2018 Broncos Offseason Road Map

In three years of doing these road maps, the Broncos have gone from Super Bowl champion to mediocrity to holding a top five draft pick. A disappointing trend, to say the least. However, while the Broncos had a very complex road map after winning the Super Bowl, this time around I think the road map is more straightforward than the past two years. However, it will be as challenging as always, and with higher stakes than usual.

1. Fix the quarterback position.

I’m jumping a bit ahead, but I’m listing this #1 due to it being by far the most important goal to achieve, as everyone reading this should already know. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been as angry to eat crow in the NFL as I have been on the 2017 Broncos quarterbacks. I thought that one of Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch could provide at least average quarterback play behind a top defense. But Siemian’s ceiling has proven to not be starter material, and whether Lynch can raise his ceiling is in serious doubt. Major changes have to be made a quarterback given the facts on the ground:

1a. Let Brock Osweiler walk

It was a highly unusual circumstance (a veteran QB getting paid the veteran minimum due to another team paying him almost $16 million) that Osweiler even came back to Denver to begin with. That circumstance will not repeated, and Osweiler has not demonstrated that he can be the answer.

1b. Acquire both a veteran and a rookie

I feel fairly strong about this one, and there may be only a rare exception or two that will move me off it. The position is in such terrible shape that the Broncos should not be placing all of their eggs in the basket of one quarterback. If the veteran works out, not much is being spent on the rookie. If the veteran doesn’t work out but the rookie does, now the team is in an enviable position. (The Seahawks can confirm.)

As for which veteran and which rookie the Broncos should acquire…well, we’ll have many weeks to discuss that, and I’ll address it in subsequent articles. Another reason why I’m not listing names in here is because there’s still so much that is unknown. We’ve barely just learned which college prospects have declared to become NFL rookies. We still don’t know which veterans will be available, where they will go, and where prospective rookie quarterbacks will be rated among league observers. Some patience should be exercised as more facts come in.

1c. If goal 1b is successful, move one of Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch

If the Broncos have a new veteran and a new rookie to add alongside Chad Kelly (who should absolutely not be ruled out as a potential answer), they’re going to run out of reps in training camp for the incumbent active quarterbacks from 2017. Four quarterbacks is probably the maximum they can practically carry into camp.

I do not have a strong opinion on which one should go first. It would help to set out some financial facts on what would happen if they are moved:

  • For Siemian it’s pretty straightforward: He’ll get a non-guaranteed PPE raise to about $1.9 million, equivalent to the lowest restricted free agent tender. He can be cut or traded at any time to free the Broncos of that $1.9 million obligation.
  • Lynch’s situation is more complicated. If he is cut the Broncos will lose a small amount of cap space due to almost his entire contract being guaranteed. A trade, on the other hand, would be mostly negligible for the cap, but would relieve the Broncos of about $1.9 million in base salary guarantees. But the challenge, of course, is being able to find a trade partner for Lynch that’s willing to take on those guarantees.

To wrap up goal #1, one point I want to stress, and will illustrate below, is that I truly believe that the Broncos can be a quarterback away from seriously contending as usual. It will not be easy at all to get that quarterback, but if they do, I believe it will help to cover any remaining holes on the team, of which I believe to be few as currently constructed.

2. Place second round RFA tenders on Matt Paradis and Shaq Barrett.

These transactions should be straightforward. Tendering them should each cost about $2.9 million in cash and cap.

3. Do not place a RFA tender on Bennie Fowler.

This one may surprise you. I’m not thrilled to allow Fowler to hit the market unencumbered, and it would not surprise me if the expected move of placing an approximate $1.9 million right of first refusal tender on him happens.

But the Broncos are going to need cap space for a veteran quarterback, and it may have to come at the expense of some of the fringes of the roster, such as Fowler. Jordan Taylor is a step below Fowler in talent, but not a very steep step, and he’s an exclusive rights free agent that can be retained at a much cheaper $630,000. Carlos Henderson is also waiting in the wings after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. If Cody Latimer is retained (see goal #9 below), there’s another possible receiving option.

