The Denver Broncos have been disappointing, as of late, to say the least. Since Peyton Manning retired after Super Bowl 50, Denver has shattered everyone’s expectations in the worst way. They missed the playoffs for the 3rd straight year and have averaged 6.7 wins per season since the prolific QB hung up his cleats. All is not lost, however. After a 6-10 year, the Broncos seem ready to make some changes and turn the team around. It’s been a busy offseason for GM John Elway, let’s see if it’ll bear fruit.
Expect a new face under centre this year, as Denver sent away former starting QB Case Keenum to the Redskins in order to upgrade their 7th-round pick to a 6th. That trade included, the Broncos let more talent walk than most of the league this year; they allowed all but 3 of their 20 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) to walk. By position group the losses, alongside their new teams, are as follows:
WR: Jordan Taylor (Vikings)
TE: Matt LaCosse (Patriots), Brian Parker (Free Agent)
OT: Jared Veldheer (Patriots then Retired)
OG: Billy Turner (Packers), Max Garcia (Cardinals)
C: Matt Paradis (Panthers), Gino Gradkowski (Free Agent)
DT: Domata Peko (Free Agent)
LB: Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers), Brandon Marshall (Raiders), Shane Ray (Ravens), Jerrol Garcia-Williams (Free Agent), Deiontrez Mount (Free Agent)
CB: Tramaine Brock (Cardinals), Bradley Roby (Texans), Jamar Taylor (Seahawks)
The sheer number of guys the team let go marks a clear change in direction for the franchise. Elway obviously came into this offseason with a plan, whether it pays off or not is another question entirely. With HC Vance Joseph gone as well, expect the Broncos to be an exciting team to watch early this year. The loss of owner Pat Bowlen may not be felt on the field, but it will be felt by long-time fans for years to come.
Someone had to fill the hole left by Joseph, and that man was Vic Fangio. Fangio’s 19 years as a defensive coordinator for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers, and Bears will undoubtedly help bring the Denver defense of a few years ago back to life. Alongside him, new OC Rich Scangarello will look to revitalise an offense that has failed to produce since the Manning Era. Every Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and Exclusive-Rights Free Agent (ERFA) on the roster was brought back in, including T Elijah Wilkinson, DE Shelby Harris, and WR Casey Kreiter.
New Free Agents were delivered in spades, with OT Ju’Wuan James joining the team on a 4-year, $51 million contract. They also signed CBs Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan to 3-year deals of $33 million and $21 million respectively, locking down their secondary for the next few seasons. They added C Jake Brendel on a 1-year spot fill, as well as DT DeShawn Williams for the same purpose.
In what was most likely their biggest move of the early offseason, the Broncos dealt their 4th-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for one-time Super Bowl MVP QB Joe Flacco. Flacco was shunted out of Baltimore, where he’d spent his entire career to this point, by the Ravens‘ front office; a group who went all-in on soon-to-be sophomore QB Lamar Jackson. Getting a potential starter at the most important position on offense for a 4th-rounder was a steal, but the Ravens weren’t done upgrading at QB. They selected Drew Lock out of Missouri in the 2nd round with the 42nd overall pick, a clear shot at finding a future franchise player under centre. Outside of that, they drafted for need, selecting top-2 TE Noah Fant with the 20th overall pick and OT Dalton Risner with the 41st.
The Broncos look different, that’s all there is to it. Despite the massive overhaul, they seem to have retained a similar talent level, as well as a few young players who could develop to give fans a reason to celebrate for the next decade or so. The QB battle between Lock and Flacco seems muted for the most part, but it’s undoubtedly an upgrade from where they were last season. Lacking good receivers will be an issue down the stretch, and the damage to their LB core wasn’t fully addressed, but their secondary has been awarded some much-needed depth.
With a 6-10 season sitting right behind them, the Broncos look rough going into 2019 with the 2nd toughest strength of schedule in the league (by only half a win). Facing serious opposition, an uncertain QB situation, a new HC and OC, a whole new team to patch together, and a division featuring 2 Super Bowl contenders: 6-10 may look like a pipe-dream. Don’t get upset, the Broncos laid the groundwork for a few successful seasons in the near future, but this year may already be over for Denver fans. With all their issues, 7-9 looks like the best they could muster, and a 3-13 year isn’t off the table. Fans may wish they were Mile High watching football this season.