If nothing else, the Denver Broncos’ 2021 season revealed some significant truths. It proved once and for all that Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock are not franchise quarterbacks. It demonstrated that coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur have severe limitations. And it made clear that critical changes are needed in 2022. We look ahead to the Broncos’ offseason, their most pressing team needs, pending free agents, draft picks, and salary cap space.
Denver Broncos 2022 Offseason Preview
Once the Broncos figure out their coaching staff, general manager George Paton’s sole focus has to be on finally fixing the quarterback position. Denver has the defense, skill position players, and offensive line to make a deep run. They just need someone who can make the throws.
Bridgewater is an unrestricted free agent, and if he’s back in 2022, Paton’s offseason will have been a failure. The Broncos need to make a play for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, or any other top-flight quarterback who might be available. They have the cap space and the draft assets to go after anyone they want. It’s on Paton to get it done.
The Broncos have $48.5 million in projected cap space
Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)
Denver is in pretty good shape financially heading into 2022. Almost all of the Broncos’ $6.4 million in dead money is a result of their decision to cut Ja’Wuan James with a June 1 designation. But Denver still needs to be judicious with its spending. Short of restructures or trades, the Broncos will struggle to free up much more space. That could make for some tough decisions if they are able to land a top-tier quarterback.
Broncos’ pending free agents in 2022
Bridgewater is the biggest name, but he probably isn’t the most important. The biggest question marks come on the defense, which played the last half of the season without Von Miller (traded to the Rams at the deadline) and is in danger of losing several more significant pieces.
Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan, linebacker Malik Reed, and safety Kareem Jackson are among the Broncos’ 17 unrestricted free agents. They are going to have a lot of decisions to make on their defense at all three levels. Running back Melvin Gordon is the most significant offensive player on that list outside of Bridgewater. If he comes back in 2022, it’ll likely be with a significant pay cut.
How do the Broncos’ free agents rank among the best available in 2022? Be sure out our list of top free agents available at each position to find out.
Broncos’ team needs
Quarterback could easily fill all five spots on the following list. But that’s not to say the Broncos have a slam-dunk Super Bowl roster even if they acquire Rodgers, Watson, or Wilson. There are concerns at pass rusher after the Miller trade, and the Broncos don’t have nearly the depth at cornerback that we thought they did six months ago.
At linebacker, there are concerns with Kenny Young, Alexander Johnson, Micah Kiser, and Josey Jewell all set to become free agents. Even if they feel confident rolling into the season with Justin Strnad and Baron Browning as their top two options, they will need to add depth at the position. They also need to make some decisions on their offensive line, especially at right tackle.
Broncos’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason
- Edge defender
- Offensive tackle
Broncos’ 2022 NFL Draft picks
Paton’s decision to effectively punt on the 2021 season by dealing Miller resulted in some short-term pain with the hope of long-term gain. In April, he’ll enjoy the benefits of that vision by picking five times in the first 100 selections. Denver also has an extra fifth-rounder by virtue of the Trinity Benson trade.
Here’s how the Broncos’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:
- Round 1 (Pick 9)
- Round 2 (Picks 8 & 32 — from Rams)
- Round 3 (Picks 11 & 32 — from Rams)
- Round 4 (Pick 10)
- Round 5 (Picks 2 — from Lions & 9)
- Round 7 (Pick 29 — from SF)