Analysis of Nick’s 2020 Offseason Road Map

I finally completed my analysis of the Broncos roster and Nick’s offseason plan, and I wanted to share my thoughts. Because I agree with Nick on much of what he wrote in his 2020 Offseason Road Map, I felt presenting an analysis of his plan was the best approach. Before I start, a tremendous thank you to Nick for writing such an excellent piece.

I started off by putting all his moves into Depth Chart Form

My thoughts, position by position

  • It’s hard for me to get too excited about a veteran QB, and 7 million is a lot of cap space. I’ve spent a lot more time looking at the marginal starting QB landscape, so I have less of a feel for backup options, but I wouldn’t be opposed to looking for something cheaper here. Someone like Siemian for $2 million seems fine to me
  • I also find it hard to get excited about a backup RB. I think RB is a position that makes a lot of sense to fill with players on rookie contracts. For a veteran, I would prefer if they tried to limit the amount of guaranteed money they paid someone, so they could move on if they like what they find in the draft or UDFA. We were blessed with minimal injuries at the position, but Booker played only 26 offensive snaps. He did play 45% of ST snaps, which is something you probably won’t get with a veteran
  • WR is a tough one for me. I definitely see the benefit of adding a player as Nick suggests, but if the Broncos add a veteran and also take a WR high like many want to, the position gets crowded in a hurry. I think Sutton, Hamilton, the veteran WR, and the draft pick would all be locks to make the team. 1 of those 4 (at least) is probably not going to see much time on the field. On the backend, there would only be 1 or 2 roster spots left for Fred Brown, Tim Patrick, Dionte Spencer, and Juwann Winfree, and whatever other draft picks/UDFAs emerge. Fred Brown would probably be the first name fans would cross out, but he was the only player who contributed on Special Teams coverage units last year. For all these reasons, if the Broncos are as high on the WR draft class as other are, I would not be opposed for the Broncos to be picky at the veteran WR position, and ultimately pass if they can’t find what they like
  • TE there isn’t too much to write. This could be the position group we have no changes at, or it could be an option to target in mid-later rounds of the draft
  • OT is another tough one. Regarding Bolles, I will predict the Broncos do pick up the option, and I think that is the right call. The articles coming out from Broncos insiders defending him seem to be the team’s way of signaling this. I think Bolles is likely the type of player who will respond positively to the vote of confidence from management (and who would respond poorly to a vote of no confidence) and PFF thinks highly of him and he has shown improvement. Holding penalties are frustrating, but they are less damaging than sacks. I wish I had data on this, but I feel the risk of the injury only guarantee coming into play is quite small. It’s hard to know what to think about James after his rough 2019, but I think it’s an instance where the team has a lot more information than we do. If he can’t be counted on, that’s a huge hit to the team, because it means the Broncos either have to try to find someone in free agency (which has not worked out well with Stephenson, Watson, and now James) and will be very expensive, or reach in the draft for an offensive tackle, or roll with Wilkinson again. Needless to say, my fingers are crossed for James
  • For the interior of the offensive line, I wasn’t completely sure what Nick was suggesting for the third starter after Risner and either Leary/McGovern. Relying on Schlottman or Morris seems risky, but I am not opposed to trying to fill this spot with a rookie. This is an area I could see the Broncos wanting to spend more than Nick suggests to attempt to shore up the offensive line. Leary could also be a player they approach about a pay reduction. He’ll be 31 and given his injury history, I’m not sure he’ll get 8.5 million in free agency. Maybe go down to a 5 million dollar salary with the possibility to earn the difference back in return for guaranteeing 2-3 million? And while it would hurt their comp pick situation, maybe the Broncos wait and see how free agency and the draft go before deciding on Leary. Lots of options here
  • Defensive line depth I worry about for the Broncos. Especially if they bring Wolfe back rather than Shelby Harris due to his injury history. This is an area I think they’d need to focus on in the draft or consider an additional veteran backup. I also think there is a chance they bring back both Wolfe and Harris, especially if Wolfe is willing to take a team-friendly deal given his injury concerns.
  • I disagree with Nick and most others that the Broncos will/should bring back Jeremiah Attaochu. I think he is a good player, but if the Broncos draft an edge rusher in the early or middle rounds, Attachu will become expandable as the team will likely want to keep Reed especially when you consider the cost difference between the two. I think Attaochu and his agent will realize that, and either want a contract with some guaranteed money, or he’ll want to move to a team where he’ll have more roster security. 4 million also seems like a lot for the 4th edge rusher and especially when we are going to keep Von and Chubb on the field as much as possible.
  • I agree with Nick on ILB. They could bring Todd Davis back, but I like the opportunity to upgrade here
  • After resigning Simmons, I think Cornerback is the most important focus of the offseason. I love Chris Harris Jr, but his play did decline this year, and I wonder if the Broncos would be better looking elsewhere. As with Ja’wuan James, if Callahan comes back and can lock down the #2 CB position, it’ll do so much to help the defense and team. If we lock down the #1 and #2 CB positions, I think the depth here looks good and someone will step up to fill the #3 CB position.
  • It seems like everyone agrees Simmons should be the number one priority. I think there is some chance Will Parks ends up coming back on a team-friendly deal. I believe he likes playing here and on this defense, I’m not sure he’d get a chance to start elsewhere, and the Broncos don’t have much depth behind him if he leaves.
  • The Broncos signed Trevor Daniel, but I would still like them to draft a punter with a late pick. It seems to me that option has the most upside as rookie punters often come in and tear it up, would be the most cost-effective, and carries minimal risk given how many picks we have

