiple selections on potential successors. There were early round picks such as Paxton Lynch, who was the team’s first rounder in 2016 following Manning’s retirement. Lynch competed with seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemien and lost out on the starting job entering the 2016 and 2017 seasons. What followed was mediocrity, injuries, and turnovers from both Siemien and Lynch during this time. These issues would eventually lead to the team signing Vikings playoff hero Case Keenum before the 2018 season. The Broncos held high hopes for Keenum last season, signing him to a two year, $36 million deal. Keenum fell below expectations in 2018, throwing for 15 interceptions and failing to lead the team to the playoffs or a winning record.
Joe Flacco is the next man up at quarterback for the Broncos
Following their many missed attempts to find their next playoff quarterback, the Broncos acquired Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens for one of their two 2019 fourth-round picks. The trade was completed officially at the start of the league year on March 13th. While Flacco’s best statistical years may be behind him, the team hopes that his playoff and Super Bowl experience will be enough to help them get back to that level. With so many failed shots at the quarterback position, the move for Flacco is more about stabilizing the position for the team moving forward. Regardless of the quarterback in 2019, the team will again lean heavily on their defense and 2019 breakout rookie rusher Phillip Lindsay.
Flacco will be the unquestioned starter going into 2019. However, the team also signed former Browns starter Kevin Hogan. While Flacco holds the team’s hopes for a playoff run this season, a fourth-round pick certainly does not take them out of contention for a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. As I eluded to in my mock draft posted earlier this month, if there is a signal-caller that the team likes, they will likely not hesitate to pull the trigger.
James finally lands in the Mile High City
The Broncos have lost a few key starters this offseason in cornerback Bradley Roby (Houston), offensive linemen Billy Turner (Green Bay) and Matt Paradis (Carolina), and linebacker Shaq Barrett (Tampa Bay). However, the team did well to replace a few of those starters, possibly upgrading at a few spots.
The team’s biggest free agency move in terms of both money and stature is new right tackle Ja’Wuan James. The move for James makes sense and appears to have been in the works since even before the 2018 season. Before the 2018 NFL Draft, rumors swirled around the Broncos and Miami Dolphins, that the Broncos could be looking to make a move for James in exchange for former RB starter C.J. Anderson. According to Troy Renck of ABC Denver, “the Broncos had a verbal agreement in place to send Anderson to Miami for right tackle Ja’Wuan James before Miami surprisingly nixed the deal.”
Flash forward to the next offseason, and the Broncos finally have their big man at right tackle. The team signed James to a massive four-year, $51 million deal, making him the league’s highest-paid right tackle in 2019. James was a starter for all five seasons since being drafted by the Dolphins in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has missed a total of 18 games due to injury during his 5-year career but has been quite successful when healthy. Denver hopes that he will help them continue their prowess on the ground this season while keeping their new starting quarterback upright.
Other big moves made to improve the Broncos defense
Another big move that seems to be flying under the radar is the addition of cornerback Bryce Callahan. Callahan was a breakout star for the league-best Chicago Bears defense in 2018. He provided lockdown coverage in the slot last season and parlayed that into a three-year, $21 million deal with Denver. Something to also keep in mind about the addition of Callahan is that the move now allows Chris Harris to move outside. Harris is easily Denver’s top cover man and could be used in more of a “shadow” role this season. That would allow the Broncos to use Harris against the opposing team’s top receivers and give them more flexibility in their defensive schemes.
The Broncos also added long-time Houston Texan corner Kareem Jackson to their secondary. Jackson is a hardened, veteran outside cornerback that has always been a great tackler and will help supplement the loss of Roby to free agency. Even with the losses of Roby and Darian Stewart, the secondary should again be a strong point for Denver during the 2019 season.
Moreover, on Monday, the team rounded out their overhaul in the secondary by inking former AAF interception leader De’Vante Bausby. Bausby was a standout corner for the San Antonio Commanders during his brief stint with the team, tying for the league-lead with four interceptions. Bausby played for new head coach Vic Fangio as a member of the 2016 Chicago Bears. He has played in ten total NFL games, most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.
Draft nuggets and prospect visits
The team has long been rumored to be in the quarterback market during this draft process, despite the move for Joe Flacco. Two of the top draft-eligible quarterbacks will be visiting team headquarters this week. Per Mike Klis of the Denver Post on Twitter, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock visited the team on Sunday and Monday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State is scheduled to visit as well. Both signal callers could be available at ten overall and would be logical fits behind Flacco. Another prospect who visited on Monday is Texas cornerback Kris Boyd. Boyd ran a 4.45 at February’s Scouting Combine and could be an option for the team during the draft’s latter half.
For more AFC West news and notes leading up to the NFL Draft, follow @sgorman7 on Twitter.