NFL Free Agency officially kicks off in just two months’ time on March 15 and the Denver Broncos will have 17 players who are unrestricted going into the new league year. Which players will be unrestricted during this upcoming free agency period, and who should be the biggest priorities?

Denver Broncos unrestricted free agents ahead of the 2023 league year

The Denver Broncos have a lot riding on this off-season including hiring the right head coach, setting the foundation for their hopeful rebound with Russell Wilson, and getting back to the roots of playing winning football. Denver had 17 players under contract in 2022 who will become unrestricted free agents in 2023.

Dre’Mont Jones
Dre’Mont Jones headlines the top unrestricted free agent for the Broncos heading into this off-season. For general manager George Paton, Jones’ is his biggest in-house decision going into free agency. The Broncos’ dominant defensive lineman is also a candidate option for the franchise tag. According to OverTheCap, Jones would be set to make $19.7M if placed with the tag designation. His estimated market value on Spotrac comes in on a 3-year $21.8M, meaning he’d bring home $7.2M as part of his average annual value.

While many look to sacks to justify paying or not paying prospective defensive players, Jones finished 2022 with 6.5 sacks. He also finished the year with 16 pressures, which is a valuable metric to track. Where the Broncos may have leverage could be in games missed due to injury. In his first season as a full-time starter, Jones played 13 games this season before suffering a hip injury that put him on injured reserve for the final stretch of the year.

Where Jones has leverage in upcoming negotiations has everything to do with the number of pressures he has created over the course of his rookie deal, sacks, and his high level of play against the run. An argument could be made about Jones being the Broncos’ best run defender alongside D.J. Jones.

Alex Singleton
The Denver Broncos struck gold in 2022 with the addition of Alex Singleton in free agency. At first, it was a move many questioned whether or not it pushed the needle for Denver when in reality it broke the seismometer. The high-energy linebacker exceeded expectations by a landslide, prompting him to become a priority free agent this off-season.

Various injuries to Josey Jewell and Jonas Griffith thrust Singleton into the starting lineup in Ejiro Evero’s defensive scheme early in the season. Eventually, Jewell and Singleton emerged as a dynamic 1-2 punch at linebacker where their responsibilities were simply plugging the run, blitzing, or dropping back into the middle hook as an underneath coverage asset.

On special teams, Singleton instantly became a leader of the unit under former coordinator Dwayne Stukes. In combination with his play on defense and special teams, the Broncos’ electric linebacker registered a career-high 163 tackles, including 100 solo. Two performances that deserve notice this season include a 21-tackle performance against the Los Angeles Chargers and a 20-tackle performance against the Los Angeles Rams. Anywhere the football went, Singleton was right there, which makes him a high-priority candidate to re-sign.

Kareem Jackson
The Broncos veteran safety is set to hit the open market in 2023 after re-signing with the team on one-year deals in back-to-back years. Kareem Jackson’s presence for the Broncos has had tangible results both on and off the field since he arrived in 2019. Jackson just wrapped up his 13th year in the NFL, which is a tremendous accomplishment, but he also expressed he’d like to play another one or two seasons in the league.

For the Broncos and George Paton specifically, they have to evaluate whether or not they’d like to bring Jackson back into the mix once again with higher expectations rising with Caden Sterns, who was drafted by Paton in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. When analyzing the expected market value according to Spotrac, Jackson is projected to garner a one-year deal worth $3.5M. Last offseason, Jackson returned on a one-year deal for $2M worth up to $5M. A return for the veteran safety isn’t out of the question, but who the Broncos hire as their next head coach will play a role in the team’s decision on whether or not they offer Jackson a deal.

The widespread belief around Denver is that the safety position will prioritize Sterns and All-Pro Justin Simmons as the key starters on the backend in 2023.

Dalton Risner
Dalton Risner is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the Broncos this off-season. The Colorado native has expressed his desire to remain a Bronco, but he wants to go where he feels valued. Over the course of the last few seasons, Risner’s play hasn’t quite reached the level it did when he was a rookie. Part of that has collective blame relative to offensive schemes, coaching, injuries, and execution.

The homegrown product has battled through and played with a variety of injuries throughout his career during his tenure as a Bronco. With a growing need around the NFL for interior offensive linemen, Risner might benefit from a change of scenery, or remain in Denver and transform as the team approaches an offensive restructuring. His estimated market value according to Spotrac is a four-year $38.2M deal with an average annual value of $9.5M per year.

Denver will take a look at how Risner may or may not fit into their plans this upcoming season, while also analyzing the open free agency market that features Isaac Seumalo, Trai Turner, and Will Hernandez to name a few players to consider.

