The Denver Broncos attacked NFL Free Agency with a sense of urgency and Broncos Country wants to know whether or not the team has significantly improved in comparison to last season. This is answered in our Mile High Sports mailbag among various other questions.

Denver Broncos Mailbag

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Why do other teams make improvements and get praise but when we make improvements they say we suck? – @JohnElguey7
NFL Free Agency always tends to bring out these types of narratives. At the end of the day, each team in free agency makes personnel moves that make them perceivably better on paper. The Broncos this off-season have wasted no time making moves that make them instantly better than last season, on paper.

The telling sign will come near the midway point of the season where many of Denver’s moves will be re-evaluated by us media folks and fans alike, but it’s hard to argue with anybody that Denver didn’t improve in the areas they were notably weak at last season.

Does Sean Payton & George Paton truly think P.J. Locke, Damarri Mathis, and Caden Sterns are the answer on D? Alex Singleton is nice but he was meant as depth. It feels as though we are refusing to restructure or spend to beef up our defense…a Vance Joseph-led defense. Until then I have major doubts – @PeteBlomquist
Hey Pete, thanks for sharing your question. The short answer to this is that both Payton and Paton believe in the talent that Locke, Mathis, and Sterns present for them defensively.

Mathis stepped up in a big way last season and did well as a starter as a rookie. They believe he possesses the talent to start opposite of Patrick Surtain and they’ll roll with that option this season. Locke is going to be in line to play in a rotational role for Denver defensively this season, but will resume his role as a core four special teams ace.

Internally, the expectation is that Sterns will start next to Justin Simmons next season. Sterns has demonstrated that he can be an impact playmaker against the run and as a ballhawk despite his smaller sample size. With him expected to be fully healthy from a hip injury that’s impacted him for the last year and a half, he’ll be the favorite to start and the hope is that he can stay healthy.

Singleton showcased why he is a capable and worthy starter last season. He’s not a sizeable linebacker by any means, but he is one of the smartest players on the field who possesses a strong football IQ — which allows him to play freely and near the football.

Another thing to consider is that Denver may have to take a step backward on defense this season if it means that the Broncos offense drastically improves. I’m a defensive football guy, but if the team is more balanced across the board and it leads to the team winning games, everybody will be on board.

How involved is Peyton Manning in the Broncos management, recruiting, and players? Does he hold an official position and if not have there been talks or offers as such? – @kuukahuna
Peyton Manning does not have any official position with the Broncos front office or management. He’s got close relationships with George Paton and other executives in the building but does not recruit nor hold any role with the team.

In terms of whether or not there have been any talks or offers, that is not an option that is on the table, though CEO Greg Penner has expressed in the past that he values Manning’s insight.

His media company Omaha Productions seems to be doing really well right now and I can’t see him pivoting away from that.

Do you think the Denver Broncos will draft a center? Give Lloyd Cushenberry another shot? With the additions made along the offensive line, the center position looks like the weakest link, in my opinion; what do you think? – Seth Stewart
That all depends on whether or not the Denver Broncos make a move in the latter stages of free agency for a center specifically. If they don’t, it would appear that they would move forward with Cushenberry this season.

How much Luke Wattenberg can accelerate his development after being put in some unfair situations last season is another question. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Denver looked to draft an interior offensive lineman with one of their third-round picks which is usually where most teams find value with potential starting centers.

What competitions in TC do you think we will be seeing? Outside of punt return and kick return it seems possible that we may see some for say CB3, WR3, and OL after the draft. – @newtype_jk47
When a new coaching staff comes in, there will be widespread competition and it should make for an exciting training camp.

Kick and punt returner will be very important and the first two names to watch will be Montrell Washington and Tremon Smith, but I’d also expect two or three more players to get the opportunity to compete for that spot as well including Jalen Virgil and Kendall Hinton.

Smith only has nine career punt returns in comparison to over 90 kick returns, so he may not be a name that is strongly considered for returning punts.

Cornerback will be one of the positions I’m most dialed into watching during camp to see who stands out behind Patrick Surtain and Damarri Mathis. Smith will be in the mix, but Broncos Country should also keep an eye on Ja’Quan McMillian, Faion Hicks, and Delonte Hood.

I’d expect they add another cornerback in the NFL Draft which will only add to the intrigue of the competition. Wide receiver is another exciting one to watch.

If Denver does not trade Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy, I’d expect to see a full slate of Sutton, Jeudy, and Tim Patrick as the premier options which indicate KJ Hamler, Kendall Hinton, Montrell Washington, Jalen Virgil, and others will compete for a spot on the roster.

The center position could be a position to watch between Lloyd Cushenberry and Luke Wattenberg or a potential draft pick.

Defensive end is another position to watch as it currently stands today. With Zach Allen coming in as a starter, will Eyioma Uwazurike or Matt Henningsen win the starting job opposite of him?

What’s the story on Dalton Risner? Have not heard of him being connected anywhere yet. – Jeff George
This is a great question. Through the first wave of NFL Free Agency, there hasn’t been any documented movement regarding Risner’s free agency interest by other teams.

He had previously expressed interest in returning to Denver during last season, but also mentioned he wants to go where he is valued. It’s unfortunate that things hadn’t worked out with Risner after a very impressive rookie season, but it appears his market hasn’t materialized how he had hoped for financially.

The recent Broncos Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee will land on a team, but he might have to compete for a starting job wherever he ends up versus landing a starting gig outright.

Why are so many in Broncos “media” insisting on crediting ONLY Sean Payton for the FA signings, and ignoring George Paton? While Payton may have wanted those guys, wasn’t it Paton who had to get the deals done, and the contracts to work with the Broncos both now AND in future years? – Benny The Broncos Fan
Great question and point here, Benny. George Paton’s job is to assemble a strong roster and provide Sean Payton with things that he feels he needs to be successful as the team’s head coach.

Paton and Payton’s relationship is extremely collaborative and Greg Penner ultimately holds the final say as both report directly to him. Both have a strong respect for scouting and roster development and are in sync with one another.

Players want to play for Payton, but Paton helps get those deals done. Both deserve credit for the Denver Broncos offseason moves.