If the Broncos and Fowler do strike a deal, it may have to come at a lower amount than $1.9 million in 2018 for it to happen. Also, even if Fowler is given an ROFR tender, watch to see if that tender may be withdrawn later (or if Fowler may be cut if he signs it).

4. Pick up Demaryius Thomas’s option.

While more marginal talent like Fowler may have to be relinquished, one point I will repeat throughout the next few goals of this road map is that the Broncos need not, and should not, hemorrhage proven talent for the sake of clearing cap space, even for a quarterback. If the Broncos get rid of a proven player, they now have an additional hole to fill, making the offseason even more challenging in addition to finding a quarterback.

This starts with picking up a $4 million option on the contract of Demaryius Thomas that will retain his 2018 and 2019 contract years. I believe that Thomas has not declined, but that his performance was forced into decline by poor quarterback play. Improve the quarterback, and I have high confidence that Thomas has two more 1,000 yard seasons in him.

5. Do not cut CJ Anderson.

It was nice of the Dolphins to set up Anderson’s contract in a way where he can now be cut with no dead money consequences and to free up $4.5 million in cash and cap in 2018 and/or 2019. But Anderson just came off his first 1,000 season of his career, and has been a particularly positive influence in the locker room. If Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson, or a new acquisition really wows in training camp, then I may reconsider. But from what I know now, I’m not jettisoning proven talent like Anderson.

Even if you disagree with me on this, I would also add there’s no rush to cut Anderson. He has no more guaranteed money in his contract of any kind, meaning that the Broncos can relieve themselves of that $4.5 million at any time from now until Week 1 of the regular season.

6. Do not cut Aqib Talib…but do consider renegotiating his contract.

It’s very tempting to look at the $11 million in cap savings that could be had by cutting Talib, and I expect many observers among both fans and the media to mention it. But like Thomas and Anderson, Talib is still proven talent that I feel should not be released.

Unlike Thomas and Anderson, however, I think there is room to negotiate with Talib a little bit. Talib saw what happened to TJ Ward last training camp, when he was cut due to the emergence of Justin Simmons and Will Parks. Should Brendan Langley, a practice squadder, or a newcomer prove to be a capable nickel cornerback alongside Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby, Talib could have the same thing happen to him what happened to Ward. And Talib has much more on the line than Ward, as his $11 million base salary is entirely unguaranteed.

So here’s something the Broncos could try to attempt if, and only if, they need extra cap space. They could ask Talib to convert about $1-2 million of his base salary into incentives, but in return they could guarantee the grand majority of the rest, with most of that guarantee coming in a form of a signing bonus. For example, a conversion to a guaranteed $1 million base salary, a $8 million signing bonus, and $2 million in incentives would cut Talib’s cap number in half, from $12 million to $6 million. That’s the benefit to the Broncos; the benefit to Talib is that he has security for the 2018 season.

If the Broncos do renegotiate Talib’s contract, then they should also add a team option onto the 2019 year. If I’m correct that Adrian Peterson will fetch the Vikings a compensatory pick this year, then I believe that this similar renegotiation would qualify Talib for 2020 comp pick consideration if they do part ways in 2019.

Unlike other requests for potential pay cuts, this is the rare case where I think the Broncos shouldn’t be compelled to cut Talib if he balks at such a pay cut. The reason is because Talib would still remain liable to be cut at any time before the regular season and lose the $11 million due to him. If Talib wants to roll the dice, that’s fine, but it should not be interpreted as an empty bluff by the Broncos.

7. Be prepared to guarantee Menelik Watson $6 million.

I expect the most pushback on this goal, and I am not excited by any means to have to write this out. Unlike Thomas, Anderson, and Talib, Watson is far from proven talent, to the point where he has not proven himself to be on this pay level.

However, take a look at the free agent market for right tackles. It’s pathetic. The best name I could conjure up is old friend Chris Clark, who famously struggled at right tackle for the Broncos in 2014. Consider this even further: if the Broncos cut Watson, he could very well be the best free agent right tackle on the market. And for those of you dreaming about, say, Cordy Glenn being traded here (or even nightmaring about, say, Ereck Flowers), it’s always wishful thinking to assume that a player under contract will actually become available. Teams don’t let go of players that easy.