Offensive tackle for the Denver Broncos

The Broncos are set to have Garett Bolles return from the season-ending leg injury he sustained in Week 5, but outside of his return, offensive tackle is a major question in free agency. Denver has four offensive tackles who were under contract in 2022 that will hit free agency in March.

Calvin Anderson
Calvin Anderson is a player that has proven he has value offensively for Denver. After showcasing flashes in 2020 and 2021, Anderson in the eyes of many received a raw deal under former offensive line coach Butch Barry. In training camp, Anderson received every first-team rep at right tackle while Tom Compton and veteran Billy Turner were out due to injuries.

Many were shocked when the team announced that veteran tackle Cam Fleming would start Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks after not receiving nearly as many reps. Anderson, who had shown the ability to play right tackle and left tackle, was suddenly out of the mix. The Broncos’ swing tackle seemingly was on a short leash in comparison to other players who had struggled with their play across the offensive line.

When Turner was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, Calvin started for the Broncos at left tackle while Fleming transitioned to right tackle. The moment Turner came off of injured reserve, he went back to right tackle and Barry removed Anderson from left tackle, despite his strong level of play. Ultimately, interim head coach Jerry Rosburg fired Barry as their offensive line coach and turned to assistant Ben Steele for the remainder of the season. This author is of the opinion that Anderson has been a developmental player who has made progress every season he’s been on the roster, while Denver looks to find a long-term option at right tackle, it’s possible they have an option in-house. Worst case scenario, the Broncos have a very reliable swing tackle option who could help out in the event of an injury to a starter.

Billy Turner, Cam Fleming, and Tom Compton
The Denver Broncos invested in depth last free agency period at offensive tackle in hopes of having an open competition. Heading into 2023 they must have a game plan for the position in the short-term, intermediate, and future. As it currently stands, Turner never had the chance to play the 2022 season fully healthy but stepped in despite being banged up. With an off-season approaching that will allow him to reach 100%, Turner could be a valuable option for the Broncos to re-sign on a one-year deal.

Do the Broncos want to take on the risk of drafting an offensive tackle at the end of round one and risk starting a rookie who may or may not be ready, while they still have Russell Wilson under center and a window to win that is closing in three to four years? These are questions that will be asked and eventually answered by Paton and the scouting department. Fleming could return on a potential one-year deal for Denver and it could make sense. The veteran tackle’s strength comes more in the run-blocking department than the pass-protection department, but even if he doesn’t re-sign to start, he would be a more reliable option as a backup depth option.

Unfortunately for Tom Compton, his time didn’t work out with the Broncos after he suffered a back injury during OTAs that required him to have surgery, sidelining him a good portion of the season. Compton was forced to fill in on the offensive line at guard against the Arizona Cardinals after Quinn Meinerz and Dalton Risner each left with injuries. The veteran lineman would also leave with a back injury himself. It doesn’t appear at this point that Compton will be part of the Broncos plans going into 2023.

Will the Broncos bring back their tight end and fullback trio in 2023?

With the emergence of rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, and Albert Okwuegbunam remaining under contract in 2023, how will the Broncos approach the free agency status of several players who played underrated roles for them in 2022?

Eric Saubert
Eric Saubert emerged for the Denver Broncos as a reliable all-around tight end during the 2022 season. While Saubert didn’t have massive stat lines, he was a reliable security blanket and run blocker inside of a Broncos offense that didn’t establish an identity for itself. Not only did Saubert play a lot of snaps for Denver offensively, but he was also one of their best special teams players, which increases his value around the league.

He started six games for the Broncos in 2022 while playing in all 17 games despite playing through some injuries. Saubert is a name the Broncos should retain for 2023.

Eric Tomlinson
When you think of players who go under the radar and bring their lunch pail and hardhat to work, Eric Tomlinson epitomizes being a blue-collar tight end. His size allowed the Broncos to place him on the end of the offensive line as a true-Y body type, creating more protection against some of the league’s best edge rushers this season. His role as a primary run blocker created additional opportunities for him this season, catching two touchdowns in total setup off of play action.

The question the Broncos have to ask themselves regarding Tomlinson is relative to how their offense plans to transform in 2023 after Nathaniel Hackett’s failure in 2022. It doesn’t hurt having a player like Tomlinson on the roster because he can help out in the blocking department.

Andrew Beck
Andrew Beck is the NFL’s modern-day Tim Riggins. After primarily serving as a blocking fullback in the early part of his career, the Denver Broncos found ways to incorporate him in the passing game in 2022 including a two-catch 52-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks. Beck dealt with several injuries this season that sidelined him, and while he was out, Denver’s run game suffered.

