The end of the 2019 season is right around the corner, with Super Bowl LIV set to kick off next Sunday. But, that failed season has been over for weeks in Denver, with Broncos fans looking toward 2020 with a renewed sense of optimism.
Vic Fangio’s defense grew over the course of his first season, giving hope that they’ll continue to do so and end up back in the top-5 soon. Fangio found unknowns like Mike Purcell and Alexander Johnson, while the new head coach also helped Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris enjoy career years.
Offensively, Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton are pushing the hopes even higher. Even though he played in only five games, fans believe Lock is the quarterback of the future. Given it’s the most important position in American sports, finding that elusive QB of the future has been a goal of the Broncos’ since Peyton Manning retired in 2015. And Sutton just finished his first 1,000-yard receiving season as a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
Without a doubt, this Denver team has a ton of talent. And, many of them are young. But, what about the veterans?
This year, there are a ton of veteran players who become free agents, 27 in all — which is more than half the active roster — and six of them are starters. Chris Harris Jr., Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, Connor McGovern, Ronald Leary and Justin Simmons are those starters, and as it looks right now, the Broncos will lose more than half of those key players.
Beyond those big names, there are a bevy of valuable backups. So, let’s take a look at the list of free agents, what they made in 2019 and take a guess to whether or not the Broncos will re-sign them:
Player 2019 Salary, Re-sign?
Chris Harris Jr., CB $12.05M, No
Derek Wolfe, DE $9.175M, No
Ronald Leary, OG $9M, No
Shelby Harris, DT $3.095M, No
Theo Riddick, RB $2.5M, No
Casey Kreiter, LS $1M, Yes
Jeremiah Attoachu, OLB $805K, Yes
Corey Nelson, LB $805K, Yes
Justin Simmons, S $767K, Yes
Devontae Booker, RB $680K, No
DeVante Bausby, CB $655K, Yes
Connor McGovern, C/G $651K, Yes
Elijah Wilkinson, RT $645K, Yes
Joe Jones, OLB $645K, Yes
Dymonte Thomas, S $645K, Yes
Mike Purcell, DE $645K, Yes
Brandon Allen, QB $645K, No
Will Parks, S $610K, Yes
Tim Patrick, WR $570K, Yes
Davontae Harris, CB $570K, Yes
Trey Marshall, S $525K, Yes
Diontae Spencer, WR $501K, Yes
Jake Rodgers, T $495K, No
Dadi Nicolas, OLB Yes
Joel Heath, DT Yes
A quick synopsis of our guesses here in the Broncos’ 2020 Free Agency primer:
- Denver re-signs 17 free agents, most of them in the lower end of the pay scale.
- The Broncos will re-sign two starters (Kreiter, the long snapper is a starter, too) of the six they went into free agency with.
- Denver will save $35.6 million by moving on from their top 5 free agent pay days.
- And, the Broncos will save another $10 million by cutting Joe Flacco.
Chris Harris finally started showing signs of slowing and will find another team, likely for a massive payday the Broncos won’t be willing to match. That will almost certainly be the same story for Shelby Harris, who signed with Drew Rosenhaus last week, and will make bank this offseason. Even though the latter Harris is currently a star, Denver won’t want to pay $12M per year for him, which he’s earned.
Wolfe is the lone starter among those first, highest-paid player whom the Broncos could re-sign, if the price is right. He’d likely need to drop his price to $6-7M per year, but don’t be surprised if Denver does bring him back.
Leary seems like an easy choice and the Broncos have a team option to cut him and save that $9M. He’s played well during his time here but Denver will likely look elsewhere. And, Riddick is an easy cut; he didn’t play a down this year and still made $2.5M.
As we move down the list, we see the players who Denver will re-sign. Justin Simmons is No. 1 and he’ll bring in a $10-12M per year deal in all likelihood. He’s a blossoming star and a should-be leader on the back end of that defense for years to come.
Attoachu shined at times last season and should be a cheap re-signing, and if Corey Nelson is again cheap, he’s a no-brainer for veteran leadership as well. McGovern should be retained, although they may want to move him from center back to his natural guard position. And as we work down the list, we see a whole host of backups Denver should keep on the cheap.
The Broncos are expected to start re-signing their free agents soon, so keep an eye out for what moves they make.