NFL Free Agency kicks off on March 15, and the Denver Broncos have several restricted free agents who possess strong value for the team.

Denver Broncos restricted free agents

Going into NFL Free Agency, the Denver Broncos have four players who are restricted free agents going into the new league year. One player has value as a reliable backup option to Russell Wilson, while three players possess value on special teams. When it comes to restricted free agents, any player who has three accrued seasons and an expired contract is free to negotiate and sign with any team but their original team can offer them one of the various qualifying offers or tenders that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation.

Brett Rypien
In the NFL, every operating franchise hopes they’ll never lose their starter to an injury, but they realize having a valuable backup is important. Brett Rypien is a valuable backup for the Denver Broncos behind Wilson and he proved that in 2022.

After Wilson missed two games due to injury this past season, Rypien stepped into the starting lineup under center and possessed a command of the offensive huddle. Specifically, against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15, the Broncos’ backup quarterback who has been with the team since 2019 completed 80% of his passes going 21-of-26 for 197 yards one touchdown, and one interception. Rypien’s leadership and knowledge of the offensive system combined with his ability to read and attack defenses have allowed him to be a valuable asset in the Broncos quarterback room.

Despite having two touchdown passes and four interceptions this season, Rypien’s value can’t be overlooked because of a stat sheet. Players inside the locker room have expressed how great the fourth-year Broncos quarterback has been as a teammate and leader. He is viewed highly amongst league circles and has been considered a candidate to jump into coaching once his playing days are over. In 2022, he demonstrated that he doesn’t need to possess the mobility or athletic traits that Wilson has in order to operate the Broncos’ offense, which had a multitude of its own issues unrelated to the quarterback position.

P.J. Locke
P.J. Locke was the Denver Broncos leading tackler on special teams in 2022. Once a future contract designee, Locke has developed into a high-caliber special teams player for the Broncos and should receive consideration to return in 2023. Not only has Locke excelled as one of Denver’s top gunners on kickoff and punt, but he’s also upheld the valuable role as personal protector for the Broncos’ punt unit.

Locke transitioned from personal protector to gunner after injuries to Mike Boone and the release of Tyrie Cleveland impacted Denver’s depth. On top of adding value to the Broncos’ special teams unit, Locke played more of a role this past year in the dime and nickel. One highlight from this past season came from Locke helping the Broncos secure a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 where he punched the ball free from Jeff Wilson Jr. allowing Kareem Jackson to recover.

Broncos general manager George Paton has expressed that his vision is developing players and getting them on second contracts with the team. Locke is a prime example of the player that Paton envisions and should be a priority to return in 2023 as a key special teams ace and valuable depth option on defense.

Essang Bassey
Essang Bassey made his return to the Denver Broncos in 2022 after previously spending time with the Los Angeles Chargers. Former Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes made it no secret how valuable Bassey was for Denver’s special teams unit and the film backs it up. Bassey also played the pivotal role as a gunner on special teams while also playing the jammer role against opposing punt units.

Playing in 14 games for Denver in 2022, Bassey also provided the Broncos’ secondary with solid depth and emerged as a starter inside the slot when the defense transitioned into their dime package. Bassey in coverage was targeted 18 times, allowing 12 completions for a total of 112 yards with 49 coming through the air and 63 after the catch. He played 23% of the team’s defensive snaps (221) and 62% of the team’s snaps on special teams (252) in 2022.

The Broncos’ depth at cornerback, specifically inside the slot boils down to K’Waun Williams and Bassey. Retaining Bassey could be an important move for George Paton this offseason and it won’t cost Denver too much financially.

Jacob Bobenmoyer
It’s not that often that a team looks elsewhere for a long snapper and even if the Denver Broncos did this offseason, the free agency market doesn’t possess anybody who is as young and promising as Jacob Bobenmoyer. A multitude of NFL teams will have their long snappers hit unrestricted free agency, but Bobenmoyer will be restricted.

He played in 13 games for the Broncos last season but dealt with a thumb injury that put him on the shelf for a brief injured reserve stint. At this point, the Broncos should look to bring him back in 2023 despite holding various tryouts prior to and during the 2022 season.

A good portion of these upcoming personnel decisions won’t be made until the team hires its next head coach.