3 pending free agents the Broncos should replace this offseason

Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) is helped off the field in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High.
Dec 1, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) is helped off the field in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With somewhere between $60 and $80 million in cap space and up to 12 picks in this year’s draft, the Broncos are as primed as anyone to have a massive turnaround in 2020.

Just as important as deciding who they want to bring in with all that capital though, is determining the players they want to keep and those that they’re better without.

Here are three players the Broncos should let go if they want to realize their turnaround potential:

Chris Harris Jr.

Chris Harris Jr. has had an illustrious career in Denver and should one day enter the franchise’s Ring of Fame without much debate.

That being said, it’s probably the end of his time with the Broncos, and that is for the best. Over the course of the second half of last season, it became obvious that he had lost a step and had become more of a liability in coverage.

Harris’ play isn’t a deal-breaker on its own considering how shallow Denver’s cornerback room is without him. The contract he’s likely to demand, on the other hand, is a deal-breaker.

It would be nothing short of stunning if he were to settle for any valuation under the $12 million dollars he made this season, placing him in the top 15 highest-paid cornerbacks at least, and he isn’t worth that. He wasn’t a top 15 cornerback last season and, at age 31, he isn’t getting any better.

Throw in the fact that this offseason has excellent cornerback groups in both the draft and free agency, and there’s no reason for Denver to pay Harris Jr. outside of doing it for the sake of sentimentality, and that is not how you win football games.

Derek Wolfe

It’s always painful to say goodbye to longtime faces of the team like Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris Jr., but how did the Patriots build their dynasty of the past 20 years?

Was it by being sentimental and giving player-friendly deals to fan favorites? Or were they a cold, calculating organization that would always rather abandon a player a year too soon than pay them money they aren’t worth?

Wolfe is coming off the best statistical season of his career but he’s also coming off yet another injury and will be on the wrong side of 30 this season. If he’s willing to take a one-year or two-year deal the Broncos should consider it, but anything longer than that would be regrettable.

It should also be noted that the Broncos have other defensive linemen they’ll need to negotiate with this offseason, putting them at a crossroads. They can invest in their defensive line, or they can bet on the youth in the unit to lead the way and save some dough.

If the Broncos choose to invest in their line, it makes far more sense to pay Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris. Even with last season being Wolfe’s finest, Harris was better and he’s younger.

If they decide to save money at the position, betting on Dre’Mont Jones and Demarcus Walker, and not paying Harris it doesn’t make any sense to throw money at a defensive lineman who’s worse, older, more prone to injury and only slightly less expensive than Harris.

Ronald Leary

Broncos Country is sick and tired of Garett Bolles’ shenanigans, and rightfully so. That being said, the lineman that is most deserving of Denver’s ire for their 2020 play is Ronald Leary.

Leary was an excellent free agency addition that provided some much-needed stability to the trenches for a few seasons but those days have come and gone.

He was called for eight penalties last year, tied for the fourth-most among all guards. He also earned an overall grade of 58.4 from Pro Football Focus, good for 15th-worst among starting guards.

Unlike the last two players on this list, the Broncos have a team option on Leary that can free up $9 million in cap space. That’s a lot of money to turn down in favor of the worst offensive lineman on your team.

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