Broncos likely to pursue CB Kyle Fuller, who’d make Denver a Top-5 defense

Kyle Fuller breaks up a pass in 2020. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports.
Kyle Fuller breaks up a pass in 2020. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports.

Some Broncos fans have been frustrated with the speed at which George Paton works. But, good things come to those who wait.

According to Mike Garofolo of NFL Network, the Broncos are expected to go after cornerback Kyle Fuller, who was released by the Chicago Bears late Thursday night.

Rewind to Tuesday and Denver signed their first free agent in cornerback Ronald Darby, a 27-year old who came off a down year with Philadelphia in 2019 to bounce back and play well for the Washington Football Team last season.

Darby was the 28th-best cornerback in the NFL last year per Pro Football Focus, with a 69.8 overall grade, defending a league-high 16 passes and recovering one fumble. He’ll start on the outside, with Bryce Callahan — PFF’s third-best cornerback (84.1 grade) — in the slot next year.

But, when the Broncos signed Darby on Tuesday, rumor had it they would be in the market for yet another starting corner. Now, it seems Fuller is that target.

Fuller is a 29-year old, six-year NFL veteran spending all of his career with the Chicago Bears. While he had a decent 2020 season — 8 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 FF — Fuller enjoyed his career year in 2018 with Vic Fangio still coaching the Bears defense.

That season, he was an All-Pro with 7 INTs and 21 passes defensed, each of which led the entire NFL. That year, Fuller was the 7th-best CB in football per PFF with an 81.4 grade, but he’s received a 62.5 and 64.0 grade the last two seasons respectively.

Of course, it’s a positive sign he enjoyed his best years under Fangio and the Broncos head coach has been implementing the same defense here in Denver since 2019.

That means Fuller could be a plug-and-play, immediate impact guy. Just like Bryce Callahan, once he got foot injury right. It’s an added cherry on top that Fuller and Callahan teamed up in Chicago and likely still know how to best benefit one another on the football field.

Simply, Denver needs a cornerback and Fuller is absolutely the best choice available.

And, signing Fuller would not only push Denver into Top-5 defensive territory, but the Broncos would arguably have the best secondary in football, too. Darby and Fuller outside, Callahan inside and Justin Simmons on the back end ready to pick off passes and make touchdown-saving tackles. Even simply plugging in Will Parks at the other safety spot would still give Denver a formidable secondary.

With a defensive backfield that stacked, the Broncos could then utilize the pass rushing prowess of Von Miller — who was brought back this week — and Bradley Chubb on the outside. That’s exactly how Denver was so domineering on defense back in 2014-15 with the No Fly Zone, allowing Miller and DeMarcus Ware — among others — to get after the quarterback with a reckless abandon.

Having a top-5 defense won’t mean the Broncos are immediately Super Bowl contenders, but they would definitely be competitive for a playoff berth for the first time in six seasons. A lot would still rest on the young shoulders of quarterback Drew Lock and his youngest offense in the NFL, but that defense would be so good they would be expected to carry the Broncos to wins at times.

Signing Fuller would not only make the Broncos defense one of the league’s best immediately, it would also free them up to either take another position in the NFL Draft at No. 9 overall or, as many have suggested, trade back and acquire more picks.

Stay tuned, because a deal for Fuller could happen as early as today.

If they do, expect the Broncos to go 7-9 at the minimum in 2021, with a ceiling around 10-6. The latter should be enough to make the playoffs.

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