This week, Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal of NFL Media released their annual list of the top 101 free agents.
The article paints a troubling picture for the Broncos, who have five players on the list, more than almost any other team.
How were those players ranked and what do Denver’s chances of retaining them look like? Let’s take a look.
Connor McGovern (No. 85)
“All too often, McGovern was the calm in the middle of the trench storm as his Denver linemates disintegrated in a maelstrom of blown blocks and ill-timed penalties.” — NFL.com
Connor McGovern should be one of the Broncos top priorities this offseason.
The offensive line is one of the weakest spots on the team and you don’t make that unit better by letting quality starters at center leave in back-to-back seasons with Matt Paradis and McGovern.
Derek Wolfe (No. 75)
“Wolfe was having a sneaky-strong season before dislocating his elbow in December. He’s always been an impact player as long as he’s been on the field, even if his peak years are in the rearview mirror.” — NFL.com
Derek Wolfe will be a tricky case for the Broncos to decide on.
On one hand, he had a career year last season and the Broncos have so many free agents on the defensive line, it’d be nice to hold on to some of them.
On the other, Wolfe is likely past his prime, has been injured in four of the past five seasons and shouldn’t be much cheaper than Shelby Harris, Denver’s best defensive linemen.
Shelby Harris (No. 41)
“Denver’s most disruptive defensive lineman two years in a row, Harris has gradually grown from afterthought to super sub to semi-beast.” — NFL.com
The odds of Harris returning are incredibly low, but the Broncos should do everything in their power to try and bring him back, as they have more than enough money to do so.
Harris is run-stuffing defensive lineman that also wreaks havoc in the passing game by pressuring the quarterback and batting balls down at the line of scrimmage. It’s hard to find a defensive lineman more impactful, making him well worth his $12-13 million price tag.
Chris Harris Jr. (No. 25)
“Excelling in the slot or outside, Harris has been one of the game’s most respected and effective covermen over the past half-decade. More of a shadow corner under Vic Fangio last season, the 30-year-old lost some one-on-one battles that seemed out of character for a perennial Pro Bowler. In which case, a change of scenery may put him in a better position to recapture peak form.” — NFL.com
Another free agent the Broncos are unlikely to retain, though they shouldn’t lose much sleep about Chris Harris Jr.‘s departure.
Harris Jr. still has the ability to be a starting cornerback in the league, but he’s no longer a top 10 or even a top 20 corner. That’s a problem considering he’s looking for top 10 cornerback money to get one last payday before the end of his career.
Justin Simmons (No. 7)
“A rangy athlete with sensational leaping ability, Simmons plays safety like a frisbee-chasing dog, flagging down all flying objects in sprinting distance. Just entering his prime as a first-time All-Pro (second team), he’s unlikely to escape the long arm of John Elway’s franchise tag.” –NFL.com
Fortunately for the Broncos, they’re expected to hold on to their best free agent, Justin Simmons.
In Fangio’s scheme, with his tremendous athleticism, Simmons is primed to be the league’s premier ball-hawking safety for the next several years.
Expect him to receive the tag and agree to a lucrative long-term deal later in the summer. With Denver’s shallow cornerback room, having a rangy safety over the top to provide extra security is incredibly important.