In our latest Denver Broncos mailbag here at Mile High Sports, Broncos Country wants to know what type of leap second-year cornerback Damarri Mathis can take in 2023, how many primetime games will Denver get next season, and more.

Denver Broncos Mailbag

Broncos Country can send in their weekly mailbag questions to [email protected] or via Twitter.

What kind of leap is reasonable to expect from Damarri Mathis if he starts in 2023 – Wyatt
If Damarri Mathis gets the chance to start opposite Patrick Surtain II this upcoming season, I think it’s fair to expect him to continue playing at a high level. The soon-to-be second-year player impressed me in both instances he was forced to step into the lineup last season.

After Surtain left Week 2’s game against the Houston Texans with a shoulder injury, Mathis stepped in and stepped up in coverage against Brandin Cooks. He had a tremendous pass breakup that burns in my memory. After Ronald Darby suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5, Mathis stepped up once again, starting for the remainder of the season.

From a technical standpoint, Mathis doesn’t shy away from contact against the run — he’s physical in coverage, and has great fundamentals like footwork, fluid hips, and disciplined eyes that allow him to be in position consistently in pass coverage. He came close to snagging an interception several times last year, but his seven passes defensed were impressive considering his sample size.

If Mathis starts next season, he’ll snag at least two interceptions and continue to grow as one of the NFL’s most impressive young cornerbacks.

Did Sean Payton come into Denver without a plan? Shouldn’t he have had a DC lined up? – Nic
Sean Payton’s process in hiring coaches has been slow and methodical by design. Originally, it was expected that Vic Fangio would be his defensive coordinator, but he opted to take the Miami Dolphins gig.

Payton wanted to preserve the scheme that has allowed the Broncos’ defense to thrive for the past few seasons, originally under Fangio. When Fangio accepted the Dolphins job, Payton looked to keep Ejiro Evero who wanted a fresh start elsewhere.

Unfortunately for Denver, Evero’s departure negatively impacts the Broncos defense considering how well he utilized his personnel. The biggest challenge for Denver will be hiring a defensive coordinator who can build on the strengths of their personnel the way Evero and his coaching staff was able to.

Preferably, Christian Parker and Marcus Dixon need to remain on Payton’s staff after doing a tremendous job with the secondary and defensive line last season.

After last year’s primetime debacles, how many primetime games will the Broncos get now that Sean Payton is the head coach? – Jamie and Connie
Aside from the mandatory Thursday Night Football game they’ll likely play in, I’d estimate that Denver plays in two to three primetime games next season. Monday Night Football is always an important stable for the Broncos, and it has been previously for Payton when he was a member of the New Orleans Saints.

What made things worse last season for the Broncos in the limelight of primetime was the fact they had such high expectations and never lived up to them, especially in moments when the entire world was watching. Despite last year’s disaster, two to three primetime games seem realistic.

With questions about running back, could the Broncos look at somebody like Samaje Perine? – Larry
Anything is possible at running back considering Javonte Williams continued recovery from ACL surgery. If the Broncos move on from Chase Edmonds this offseason, I wouldn’t be shocked if they peeked at Samaje Perine as an option.

According to Spotrac, Perine’s estimated market value as an unrestricted free agent is projected to be a one-year deal worth $3M. However, the widespread belief in Denver is that Latavius Murray will re-sign with the Broncos this offseason considering his relationship and history with Sean Payton, and the impactful role he played for Denver’s offense last season.

Perine would offer the Broncos with a change-of-pace option that can be utilized out of the backfield as a receiver. If Edmonds restructures his contract, it would be unlikely for Perine to be in the mix.

Do you think the Broncos will go for the best available player in the draft or a need? I’m thinking they’ll go for an OL. – Patty
It’s hard to forecast this far out what the Denver Broncos’ strategy might entail for the NFL Draft. Considering they do not possess a first or second-round pick, any needs that they do have will likely be addressed during NFL Free Agency.

The new league year begins at 2:00 p.m. MT on March 15 — where Denver currently has $12M in cap space. It’s expected that several contracts may be restructured, and certain players could get cut ahead of free agency to free up space for Sean Payton and George Paton to work with.

I’d imagine the offensive line is addressed primarily in free agency, while they could add depth in the NFL Draft. Once free agency begins, it’ll be easier to estimate how Denver will approach the draft.

How long until Sean Payton’s coaching staff is complete? – Dan
I’d expect Sean Payton’s staff to be fully intact prior to free agency starting. At this point, he still has two and a half weeks to have his staff in place before March 15.

While the process has taken some time, Payton’s approach has been methodical and for good reason. He wants to bring in coaches he knows excel in player development, are great teachers and know how to maximize players’ on-field performance. As it pertains to position coaches, he has to have coordinators in place in order to decide on which coaches will be the best fit for the job.

Would you be unhappy with any particular candidate landing the DC gig? – Chase
I don’t think I’d personally be unhappy with any specific candidate landing the defensive coordinator gig. I have been openly skeptical about Rex Ryan, but that’s due to how long he’s been away from coaching, actively calling a defense, and for some of the comments he said about the Broncos and several players in the locker room in his role on ESPN.

As somebody who loves defense and has a background as a defensive play-caller, my hope is that Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos hire the right guy for the job. The right guy in my opinion won’t mess with the defensive scheme too much from what they did last year. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Payton’s previous attempt to keep Ejiro Evero on staff, tells me he also wants to preserve and build upon what the Broncos’ defense did well last season.

If a trade does happen, which player in your eyes could be moved? – Kinlayy
Any time trade rumors get brought up, the first thing people should do is look at which players have high salary cap hits for the upcoming season, and deals that are expiring.

While there have been some rumors linked to Garett Bolles being on the trade block, it doesn’t make much sense from a personnel standpoint considering how much the Broncos’ offensive line has struggled to add quality depth at offensive tackle.

Cornerback Ronald Darby has also been a name thrown out in recent rumors, but with him coming off of an ACL injury — another NFL team would have to have reassurances that he’d be fully ready for the 2023 season. Any potential trades would likely occur before the NFL Draft or during it, but I personally do not expect Denver to be actively shopping starters considering their depth as it currently stands.