John Elway attacked this year’s free agency more aggressively than he has since at least 2014.
They’ve added stars on both offense and defense, but just how good were each of those deals and how reasonable are the contracts they’re signing players to? Are the Broncos being swindled or are they the ones doing the swindling? We graded every move for you here:
Trading a 2020 4th-round pick to the Jaguars for A.J. Bouye
Even though the Broncos agreed to trade for A.J. Bouye more than two weeks ago, the move wasn’t made official until Wednesday, so let’s spend some time on it.
While the secondary might not have been the Broncos’ top priority before making this trade, it was undoubtedly the biggest hole on their roster. With Chris Harris out the door, the Broncos were left with an injured and unproven Bryce Callahan and not much else at the position.
Now, for merely the cost of a fourth-round pick, the Broncos get a huge upgrade at the position, at a discount ($13.5 million annually) compared to what the top free-agent defensive backs are signing for this offseason.
Signing Graham Glasgow to a $44 million/four-year deal
As previously stated, the secondary was Denver’s biggest need, but not their top priority. That honor goes to protecting Drew Lock by surrounding him with a reliable offensive line, and Denver took a step in that direction by signing Graham Glasgow.
He’s like one of the Subaru Outbacks that dominate the Colorado roadways, especially those along the front range. He’s incredibly reliable, missing just two games over his four years in the league. He’s also versatile as he can fit in multiple different blocking schemes and can play three different positions on the line, which will be key as the Broncos attempt to develop an identity upfront.
Also, much like the Outback, Glasgow was very affordable. $11 million a year isn’t chump change by any means, but when you consider Ereck Flowers — who has been the worst offensive linemen in the league since he was drafted — is making $10 million a year, the Glasgow contract looks like a steal.
Trading Andy Janovich to the Browns for a 2021 7th-round pick
This move hurts the hearts and souls of Broncos Country far more than it will hurt the overall complexion of the team.
Andy Janovich was a fan-favorite with his rugged, blue-collar playing style, but he’d offer very little to Shurmur’s fullback-free offense and he was incredibly expensive for a fullback, so it made sense to move on.
The fact the Broncos were able to get some value for Janovich, rather than just having to cut him makes this move a net positive, even though it’s mostly inconsequential.
Signing Jeff Driskel to a $5 million/two-year deal
Jeff Driskel is a fine backup quarterback that has had some decent starts as a backup during his time in the league. The deal is also incredibly cheap and carries almost no guaranteed money into the second year of the contract. That means if Driskel does somehow manage to disappoint in his limited role, the Broncos can very easily move on from him after 2020, and Driskel is more than qualified enough to hold the job until then.
Trading a 2020 7th-round pick to the Titans for Jurrell Casey
The trade for Jurrell Casey was the second trade John Elway has knocked out of the park already this offseason (the swap for Bouye being the other).
The Broncos were getting incredibly desperate for defensive linemen, as more and more signed elsewhere, and the list of potential targets dwindled. Then, out of nowhere, they acquired one of the steadiest, most consistent defensive linemen for just a seventh-round pick.
Even though the years of the picks don’t match up, that effectively means the Broncos traded Janovich, an expensive player they were no longer going to use, for Casey, a player they desperately needed, whose contract is a bargain with how much others at the position are making annually.
Signing Melvin Gordon to a $16 million/two-year deal
Fellow Mile High Sports writer Rich Kurtzman put it best when he said, “The Melvin Gordon signing is a sexy one, but was it necessary?” The answer should clearly be an emphatic no for too many reasons to count.
For starters, the Broncos didn’t need to sign a free agent running back. Yes, it’s nice to upgrade the position, but Denver would’ve been just fine with Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, and some rookie from this year’s class. Not only was the move unnecessary, but Denver has now reportedly upset one of their offensive stars in Lindsay by making the deal.
Second, if you don’t absolutely need to sign a free agent running back, then you shouldn’t. Every single running back to sign a second contract in recent years has been an utter disappointment at best (Ezekiel Elliott, Devonta Freeman) and a disaster of Godzilla-like proportions at worst (David Johnson, Todd Gurley).
Third, if for whatever reason you don’t need a running back but decide to sign one anyway, it better be at a great value. Look no further than the Ravens, who signed Mark Ingram to a deal paying him just $5 million a season and capitalized in a big way. Paying $8 million annually for a running back coming off his worst season, when Todd Gurley and Austin Ekeler are making $6 million is not a good value in any way, shape or form.
Lastly, as just stated, 2019 was the worst season of Gordon’s career. In fact, it was so bad, he lost his job to his backup, Ekeler, because Ekeler thoroughly outplayed him. Now, the Broncos are paying 33 percent more for Gordon than the Chargers are for Ekeler, who is a better fit for today’s NFL than Gordon.
How does that deal make sense on any level? The only reason this contract isn’t an F- is because of the incredibly high upside Gordon possesses.
Signing Nick Vannett to a $5.7 million/two-year deal
Signing Nick Vannett is fine, it just hamstrings the Broncos in the present and didn’t seem pressing at all.
The move was probably made so the Broncos can move on from Heuerman and have someone ready to take his place at a discount.
That’s great, except for the fact that you’re saving less than a million dollars by swapping Vannett for Heuerman, and you can’t even take advantage of that extra million until June 1, when the free agency crop is already picked clean.