If the Broncos don’t sign Attaochu and get a QB for $2 million rather than $7 million, that saves $9 million in cap space compared to Nick’s plan. No veteran WR or a cheaper WR has the potential to save up to an additional 10 million. No veteran RB or a cheaper option could also save 1-2.5 million as well. Options for using that additional cap space could include

  • Keeping Leary or adding another option on the offensive line (Nick did not account for an additional interior OL in his cap breakdown
  • Keeping both Wolfe and Harris or adding another depth piece on the Defensive Line
  • Going “over budget” on ILB or CB or any of the players they are hoping to resign
  • Rolled over for future years. With where they are in the development cycle, it might be smarter to give more young guys playing time and save cap space for future extensions and needs

Putting it all together my free agency priority list would be roughly as follows:

  1. Resign Simmons
  2. Cornerback (Chris Harris Jr or new #1)
  3. Interior Offensive Line (McGovern, possible additional competition for guard position opposite )
  4. Defensive Line (Wolfe/Harris, plus a possible depth signing)
  5. Inside Linebacker
  6. Veteran WR
  7. Veteran QB
  8. Veteran RB

A note on roster math

Going back up to the depth chart I started this piece off with, there’s a total of 38 players in the first three columns. Those players I feel would all be very likely to make the final roster. The players to the right in red were players who played at least some in 2019 and I think people would say they all have at least a chance to make the roster. There are 15 players in those columns, although three are not currently under contract, but they showed some promise and I believe could be back (Joel Heath, Joseph Jones, and Bausby).

  • 36 of the 38 players in the first three columns make the team
  • Nick’s comp projections are right and the Broncos don’t trade any of their picks
  • All 8 of their picks in the first 5 rounds make the team
  • 1 UDFA or futures contract player who isn’t on anyone’s radar makes the team
  • That leaves only 8 spots left for the 6 6th/7th round draft picks, the 15 players in red above, or any free agent additions not accounted for by Nick (I took away 1-3 of his, but added a couple of my own, making this essentially a wash)

8 spots for those 21+ players are not great odds. My takeaways from this are

  • A good reminder that there’s always high turnover on NFL rosters. There will be surprises. Players we believe should make the team aren’t going to make the team
  • With all the draft capital the Broncos have, I believe we should not be afraid to trade up and prioritize quality over quantity. Another less fun option is to trade for capital in next years draft
  • I believe there’s a chance the Broncos go less Free Agent heavy than either myself or Nick is suggesting. In addition to options discussed above, maybe they move on from Davis, but let Josey Jewell have a crack at the starting ILB spot. Maybe they don’t add a veteran QB and roll with a rookie they draft or Rypien as a backup.

Age of first-time head coaches

A friend and I were talking about the hire of Fangio, and one concerned he expressed, was that Fangio was old and had never been selected as a head coach in his 40-year career. There’s no denying that Fangio is old. Next year, Fangio will be the 5th oldest coach next year, trailing only Mike Zimmer (63), Bill Belichick (67), Pete Carroll (68) and Bruce Arians (67).

This prompted me to do a little research and see how this compared to previous first-time head coaches. I used PFR and looked at the 80 head coaches who started their coaching career in 2001 or after. I ignored coaches who I knew were only Interim Head Coaches, although I could have missed some. The data PFR compiles isn’t great, and I had to manually enter everyone’s birth year, so I was a little limited by what analysis I could do. Note that throughout this article, I’m referring to a coach’s age on December 31st of that year, or essentially their age at the end of the season (it made collecting data much).

