How will the Denver Broncos decide to dole out the more than $42 million in cap space they have this offseason? That is the question John Elway and Denver’s higher-ups face with NFL free agency now less than a week away.
The Broncos are well positioned to spend when the 2017 NFL league year officially begins at 2 p.m. MT Thursday. Right now, they have the 10th-most cap space in football, according to overthecap.com.
Denver has some holes it needs to plug, whether it’s through free agency or the draft in late April, if it hopes to be back in the playoffs in 2017. Before free agency officially kicks off, lets’s run through three questions the Broncos will need to address.
Will Denver bring in a veteran quarterback?
Trevor Siemian did a spot-on Alex Smith impression as Denver’s starter in 2016. It was by no means a bad year from the player who was taken in the seventh round of the 2015 draft; it wasn’t a good one either. Paxton Lynch, who Denver traded up to get in the first round in 2016, wasn’t ready to take the reins as a rookie.
The Broncos have been linked to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo a lot lately. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Denver “is in the driver’s seat” if Romo becomes a free agent and is willing to accept a pay cut. Then Mile High Sports’ Benjamin Allbright tweeted this Thursday:
Romo, who turns 37 in April, has started just four games since the start of the 2015 season. He’s dealt with a laundry list of injuries in his career, the most recent of which was a broken bone in his back. The argument that if Siemian got beaten to a pulp behind Denver’s offensive line last year, Romo probably would, too, is a legitimate one.
Yet when healthy, few quarterbacks are better than Romo. He threw for 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions and completed 69.9 percent of his passes in 2014. He’s the owner of the fourth-highest passer rating of all time. He’s done stuff like this in his career:
If the Broncos can get him in that $10 million to $12 million range, I’d take a chance on him.
How will Denver fix one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines?
Pro Football Focus ranked the Broncos’ O-Line 24th out of 32 teams in 2016. The group allowed 40 sacks — the eighth-most in the NFL — and played a significant role in a running game that averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry.
Denver has already declined left tackle Russell Okung’s option, and it will almost surely decline right tackle Donald Stephenson’s in the coming days, which will save the team $3 million. Elway didn’t rule out bringing back Okung on a more team-friendly deal this offseason. But if the Broncos and Okung can’t come to an agreement, Denver faces the real possibility of needing to find new starters at left tackle and right tackle.
At guard, Denver reportedly has interest in Cowboys free agent Ronald Leary.
The Broncos will also likely use the draft to address the offensive line in some capacity. They have 10 total picks.
What can Denver do to get its run defense back on track?
A strength in 2015 turned into a weakness in 2016. The Broncos allowed 83.6 rushing yards per game their Super Bowl year. That number ballooned to 130.3 per game last season. A combination of losing players in free agency and injuries caused the spike.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive end Malik Jackson got handsome paydays in Chicago and Jacksonville, respectively. Vance Walker, who was supposed to replace Jackson, tore his ACL in training camp. That forced Jared Crick into a more prominent role than intended.
Walker is an unrestricted free agent as is nose tackle Sylvester Williams. Will Elway bring them back? Or will he seek other players who can help the Broncos get back to stuffing the run once again?
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