If there were ever a great time for a distraction, it’s now. Luckily, the NFL’s free agency is about to heat up and bring us sports fans something new to talk about.
Today kicks off “legal tampering” in which players can basically agree to terms, but deals can’t be signed until Wednesday.
Last weekend, the Broncos decided to franchise tag Justin Simmons ($11.15 million), which came as a surprise to no one. Expect a long-term deal with him in the coming months. Denver also picked up Todd Davis’ $6 million option and paid Von Miller his $5 million guarantee.
Now, it’s time for the fun.
John Elway and the Broncos already kicked off their offseason when they made the tremendous trade of a fourth-round pick for starting cornerback A.J. Bouye. That move did two things. First, it brought a new superb cornerback to Denver where he’ll be the No. 1 guy. And secondly, it brought on the end of Chris Harris’ days in the Mile High City.
So, even with Bryce Callahan set to finally play for the Broncos this season — after sitting out all of last year on the IR — the orange and blue is still in search of a starting cornerback to play opposite of Bouye.
Enter: Prince Amukamara.
Amukamara, like Bouye, is a long-time veteran likely around the end of his prime. In 2018, for the Bears, he enjoyed a career-best season with an 80.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus to accompany his three interceptions. And, he’s one of the most physical, best tackling cornerbacks out there, bringing physicality to every play he’s involved in. He, like Callahan, was a huge part of the Bears’ No. 1 defense in 2018, and even though he slipped slightly in 2019 in his performance, the Broncos will likely still be quite interested in him.
That’s because, not only did he line up with Callahan, but he played under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell in Chicago both in 2017 and 2018. In fact, considering the decline last season, one could argue his production dropped because he wasn’t still in Fangio’s defense. That leaves hope he could return to near that form in 2020, if he plays for Denver.
Of course, it depends on what the nine-year veteran is looking for in terms of per-year money. The Broncos already have an insane amount of money locked into their secondary, meaning it would be great if they could sign Amukamara for around $7-8 million per year. Bouye will be making $13 million, with safety Kareem Jackson bringing in $14 million and Simmons tag number is $11.15. Add in Callahan’s $7.8 and that’s $40 million, or nearly 20 percent, of the total franchise tag ($198.2 million). Depending on where Amukamara’s deal lands, that would balloon to the $47-50 million range.
Of course, strong secondary play is crucial in today’s NFL, where the offense has the advantage. With a great secondary, Denver was able to let their world-class pass rushers loose in 2015, enjoying the best defense in the league that year and riding it to a Super Bowl victory.
Signing Amukamara would give the Broncos one of the best secondaries in the league for this upcoming 2020 season, coupling them with the deadly pass rushing of Von Miller and a returning, hungrier Bradley Chubb.
If Denver does indeed Amukamara (like Benjamin Allbright predicted this weekend), the Broncos will have the back end of their defense figured out. That will open the doors for signing a defensive lineman (or two) and will help Elway and Co. decide on which positions to target in the coming NFL Draft.