Denver Broncos: Have they finally found their future at quarterback?
It has been a weird season for the Denver Broncos, with a couple of close losses early in the season meaning they were always going to struggle to make a major impact. In the end a 7-9 finish was better than many expected, but despite losing their starting QB, and trading away their veteran wide receiver, it could have even been better.
It was really the same old story for the Broncos in 2019. Their defense was a solid unit, even if it did take time for them to get going. However, their offense could just not find any consistency, and it meant that by mid-season any hopes of the playoffs were gone. There was reason for excitement down the stretch. Drew Lock looked more than competent as the starting QB, and they won four of their last five games. 2020 is set to be a very interesting season in Denver.
General Manager: John Elway
Head Coach: Vic Fangio
After a rough start to the season defensively all eyes were on Fangio. His calling card coming in from Chicago was defense, so when the team did not force any turnovers through four weeks, and barely touched the QB at times, questions were being asked. Despite that, they were at least solid in keeping scores down. They finished 10th in points allowed and ninth in first downs allowed. All of that is a solid return for a first year head coach.
As for the GM, has he finally found his QB? Elway’s inability to identify a QB has become a joke for many following the league, but Lock showed enough promise that any discussion of a new guy calling the shots will likely be off the table this offseason.
Cap Space: $65.6 million
Cap space is unlikely to be an issue for the Broncos this offseason. In fact, with a lot of money in their pocket, and plenty of players already contracted for the season, we could see them as a big player in free agency this season.
One player whose situation is worth watching is Joe Flacco. Cutting or trading him could save the team $10m, but it is not that simple. He is likely going to want to be a starter, but Lock should have the inside track to start. The question then becomes, will Flacco be happy to be the veteran backup mentoring the young guy? Probably not. The Broncos need to make their decision quickly, because with the CBA expiring next offseason, cuts or trades after June 1st are a very different cap situation. This could be a fascinating situation in the first half of the offseason.
Impending Free Agents
The Broncos do have a number of good players that could leave in free agency. Cornerback Chris Harris is the headline name and Pro Football Networks’ Insider Ben Allbright has been informed he will be allowed to test the market, with the Broncos making their decision based on the price set by the market.
Free Safety Justin Simmons is another big name free agent, but the rumours are that Simmons will be franchise tagged if a long term deal cannot be agreed. Simmons numbers compare well with the top paid players at his position, meaning a $14m average value is not out of the question. Interestingly, his franchise tag number is likely to only be $10m, which with the unknown future of the CBA may actually be an acceptable compromise for both sides.
Derek Wolfe is the third name of note among this years free agents. However, with the team ranking a woeful 30th in pass rush win rate this season, the Broncos may look to make a change across the defensive line this offseason.
Major Need: Offensive LIne
When you rank 27th in pass block win rate then you absolutely need to be concerned. This offense ranked in the bottom third of the league in yards per attempt for both the pass and the run game, which is another sign an upgrade is needed. I expect to see the Broncos aggressively target upgrades at various points in their line, especially with a sophomore signal-caller likely to be in place to start 2020. If they can get the line right, and Lock takes the next step, this offense has a lot of talented pieces heading into the future.
Minor Need: Secondary
Now this may not be a need if they bring back both Harris and Simmons. However, if Harris walks then they will be looking for a solid cornerback who can move inside and cover slot receivers. That has been one of Harris’ main calling cards in his career, and a big reason this defense has been effective as it has in the past decade. The good news is that this draft has plenty of depth at the corner position, but finding one that can cover players out of the slot effectively is an entirely different matter.
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