John Elway took a major gamble last year in declining Russell Okung’s option, passing on free agent left tackle options, being fortunate to have any tackle he wanted at the 20th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and selecting Garett Bolles, who has worked out reasonably well for his rookie season. Knowing that Elway leans toward the aggressive side on these type of decisions, it would not surprise me if he attempts to press Watson on a “pay cut or be cut” effort (like he did with Donald Stephenson) and repeat what he did in 2017.

But I’ll be nervous if he takes the same approach this time, because there’s a high chance that the right tackle position will be degraded further if they part ways with Watson at this moment. The only way I can foresee my nerves relaxing is if the Broncos sign a veteran quarterback that’s such an obvious starter that it obviates the need for the Broncos to use the 5th overall pick on one–thus allowing them much more flexibility to draft Watson’s replacement with that pick.

Whatever the case, Watson’s fate has to be decided before the 5th day of the 2018 league year, when his guarantee triggers. Four days might be enough to find a veteran quarterback so that question on Watson can be satisfactorily answered, but it’s no guarantee.

If Watson is cut, I would recommend using a June 1 designation on his release. This allows the Broncos to keep $1.33 million of his prorated signing bonus on the 2019 cap, and thus save $6.125 million in 2018. They would have to carry that $1.33 million on 2018 until June 1, but that can easily be offset by delaying the signing of some rookie contracts if need be.

8. Let Todd Davis walk, and set a $1 million 2018 cap number limit for extending Corey Nelson.

If I am correct in estimating playing worth for Davis and Nelson, the Broncos may not have room to extend Davis in order to have enough to acquire a veteran quarterback. That isn’t ideal, but as I argued the #2 inside linebacker position is a fringe starter/backup position on the Broncos due to the predominance of the nickel formation they use. This may be a position where they have to go cheap with with Zaire Anderson, a practice squadder, or a rookie stepping up to the plate.

9. Try to extend Cody Latimer on a special teams deal.

I’ve illustrated in this article as to how I’d like to see this extension go. Latimer’s 2018 cap number should not go too much higher from $1 million, and if it does on the market, then it will be time to let him walk, as well.

10. Acquire a veteran returner.

Suffice to say, Isaiah McKenzie has not yet proven himself trustworthy to hold this job. I am not yet giving up on McKenzie, though. He deserves another training camp to see if he can improve, but he also deserves to have fierce competition from a veteran. I would not spend more than $1 million on a one year deal for such a veteran, though.

11. Let Virgil Green, Jamaal Charles, Donald Stephenson, Jared Crick, Allen Barbre, Billy Winn, and Billy Turner all walk.

I don’t think any of these names should be controversial in declaring they won’t be back for 2018. None of them should fetch anything more than 7th round 2019 compensatory picks…but despite the low value the Broncos may still end up eligible for comp picks that year, because of the next goal:

12. Do not pursue any other free agents unless and until a veteran quarterback acquisition allows it.

If the above transactions go as demonstrated (which include not retaining Bennie Fowler, Todd Davis, and Corey Nelson), then after setting aside money for 2018 draft picks the Broncos should be left with about $14 million in 2018 cap space, assuming a $178 million leaguewide salary cap. It is likely that almost all of that money will have to go toward acquiring a veteran quarterback given the prices that they command. And because the top of free agency goes fast, this priority will likely result in the Broncos in shutting themselves out of the top free agents elsewhere.

But this is OK in my mind, because I as I said above I strongly believe quarterback to be the only massive hole on the Broncos’ roster at this time. Yes, there will be a drop in talent at the second inside linebacker position, a guard and tackle position could stand to be improved with new players, tight end could be problematic, as could depth at running back and wide receiver. But there are at least some provisional plans for this position. The Broncos have to be able to trust their evaluation of the 2017 draft class, and have confidence that De’Angelo Henderson, Carlos Henderson, and Jake Butt can become contributors after abridged seasons. There may also be a chance for Connor McGovern to emerge at guard.

