Top Denver Broncos’ pending free agents in 2021

After a shaky 2020 NFL season full of tumultuous play, the Denver Broncos can wipe the slate clean in 2021, starting with free agency. With numerous players who will be free agents in 2021, the Broncos face difficult decisions, beginning with Von Miller.

Denver’s 2020 season seemed to be over before it got started

To say the 2020 season did not go according to plan would be an understatement. Drew Lock was coming into his second year. Jerry Jeudy was added as a first-round talent, helping construct one of the best young WR duos in the NFL.

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In addition, Melvin Gordon came on to the team to bolster the running back position. Not to mention, the team was going to be led by a defense laden with stars like Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Justin Simmons.

There was optimism that this team could surprise a few people and make a run for the Wild Card. That’s the problem with optimism. It leads to hope, which often leads to disappointment. Hey, I was right there with you. I thought it was going to go much better than it did. However, the Broncos’ season seemed to be over before it ever really began.

In Von Miller’s case, that was wholeheartedly true. Then, Courtland Sutton tore his ACL early in the year. Lock, himself, couldn’t stay healthy either or put a string of drives/games together. Furthermore, Melvin Gordon was somewhat of a disappointment after failing to rush for 1,000 yards.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, at one point, the Broncos were literally forced to play a game without a quarterback. Now, the Broncos head into 2021 with several pressing free agent decisions. Particularly, decisions on the defensive side of the ball.

The Broncos face an uncertain future, starting with the 2021 free agency period

If Drew Lock struggles in 2021, how long until they pull the plug? I, personally, think they should give him another year given the adversity and injuries. However, there is an ever-growing part of the fan base that is calling for a change. 

In reality, they already got their change in the offseason. After a decade of being the primary decision-maker, John Elway and the organization finally decided it was time for a fresh set of eyes on the team. Elway stepped down as general manager. At that time, Elway announced he would hire a GM with full authority to oversee the personnel and football department.

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According to Over the Cap, with a projected salary cap space of $14.11 million, the new GM does not have much wiggle room to make critical decisions with in 2021. Considering 26 players will become free agents in 2021, it makes things even more challenging.

The Broncos’ free agency decisions begin by making one on Von Miller

You might as well start with the big name when going over Broncos’ free agents for 2021. Miller missed the entire 2020 season because of an ankle injury. This setback is coming after a disappointing 2019 season. In addition, Miller turns 32 years old in March.

There’s also the massive story involving the recent criminal investigation against Miller by the Parker Police Department of Colorado involving his ex-fiancée. However, it is essential to note that no charges have been filed. Consequently, it just adds to the uncertainty in what happens with Miller and his future in Denver.

The Broncos do have a club option on Miller should they choose to exercise it. The problem is the cost, however. According to, Miller’s $22.225 million cap hit in 2021 could be the second-highest for OLBs.

Can the Broncos keep Justin Simmons from leaving in the 2021 free agency period?

After failing to reach a deal during the season, the Broncos are now competing with the rest of the NFL for their third-round pick of 2016. 

With a career total of 16 interceptions, Simmons’ high IQ play and ball skills have transformed the Broncos’ secondary. Most importantly, he’s helped bring stability to a defense dealing with turnover all season. 

Simmons already played 2020 on the franchise tag, and to do it again would cost $13.7 million. Consequently, it would likely end the chance of him coming back in 2022. 

The best-case scenario for the Broncos is to work out a long-term deal to keep Simmons on the team. Although, it won’t be cheap. Spotrac has his estimated market value at $15.4 million per year on a five-year, $77.43 million deal. A deal like that would make Simmons the highest-paid safety in the NFL. Despite the high cost, he is the main free agent the Broncos can’t afford to lose in 2021.

Denver Broncos’ 2021 offensive free agents

OT Calvin Anderson, 25
TE Jake Butt, 26
OT Demar Dotson, 36
RB Phillip Lindsay, 27
WR Tim Patrick, 28
G Austin Schlottmann, 26
WR Diontae Spencer, 29
G Elijah Wilkinson, 26

Denver Broncos’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents

CB De’Vante Bausby, 28
LB Austin Calitro, 27
LB Anthony Chickillo, 29
DL Jonathan Harris, 25
DE Shelby Harris, 30
DE Joel Heath, 28
SS Kareem Jackson, 33
LB A.J. Johnson, 30
LB Joseph Jones, 27
S Trey Marshall, 25
LB Von Miller, 32
S Will Parks, 27
S Justin Simmons, 28
CB Kevin Toliver, 26
DE DeMarcus Walker, 27
LB Josh Watson, 25
DT Sylvester Williams, 33

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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