On late Friday night, John Elway spiked the football in the end zone of this year’s free agency.
Elway and the Denver Broncos re-signed defensive line standout Shelby Harris and for a steal of a deal; one year for $3.1 million. Considering Harris’ breakout seasons the last two years, leading the NFL in batted-down passes at the line with 13 while racking up seven sacks, it seemed nearly impossible for the Broncos to get him back. Especially when Spotrac’s “market value” for him was $11.7 million per year and given the fact he signed super agent Drew Rosenhaus.
But, Elway laughed in the face of doubters and just put a giant cherry on top of a superb free agent signing period.
The Broncos have been one of the most active teams during this offseason, pulling off two tremendous trades, signing three new starters as well as valuable backups, and on top of it all, they kept their most important players, too.
Harris and Justin Simmons were the Broncos’ most important two free agents, topping the list of 27 players. Simmons was franchise tagged and will be re-signed to a longer term deal later in the summer. But, as Denver made move after move, it seemed less and less likely they would be able to bring Harris back.
Especially when the Broncos pulled off the trade of the offseason, exchanging a mere seventh-round pick for defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, which was highway robbery for Elway and Co. Casey seemed to be a solid replacement for Harris, but now, the Broncos will be completely loaded on the front line of their defense; with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb flanking the Pro Bowler Casey and under-appreciated Harris in the middle.
In fact, Elway excelled in “buying a defense” and many expect him to build the offense through the draft next month (even if he helped out the O, too).
Besides re-signing Harris and landing Casey, the Broncos tendered and then signed Mike Purcell to a one-year deal. Purcell was a discovery by Vic Fangio — like Alexander Johnson — promoting the defensive tackle and taking reps away from Adam Gotsis. And, while the Broncos lost Chris Harris to the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver traded a fourth-round pick for starter A.J. Bouye, who will start for the orange and blue in the fall.
The Broncos even re-signed Todd Davis, a surprise at middle linebacker last year.
And, while there’s still a need for a starting cornerback opposite of Bouye, Elway reshaped the defense by improving every level. With Vic Fangio, a defensive master, as head coach, the Broncos could have one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2020.
Offensively, Elway continued to address needs — and also needlessly spent — with Graham Glasgow and Melvin Gordon. Glasgow will likely start at right guard but could be the team’s center. And, really, the worst move of the offseason was signing Gordon when the Broncos already had a stellar starting running back in Phillip Lindsay. Add on top of it that Gordon is costing a pretty penny which Elway could and should have spent on a starting cornerback, and, it’s the only real head-scratcher the team has made.
Still, all the acquisitions and spending have set the Broncos up well going into the draft. They need another cornerback, they need depth at wide receiver and a center/depth on the offensive line. Oh, and maybe another middle linebacker.
But, really, they’re set. The Broncos are ready to compete for an AFC West title now, this year, thanks to all these moves. Yes, even with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the division.
We’ve had lengthy articles grading each pick-up, but let’s run through all the acquisitions since Harris is the newest and likely final piece of the puzzle.
- Traded 4th-round pick (from SF) for CB A.J. Bouye: B
- Traded 7th-round pick for DL Jurrell Casey: A+
- Re-signed DL Shelby Harris for $3.1M: A
- Franchise tagged S Justin Simmons: B-
- Extended option to LB Todd Davis: C+
- Extended option to OLB Von Miller: A
- Extended option to K Brandon McManus: B
- Tender, re-signed DL Mike Purcell: B+
- Signed OL Graham Glasgow, 4 years $44 million: B
- Signed RB Melvin Gordon, 2 years $16 million: D
- Signed QB Jeff Driskel, 2 years $5 million: C
- Signed TE Nick Vannett, 2 years $5.7 million: B
- Signed P Sam Martin, 3 years $7 million: C-
- CB Bryce Callahan restructured his deal, saving Broncos $1.8M: A
And if you had to grade the entire offseason, it would be a B+ with arguably the greatest haul in the league this year.