Continue reading Age of first-time head coaches

A look back at 2016 Roster Cuts

For fun, and to gain perspective, I thought I’d look back at the Broncos training camp cuts with two years of hindsight. Like every year, roster cut downs were a contentious topic, with fan favorites who emerged with strong performances in the preseason who didn’t make the cut.

I went back to our predict the roster competition, and listed everyone who received votes at some point along the way, yet who didn’t make the team. I listed the final # of votes each player received in the final round of voting, shortly before the 4th preseason game (IE 10 of 12 participants thought Sanchez would make the team). I italicized players who made the practice squad, and bolded players who are still in the league

Here’s the In-ThinAir article with our initial 53 man roster, and our initial practice squad.

Continue reading A look back at 2016 Roster Cuts

Update after Signing of Case Keenum

After the Keenum signing, I thought I’d try to give a quick overview of where I thought we stand. I had a long day at work so this will be shorter than I had hopped, and sorry for any errors or typos.

Cap Space:

After the Case Keenum Signing today, our effective cap space sits at 6.7 million for 2018, and 22 million for 2019.

2018 Cap space

Starting per OTC 29.9 million
Case Keenum (Net) -17.5 million
2018 Draft Class (Net) -5.7 million
Remaining 2018 Cap Space 6.7 million

2019 Cap Space

Starting Cap Space 59 million
Case Keenum -18 million
2018 Draft Class (gross) -14 million
Getting roster to 51 -5 million
Remaining 2019 cap space 22 million

Continue reading Update after Signing of Case Keenum

Cheers to the greatest QB Coach of a generation

I think we all know that Kubiak has been able to get a lot out of his QBs, but I think few of us realize just how deep and impressive this accomplishment is. I did some research and looked up the stats of every QB who had started at least 4 games when Kubiak was either the HC, OC or QB Coach, and compared that QBs stats while playing for Kubiak, to the rest of their career. The results astounded me, and I found quite a few interesting bits of trivia along the way. It is incredible how Kubiak was able to elevate the play of so many different QBs, from the all-time greats (Elway, Steve Young), to the talented underachievers (Plummer), to the career backups (Frerotte, Brister, Rosenfels), to the first round busts (Carr), to the stagnated Veterans (Flacco), to the downright awful (TJ Yates), and everything in between.

Continue reading Cheers to the greatest QB Coach of a generation

Turning back the clock to October 2014

To take our minds off a disappointing loss, I thought I’d share a piece looking back at a moment in recent Broncos history, that many fans seem to have already forgotten, October 2014.  I’m using IAOFM as a bit of a time machine, and will link to their content throughout the article.  (Many thanks to them for not only writing this content, but continuing to leave it up).

Setting the stage:

The Broncos were only 8 months removed from the disappointing end to the 2013 season.  The offense that had set records for most points and yards in a season had remained largely intact, losing only Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, and Zane Beadles, and filling those holes with Emmanuel Sanders and a returning Ryan Clady.  The defense that despite some overachieving performances had been called soft after the super bowl, had been retooled with additions of Bradley Roby, TJ Ward, Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware.

The Broncos started the season well, opening 2 and 1 with wins against the Colts and Chiefs and a hard fought OT loss on the road against the Seahawks (who were in the midst of a 28-2 stretch at home.)  JT was off to a hot start with 5 TD catches in 3 games.

Continue reading Turning back the clock to October 2014

A closer look with Pro Football Reference

I thought I’d try out what might be a new series for me, taking a closer look at the most recent game and trends using Pro Football Reference’s tools to look at Snap Counts, play by play data, and historical data.  Let me know what you think and if you have any feedback and I might make this a regular occurrence:

 Looking at the Broncos Run Plays

Run plays

The Broncos had quite a few long runs that accounted for most of their yards.  They broke off runs of 10 yards or more 6 times (22% of runs), and that accounted for 66% of their rushing yards.  I’m very excited about their ability to break off big plays.  On the flip side, they were stopped for 2 yards or less 12 times (44% of runs), and 1 yard or less 9 times (33% of runs).  Two of those plays were successful short yardage conversions (CJ’s 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 conversions). Continue reading A closer look with Pro Football Reference

A look at possible special teams contributors for the Broncos

In light of the moves today (particularly the Bibbs over Hillman move), I thought I’d take a stab at projecting who the Broncos special teams contributors might be this year.  I’ve never coached or played organized 11-11 football, so I’m probably not the most qualified to look into this niche topic.  But I’m armed with special teams snap counts from Pro Football Reference and going to give it a shot.

Continue reading A look at possible special teams contributors for the Broncos