The Broncos will have plenty of tough decisions to make as they have 14 unrestricted free agents and eight restricted free agents to sort out this offseason.
We’ve already gone over three guys the Broncos would be silly to bring back, so now let’s focus on the players Denver must bring back this season.
It will be a baffling misstep if the Broncos were to let one of their head coach’s favorite players in Justin Simmons slip through their fingers.
He emerged as one of the league’s best up-and-coming safeties and was named by Pro Football Focus as the best player on the team, the second-best safety and the 17th best player overall in the league.
Not only is he a phenomenal player but he’s a perfect fit in Vic Fangio‘s safety-dependent scheme, which should make Simmons play like an All-Pro for years to come. Fortunately for the Broncos, it would be pretty surprising if he didn’t return.
The Broncos have a whopping four contracts expiring along the defensive line, and of those, Shelby Harris‘ should clearly be the top priority.
He outplayed Von Miller and was arguably the Broncos’ second-best defender in 2019. Harris is the rare interior defensive linemen that not only has a tremendous effect on the opponent’s passing game but the opponent’s run game as well. Even elite players like Kansas City’s Chris Jones are often one dimensional in defending either the run or the pass.
By signing with super agent Drew Rosenhaus, Harris made it clear that he’s chasing the bag this offseason. That shouldn’t scare the Broncos off though as he’s entering the prime, has no real red flags, and the salary cap is about to make its greatest leap ever over the next two seasons.
Denver’s offensive line was porous last season, but Connor McGovern offered a rare point of stability in the trenches.
McGovern played every offensive snap of 2019 for the Broncos, didn’t draw a single penalty flag and earned the second-best grade along Denver’s line. He should command at least $10 million dollars on the open market and the Broncos might not be willing to pay such a high price for an average, though steady center.
That being said, John Elway should bite the bullet and pony up. Denver already has gaping holes at both tackle spots and at guard. Opening up another one at center while trying to develop the quarterback of the future would be foolish. Also, the Broncos have more cap space than they could realistically spend and the cap is about to take a ridiculous leap, so what’s the harm of bringing him back?
Jeremiah Attaochu may not be a starter for the Broncos but he is still incredibly important to the depth of their roster.
After playing just 40 snaps through the first 10 games of the season, Attaochu closed the season strong, generating four sacks and 12 total pressures through the final six weeks of the season. That impressive stretch could have been a sign of Attaochu finally living up to his potential. The Chargers made him a highly-touted second-round pick in 2014, but he didn’t live up to his draft status until last season with the Broncos.
Now, with Miller aging and Bradley Chubb returning from a torn ACL, Denver could add elite depth with starter potential for pennies on the dollar. It would be silly to pass up that opportunity.