When Beck returned from injury, it was easily noticeable how the Broncos rushing attack benefitted from him. Because of his ability to get involved in the passing game, defenses changed a lot of how they played Denver when Beck was brought into motion. He epitomizes gritty, hard-hitting football for one of the league’s most underappreciated positions. Beck deserves consideration to return next season because he offers them value at the fullback position.

Denver Broncos forecast at running back in question for 2023

The Broncos’ offense suffered a massive loss this past season after Javonte Williams suffered a torn ACL and more extensive knee damage that required season-ending surgery. As Williams continues to go through the rehabilitation process, the Broncos have several options to consider.

Latavius Murray
Latavius Murray was the unsung hero of the Broncos’ 2022 season. After being signed off of the New Orleans Saints practice squad, Murray quickly took on a larger role as the team’s bell cow back and leader in the locker room. After the team released Melvin Gordon, Murray’s role took on a larger share of responsibility. Offering the Broncos offense with reliability, Murray never put the football on the ground and always found ways to power himself forward.

Bringing back a player like Murray is critical for Denver this off-season because it creates security for Williams as he goes through his recovery, knowing he doesn’t have to rush himself back. In today’s NFL, gone are the days for most franchises where one back is the primary ball carrier. A backfield that consists of Murray, Williams, and Chase Edmonds can exist and should be under consideration.

Marlon Mack
Marlon Mack’s story throughout his NFL career has been a roller coaster. Injuries have created plenty of adversity for him, but it felt like Mack was beginning to return to his old form in Denver. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a hamstring injury during the Broncos’ final two games of the season. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

With Tyler Badie as a potential training camp option, Tyreik McAllister signing a futures contract, Mack’s future with the team approaches uncertainty heading into 2023.

Mike Boone
Mike Boone’s 2022 season didn’t pan out how he had hoped for due to injuries. The Denver Broncos special teams ace was everything they hoped for on the special teams’ side of the ball, but on offense, injury impacted his ability to contribute and make a strong case for 2023.

Boone was placed on injured reserve twice this season after dealing with an ankle injury. Injuries are something that is beyond the control of the athlete, but they ultimately determine whether or not a team decides to bring them back. During the preseason, Boone showcased his explosiveness as a rusher and pass catcher out of the backfield. However, with Chase Edmonds set to be under contract in 2023, Boone could be pushed out of that role in the eyes of the front office.

Other players set to become unrestricted free agents

To round out the large list of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2023, the Broncos have decisions to make regarding a young cornerback, veteran defensive lineman, and potential developmental linebacker.

Darius Phillips
Darius Phillips was signed to the Broncos’ active roster prior to Week 1 after third-year cornerback Michael Ojemudia suffered an injury in the preseason that placed him on injured reserve. Phillips’ primary source of playing time in 2022 came on the special teams’ side of the ball where he played 49% of the unit’s snaps.

Defensively he only played six total snaps which bring into question his status with the team going into the new league year. Cornerback depth is an area where the Broncos desperately need quality depth behind Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby coming off of an ACL injury, and rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis.

DeShawn Williams
DeShawn Williams has one of the best stories as a member of the Denver Broncos. The veteran defensive lineman emerged over the last few seasons as a reliable option on the defensive interior. From former training camp body to making the 53-man roster, Williams’ journey and hard work have paid off. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent in 2023, and the Broncos will have to make the decision on whether or not to bring him back.

He played in all 17 games for Denver this season and started 15 of them opposite of Dre’Mont Jones. The 30-year-old defensive lineman played 52% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2022 and registered a career-high 4.5 sacks. It’s worth monitoring the direction the team heads in 2023 considering they’ll have a new head coach, potential defensive coordinator, and several young players who are waiting in the wings to get more playing time like Eyioma Uwazurike, and Matt Henningsen.

Williams’ availability this past season and continued production growth year over year are factors that make bringing him back a smart move for Paton and the Broncos at a fair market value.

Dakota Allen
The Broncos signed Dakota Allen during this season after Jonas Griffith suffered a season-ending foot injury. Allen saw some limited game action after signing due to suffering a hamstring injury that promptly ended his tenure with the Broncos before it ever had a chance to begin.

Allen’s future with the team is in question considering they’ll have a multitude of organizational changes on the coaching side, combined with the fact that Denver will likely prioritize having Josey Jewell, retaining Alex Singleton and Jonas Griffith behind Justin Strnad who has emerged as a key special teams player for Denver. The former Last Chance U success story could become a training camp body, but he’d likely have competition with Ray Wilborn, who signed a futures contract after the season concluded.

The Denver Broncos free agency period will be important to monitor as March 15 approaches faster than most realize. Denver has some very interesting and tough decisions to make internally and externally to field a roster that can help the franchise restore its tradition of winning games.