The Broncos are also slated to have 10 draft picks in 2018. They need to have confidence that they can improve some roster deficiencies with that class, as well.

13. If all else fails in making cap room for a veteran quarterback, restructure Von Miller.

The Broncos rarely restructure contracts, and they may not need to for 2018. But the quarterback situation is one that may justify it. Miller, a Hall of Fame talent, is the only player that I’d consider for a restructure, but his restructure potential is very high, at upwards of $13 million. Some of that amount should not be taken off the table if the Broncos are having difficulty making the numbers meet.

14. Hold off on extending Bradley Roby and Matt Paradis until the quarterback situation is resolved.

The reason for this is because whoever the Broncos acquire at quarterback could have vast differences upon the 2019 salary cap. And 2019 is a season in which the cap could get very tight if the Broncos succeed in retaining a veteran quarterback at a high price. If that’s done then these two contracts will have to be tailored to push more money into 2020 and beyond…or Roby and/or Paradis may have to simply be allowed to walk after 2018 is done. But if the Broncos’ new quarterbacks are a cheaper veteran and a highly drafted rookie, then extensions for these players can use 2019 cap dollars more freely.

15. A decision on future of Shaq Barrett (and Shane Ray) may have to come soon after the draft.

While talks regarding Roby and Paradis can be pushed off well into the summer if the Broncos so choose, that ability won’t exist with Barrett. That’s because the Broncos also have to decide before May 3 whether they’re going to pick up Shane Ray’s fifth year option, an option that I estimate will come in close to $11 million once 2018 free agency settles out. It will be highly impractical for the Broncos to be able to carry both Ray and Barrett on veteran contracts alongside the monster contract of Miller.

If the Broncos pick up Ray’s fifth year option, then I feel that they’ve made their decision and will have to let Barrett walk in 2019. The Broncos could cut Ray after picking up the option, but that would make him ineligible for a compensatory pick. So what the Broncos should try to do, if they feel there is not much difference between the two, is to see if Barrett will bite on a Chris Harris, Jr. style home town discount before May 3. If he does, then they can decline Ray’s option with little trepidation, knowing they’ve instead chosen Barrett.

A more riskier strategy is to decline Ray’s option without extending either he or Barrett, let them both play 2018 on contract years, and try to retain the one that has performed the best. The risk, of course, is that both could end up walking at the same time, turning a position of depth very shallow quickly–or having to resort to the franchise or transition tag alongside an already expensive Miller. The possible reward is recreating a Derek Wolfe/Malik Jackson situation in which the Broncos can extend whoever is willing to go for cheaper.

I would prefer to just pick up Ray’s option, consider Barrett to be a likely free agent loss in 2019, and proceed from there, unless Barrett would accept an offer I can’t refuse. But if my coaches tell me that Barrett is better or equivalent, I could be convinced to open up extension discussions for Barrett as described above.

****

Things did not go as desired for the Broncos in 2017. However, I strongly reject the notion that the alleged “window” from the 2015 Super Bowl team is “closed”. The roster is constructed in a way where most of the talent from 2015 is under contract for the next two years. Come 2020, then we can talk about possible radical changes to the roster.

I’ll repeat it one last time: this team is a quarterback away from seriously contending again. Yes, getting that quarterback is not going to be easy. But it’s also just one position to fill.

  • Carsonic

    Great write-up, thanks for doing this. Makes a lot of sense to me.

    • Nick

      Thank you!

  • RSH

    Thanks for putting this together, Nick! You make very reasonable arguments—many of which I agree with. I will have to disagree with your seventh point. I think that Menelik Watson is a goner sometime this summer. The Broncos can get a cheaper veteran with play comparable or better to Watson’s. Watson also cannot stay healthy. I would roll with Cyrus Kouandjio, an early right tackle draft selection, Elijah Wilkinson, and a cheap veteran not named Donald Stephenson or Menelik Watson. Cornelius Lucas or LaAdrian Waddle could be decent value signings at the right tackle position.

