The Denver Broncos arguably pulled off the deal of the offseason when they acquired Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks via trade, and as a result, they’re now being unanimously viewed as a contender — something that hasn’t happened since 2015.
As post-free agency editions of power rankings have started to trickle out this week from the major publications, it’s become clear that the Broncos have improved their 2022 outlook more than just about any other team, and have inserted themselves into the championship conversation.
NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus ranks the Broncos as the NFL’s eighth-best team, climbing 15 spots from his last version of the list.
“Russell Wilson has arrived with a new catchphrase and the promise to save the good people of Denver from QB purgatory,” Hanzus wrote, referencing Wilson’s ‘Let’s Ride’ slogan. “The opportunity to trade for a superstar quarterback is rare, so credit general manager George Paton for being aggressive and getting the deal done. The Broncos gave up multiple first-round picks to land their franchise quarterback, but the sting of the sticker price will dissipate when Wilson is playing like an MVP next fall. The Broncos went from pretender to contender overnight when they acquired Peyton Manning in the spring of 2012. A decade later, they pulled off the same trick.”
Denver’s improvement of 15 spots is tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who went from having nothing at quarterback to having the greatest quarterback of all time, thanks to Brady’s retirement shuffle) for the biggest climb on the list. The third-largest climb went to the Carolina Panthers, who rose seven spots, though without much clear reason.
ESPN’s rankings, which were left up to a panel of 80 analysts, also have the Broncos as a top-10 team, though they are slightly lower on the Denver franchise than Hanzus. ESPN ranked the Broncos 10th, while Jeff Legwold — ESPN’s Broncos analyst — highlight the Broncos’ remaining needs in the secondary.
“The Broncos signed cornerback K’Waun Williams, who will get the first look as the team’s nickel cornerback, but they entered free agency with three cornerbacks who started games last season — Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller and Nate Hairston — who were unrestricted free agents, as was safety Kareem Jackson,” Legwold wrote. “Williams does mitigate some of that with his versatility as a defender in the run game, in coverage as well as his work as a spot pass-rusher. But the Broncos still need to do some work there to build depth, and if Caden Sterns isn’t going to inherit Jackson’s safety spot, they need to bring back Jackson or someone like him.”
While there’s a lot to be excited about with this Broncos team, Legwold brings up a necessary point. There are still some large needs on this team, and those needs must be addressed if the Broncos want to compete for a Super Bowl.