Since the 2014 offseason, John Elway has been a sleeping giant around the free agency, but 2020 finally saw him awaken from his slumber to make some incredibly aggressive signings.
Will these moves strikeout like last year’s additions, or will they lead Denver to a Super Bowl like Elway’s past classes have? Let’s take a look at the numbers for answers.
The trade for A.J. Bouye was a masterful one by John Elway, as it not only filled but upgraded one of the roster’s most pressing needs for just the cost of a fourth-round pick.
However, the analytics aren’t nearly as high on the deal as most of Broncos Country is.
Bouye earned a pretty poor overall grade of 58.4 from Pro Football Focus and an even worse coverage grade of 55.4.
That overall grade made him the 18th-best defender on a Jacksonville defense that finished 31st in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA metric (a more accurate way to measure offensive and defensive play than most stats like yards, points scored, yards per play, and so on). And, his coverage grade made him the seventh-best cover man on a defense that finished 22nd in pass defense.
Here’s hoping that Vic Fangio’s corner-friendly scheme leads to Bouye returning to Pro Bowl form.
Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, no doubt about it, despite receiving far less praise than the Aaron Donald’s, Ndamukong Suh’s and Deforest Buckner’s of the world.
This is probably because Casey has far less explosive potential to be an absolute gameplan wrecker in the middle of the defense. But what Casey lacks in flashes of dominance, he makes up for with an incredibly high bar of unparalleled consistency and reliability.
Since entering the league in 2011, Casey has never finished lower than the fourth-best Titans defender per PFF. In fact, in all but three of those nine seasons, Casey was at least the second-best defensive player for Tennessee.
The departure of Connor McGovern left a gaping hole in the middle of the Broncos’ offensive line, with only the untested and unproven Patrick Morris there to take his place.
Because of that, when the Broncos signed Graham Glasgow, it was assumed that he would play center for the team, but it was quickly announced that we would play guard. That may come as a shock but it might just be the best thing if the Broncos want to get the most out of their signing.
In 2017 and 2019, Glasgow earned overall grades of 71.1 and 74.1 playing guard for the Lions. Also in 2019, he let his quarterback get hit just five times, never surrendered a sack and was penalized a mere three times. Compare that to his lone season as a full-time center, where he earned an overall grade of 70.1, allowed a sack and five quarterback hits, but was penalized nine times.
Last season, Melvin Gordon tanked his value by holding out for a new deal, only to have Austin Ekeler outshine him, steal his job, and critically damage his market value. On top of that, once Gordon returned, he had one of the worst years of his professional career.
That makes it easy to forget just how dominant he was in 2017 and 2018, but if he returns to that form, the Broncos could have a very special playmaker on their hands.
Across 2017 and 2018, Gordon combined for over 2,000 rushing yards and over 3,000 yards from scrimmage in total. His most impressive skill though, is his nose for the endzone, which was shown off as Gordon recorded 26 total touchdowns over that two-year stretch. According to PFF, Gordon’s 2017 season (72.3 overall grade) was very good, but 2018 (86.6 grade) was by far his best of his career. In contrast, he earned just a 66.0 in 2019, so there’s a large leap he needs to make to get back to that impressive form for Denver this season.