  • Royalwithcheese

    Like many, I think Watson is gone, along with CJ. Otherwise, I think this is a pretty reasonable roadmap. If they clear $13M by restructuring Von’s contract, cutting CJ and Watson would create $22M in cap space altogether. In theory, they could get Cousins and sign an OG in free agency. I also think a trade for Cordy Glenn is on the table. He won’t be back in Buffalo. They have two young, cheap tackles and will be looking to move Glenn for whatever they can get.

    If they make those move above, then could also sign Kennum (or trade for Alex Smith), sign an OG and get Glenn. That would set them up to go BPA with just about every draft pick.

  • cjfarls

    Agree with all of this but keeping Watson. I’d much rather bring back Barbre on a $1.5m deal than pay $6m for Watson. If Watson wants to come back at $3m plus incentives, I could stomach that as a depth option (in the hope a rookie beats him out). But no way I keep him at $5+ million…. his marginal gain over CK, etc. is simply not worth that contract (particularly if we have a better QB that can somewhat handle pressure). This again just makes cutting Scho look so bad for Elway.

    Everything else I agree with (from keeping DT/CJA to letting Fowler walk), etc. This team is a QB away from being a SB contender…. unfortunately QB is the hardest position to fix.

    In addition to Miller, I think CHJ is also a restructure/extension offer opportunity. He’s cheap now, relatively young, and adding another year or 2 to his contract is not a horrible idea (especially if we can get those future years at Talib prices (~11-14m)… I wouldn’t tie up a ton of dead money 3+ years out unless there is back-end protection against injury, but a little bit isn’t an issue… an additional 1-2 years in guaruntees ($10-15m) is probably reasonable. May not be necessary with the windfall we could get from Von, but is an option.

    Also, probably need to be seriously looking at a higher/mid-round edge-rusher (2nd-4th)… as you say, keeping both Barrett/Ray is probably only sustainable for 1-year, so we need 3rd rusher options in 2019.

    • Nick

      The issue with extending Harris now is the same as extending Roby or Paradis: you need to know what the QB situation is going to be for 2019 before you sink too much money into that year. Also, it’s generally leaguewide practice to hold off on extensions until there’s only one year left. I would think a Harris extension comes in 2019.

      • cjfarls

        I can’t imagine any scenario absent catastrophic injury where we need flexibility to “cut” or otherwise move on from Harris in 2019. I would work to keep his 2019 cap hit near what it is now (though more guartunteed), but there should still be good options for doing that while adding guaruntees and 2021-2022 years on the backend. Presumably we no longer have Talib on the books in 2019, so have CHJ’s cap hit more like a legit #1 CB shouldn’t be catastrophic, especially if we can keep his extension years reasonable.

        Roby I agree with waiting on (because there is price he becomes expendable/overpriced as a #2), but nothing that saves the team money now is going to make CHJ not worth the value in the future (particularly if he stays below $15m in out years).

        It all may be moot anyway… agree Von is the first option and likely sufficient for any year 1 needs, and if we need to extend/re-structure CHJ next year to cover a year 2 QB price spike, we can do that then too. Only reason to do it now is if we structure the QB deal so it has more 2018 hit and no spike in 2019. In competing for a FA QB that could be useful, but functionally isn’t that different than a QB deal with a lower year 1 hit and higher year 2 hit.

        We’re likely going to be paying both CHJ and FA QB (if we go that route over the round 1 rookie) 8-digit money in both 2018/2019… CHJ’s contract gives us options to balance that out. I can’t imagine we let CHJ play out 2019 at his $8.7m salary… he’ll be getting a raise, and the only question is when it pays out…. if we can get some cap savings in 2018 if needed, all the better.

    • Jeremy

      I didn’t like cutting scho, but even if we had kept him he’d be a free agent this year.

      Unless he resigns with SD, he’ll be a free agent in a couple weeks. Will be curious to see what his market is and if he moves back to RT to try to capitalize on the shitty market.

      • cjfarls

        Had we kept him, at minimum we’d have someone that we could have on a reasonable contract (Watson or less level), or if his contract demands got unreasonable, a significant comp pick.
        I still say that is the single worst move Elway has made since becoming GM here. Moving Sambrailo made sense given roster numbers. But while Scho is a mediocre player at best, keeping Stephens/Barbre over Scho was simply idiotic.

        • BlackKnigh

          Spot on about Scho! Since we have new OL coaches – maybe there will be a push to resign him.
          Speaking of Sambraillo – I saw that he is listed on Atlanta’s depth chart as the 2nd string LT. He reported at least once Saturday as an eligible receiver in the Rams game. He may have a career there.

          • bradley

            Like Ben Garland does!

        • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

          I was trying to think of a worse move, and all I could come up with would be letting Danny Trevathan walk in FA. He was a high motor player that was sorely missed. That fax shit with Doom was up there as well, but I’m with you on Scho. It was a real head scratcher. He was really coming on for us, and was versatile with position.

        • Kwash

          I (sort of) disagree with the conventional wisdom here on Elway’s decision re: Scho. If I’m remembering correctly, Scho’s ass was nailed to the bench all camp and preseason. To me, that’s a coaching decision. If the coaches made it clear that they thought he was the worst option and were not comfortable playing him, what else was Elway supposed to do?

          • cjfarls

            Fair analysis there. Regardless of whether it was Elway or VJ, someone screwed up hugely (as shown by his relatively solid performance in SD)…

            Regardless of who made the call, we took one of our more effective o-linemen from 2015-2016, stuck him on the bench/cut him, and then watched him have relative success elsewhere while his very position(s) became a hopeless black-hole of suck that arguably ruined at least one young QB and cost our season. Siemien ultimately wasn’t good, but the constant and instant pressure in his face from the right-side certainly didn’t help him.

            Getting Scho 2015-2016 levels of suckitood at OG/OT in 2017 would have been a solid step up from the guys we rolled with, and we sacrificed comp picks/future options etc. in the process. We’d still be looking for “better than Scho” going forward, but his mediocre-poor is still way better than what we have now.

          • BlackKnigh

            Damn! You nailed it right on the head!!
            I have wondered who made the call on Scho. It seems like a very stupid call in retrospect. Scho played RT in 2015 and had better success in the playoffs at that position than during the season – so he was growing into the position. Then 2016 came and he was moved to OG. What the hell??? I just do not think he was handled correctly.
            The same with Sambraillo. He is now backing up the starting LT in Atlanta. Someone in this organization doesn’t know squat about developing OL guys. BTW: Ben Garland is backing up the OC and RG in Atlanta as well.
            Dave Magazu said it pretty well – The Offensive line is where it all starts. You do not have an offense if you have a sieve in your OL.

  • to point #1: as you have framed it, and I agree, there are two options here:

    A) select a QB in the first round using the #5 pick (and more, if necessary to trade up). In this case, the veteran QB will be a place-holder, broncos should not sign Cousins for this role.
    B) break the bank on Cousins and spend a mid/low round pick on QB

    My preference is A. I’m not a NCAA guy but from the chatter, this feels like an exceptionally strong QB class – similar to 2004 which saw Eli Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisburger, all drafted in the first 11 picks. If we could get a guy like that (i.e. multiple pro-bowler), that’s the guy I want.

    downside is that it would mean 2018 will be a rebuilding year, wasting away another year of Von’s prime.

    • cjfarls

      I think this is correct. We either get A) a high-priced vet/2nd+ round QB, or B) a 1st round QB and vet placeholder.
      I probably prefer A, but really won’t quibble either way it goes. Worst case scenario is probably missing on the top FAs, and then not being able to move up for one of the top 3 rookies (and them being gone) by #6.

      • Jeremy

        I think there are more nuances depending on who the veteran is. If you sign cousins, you are betting the farm on him and I wouldn’t take a qb until late in the draft. If you end up with Smith or Taylor or kenum, you’ll probably want to think more seriously about a 2nd round pick at qb

        • cjfarls

          Agree with this, but I also think we’re in bad enough shape, that even if we get Cousins, taking a flyer on a 2nd round QB value isn’t absurd. He’d have to be a value pick, but its not out of the question. But yeah, I agree.

          • Jeremy

            What do you mean by “bad enough shape”? After signing Cousins how would we be in “bad enough shape” to justify ignoring all the holes that will be on the roster to use our second round pick on another QB?

          • cjfarls

            Similar to taking Oz even after getting PM, or WAS doubling up on QBs after trading up for RG3… I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but if there is someone there we think will be better than TS/PL, I wouldn’t object. We need a cheap rookie contract backup if we’re paying big money to Cousins anyway, and this draft is as good as any for finding one.

            Dollars and resources saved in 2019 on backup QB are dollars and picks that can be used on other needs. If they are good enough, you can even cut TS/PL this year and save more. TS is maybe barely good enough that he doesn’t sink the season if he has to start 3-4 games and is about the floor for a backup QB on a SB contender (which I argue we would be with Cousins). PL probably ensures a loss in any game he starts and unless he improves, isn’t even that TS level of bad. If you cut those guys, you’re still looking at $3m for a vet backup.

          • I would object if we are talking about pick no 37. If we were to trade back to the end of the second for a QB, I could maybe get on board. A high 2nd rounder is still a pretty valuable draft commodity.

          • ohiobronco

            From the cap standpoint, the cheapest possible scenario is Lynch and Kelly. Lynch will have a 2.5M cap hit but would have between 2.5M-4.4M in dead money to get rid of. So if you have Kelly and Lynch you have about 3M in cap tied up in your backup QBs. The Broncos #40 pick will have a cap hit of 1.3M. So if you traded Lynch, drafted a QB at #40 and kept Siemian you would have close to 6M cap hit for your backup QBs including the dead money for Lynch.

          • cjfarls

            Cap # is important, but at this point I don’t see anypoint in PL taking a roster spot.

            If he can’t improve to at least TS levels of suckiness, I’d rather pay the sunk cost and get him off the books going forward. He’s a bad number 3 QB at this point. We have to pay his cap hit at some point… great if he can be a useful roster spot (remove the cost of his replacement for the cap), but at QB, roster talent maximization is perhaps more important than cap-hit.
            From a cap-cost standpoint, we didn’t do bad at QB this year… we got what we paid for, if not even more than we paid for… and it sunk our season.

  • PiperAR

    #11. Letting Crick and Winn walk removes two bodies from the D line. Also I think it’s wise to consider Wolfe’s future shaky. Where are replacements coming from? Since Winn missed last season, I guess you could consider him already gone. Still there’s potentially the loss of three from the D line.

    I’d say draft at least one D lineman and add a replacement level vet for depth/set the floor. That replacement level vet could be Crick or Winn.

    • Nick

      Wolfe, Gotsis, Harris & Kerr are a solid core four at DE. On Wolfe’s future, I’m assuming he’ll be back until i hear more substantial evidence that there could be a problem. if Walker ends up at DE that’s five, if not then a rookie of some sort makes sense.

  • PiperAR

    #15. A wildcard at OLB is DeMarcus Walker. What does the team plan for his future? Do the want him at DE, do they see him as a poor man’s DeMarcus Ware? If the team views Walker as an OLB that puts pressure on both Barrett and Ray.

    • Nick

      I still think it would be nice to extend one of Ray or Barrett even if Walker breaks out at OLB. That would retain depth at that position through 2020.

    • cjfarls

      I just can’t see him as a long-term OLB. He’s built like Malik Jackson (interior rusher), not an edge bender.

      • BlackKnigh

        Walker played much of the KC game – I think all of his PT at DL. That probably is where he will end up. He needs to put on some upper body muscle and strength – hopefully this offseason.

    • Jeremy

      He would have to make very large strides to even begin to factor into the equation. Like Nick said, having three quality olb is beneficial. Like cjfarls and many others have said, I hope they move him to and keep him at DE

  • BlackKnigh

    Good piece of work, Nick!!
    I like the ideas on the QB situation. I think much of that lies with Elway, Kubiak and Co’s impressions at the Senior bowl. If they see one or more who they like – they will probably draft one of them. Elway seems a little snake bit over the Lynch situation – so they are going to put their heads together. If they decide to get a vet – I had been a proponent of Eli Manning in case he was cut. Then I looked at his $84M contract for 4 yrs of which he has 2 yrs left on. Maybe not…. But that could be renegotiated if he was cut.
    The RT situation may be solved by a high draft pick as it was with the drafting of Orlando Franklin. 2nd rounder and stuck at RT with no screwing around to make him more “versatile”. I lean more to keeping Barbre than keeping Watson. I liked him coming out of college – but that was one of those drafting dreams….
    Yeah – keep CJ. He really inspires not only his teammates – but fans as well. My wife loves him and she is not a football fan.

    • Drewredux

      I tend to agree on RT. There is little wow to this OT class, but there appears to be good depth.

    • pubkeeper

      I think the real issue is left tackle. I like the idea of moving bolles to right. Maybe even see if Watson can play guard

      • cjfarls

        Bolles has the attitude, but not the physique/power you want on the right side. He’s a left tackle, not a right.
        Shifting him to the right side would exacerbate his problems, and diminish his best asset (smooth feet to block edge) whenever you line a TE up next to him.

  • ohiobronco

    Agree with points 1A and 1B. For 1C I would prefer limiting to 3 QBs going into camp for reps as well as clarity. I would move on from Lynch and Siemian if a new vet and rookie are acquired. If only a vet is acquired I would keep Lynch and Kelly. Lynch has a little more potential untapped upside and is under contract for a year longer than Siemian.

  • Jeremy

    Like the write up Nick. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t think cutting Watson is a slam dunk. I can see the argument that we should cut him and address the position in the draft, but we will be incredibly inexperienced at tackle and it’s risky to put our eggs in that basket and hope the guy we want is there at the pick we want.

    I really feel it’s a situation where all your options suck and you have to pick the one that sucks the least.

    One question for you or anyone else. What’s the demand for good RTs expected to be this year? Last there were more teams looking for a LT than their were quality LTs available. This year it sounds like there are no quality RTs available, so if there are still 5 or 10 teams in the market, that could really drive up the price of Glenn, and second/third tier guys, and where tackles are taken in the draft. In addition, the LT market will affect the RT market, and I don’t know what that’ll look like this off-season.

    As always, should be an exciting time come March.

    • Nick

      A cursory search leads me to guess that BAL, CIN, HOU, OAK, and NYG could all be RT needy, but that was just cursory.

    • BlackKnigh

      Orlando Franklin had played the left side in college. When TC began – Fox put him at RT and left him there. He did fairly well his first year and improved on that. 2nd round pick.

      • Jeremy

        I’m sure there are cases of rookies playing well that were drafted throughout all 7 rounds, but if your option is said rookie or tier 3 cast away (and several other teams are as desperate as you are or realize how important good ot play is) you want the odds to be as high as possible

  • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

    Good stuff as always Nick.

    • Nick

      Thank you!

  • Kwash

    Great article, Nick, but add me to the anyone-but-Watson list. I think if you open up the pool of potential replacements to currents guards who played tackle in the past, you have a few more interesting names (Barbre, Scho, Fluker, Joekel). Still not an inspiring list, but possibly cheaper and better than Watson.

    All that said, I think your scenario is more likely to happen than my preference (cutting him outright), given how the front office handled Stephenson.

    • Nick

      I do think it’s more likely than not that Watson is cut, and I’m not sure whether he’ll be as willing to take a pay cut as Stephenson was. I think it’s a risky move, but Elway likes taking risks.

  • Nice article, Nick. I may have more responses later on, but will add one comment that should be worth considering.

    The Broncos should, in fact, cut Watson as soon as he passes his physical (my understanding is his salary is injury only guaranteed, so he would have to pass a physical first because his season ended on IR) because they already have a right tackle on the roster who played reasonably well in the final week of the season: Cyrus Kouandijo, who has multiple seasons of work in the NFL and has played well at times in the past and will have a salary of just $1.48M

    So they already have a player on the roster that allows them to move on from Watson and, if they acquire another player in the draft, that player is a candidate to be the swing tackle.