Buy the defense, build the offense.
That’s the new mantra of Denver Broncos fans. At least, for this week.
Through the coming free agency period, which kicks off on Mar. 18, the Broncos can “buy” a defense and then turn around and “build” the offense through the NFL Draft with their bevy of 12 picks.
And now that we’re in the heart of the offseason, we’ve been bringing Broncos fans lots of coverage on individuals who will likely be coming or going; let’s put it all together here in an ideal scenario for Denver.
Should they stay or should they go?
First, Denver’s got 27 free agents to decide on; 14 are unrestricted, four are club options, six are restricted and four are exclusive rights free agents. We’re not going through the entire list, but here are predictions on the highlights:
Let ’em go
- Broncos cut Joe Flacco, take a $13.6 million dead cap hit, but save $10M total toward their cap.
- Broncos cut Ron Leary, adding $9M to their already massive cap number and pushing the team to around the $70M mark.
- Broncos let Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe leave as they chase bigger deals.
Bring ’em back
- Denver re-signs Justin Simmons to a massive, 4-year deal worth around $60 million.
- Broncos re-sign Connor McGovern, one of three lineman to play 600 snaps and be called for zero penalties last year.
- Broncos re-work Todd Davis’ deal since he’s on a club option.
- With Wolfe and Chris Harris leaving, it gives the Broncos more money to keep Shelby Harris, which will be hard since he signed Drew Rosenhaus as an agent.
- IF Denver can’t re-sign Shelby Harris, look for them to bring in Michael Pierce.
- Will Parks should be re-signed, if the money is right. He’s not starting caliber like Simmons, but Parks is a valuable backup who also plays on many special teams units.
OK, those moves cover most of the starters on Denver’s long free agent list. It leaves a massive void at cornerback and defensive end, where the Broncos will have to make moves.
Free Agency signings
- Denver signs cornerback Prince Amukamara, formerly of the Bears. Amukamara played at a similar level to Chris Harris last year, but he will bring a much lower price tag. Plus, he played under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell in Chicago, and he played with Bryce Callahan, who will be the Broncos’ slot cornerback in 2020.
- Broncos sign cornerback Byron Jones, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones was the 18th-best cornerback in the NFL last year per Pro Football Focus, with 44 tackles, six passes defensed and one interception. Signing Amukamara and Jones would mean those two are on the outside, Callahan in the slot, with Simmons and Kareem Jackson as safeties. It would immediately give the Broncos one of — if not the — best secondaries in the NFL.
- Broncos make another huge splash by signing linebacker Joe Schobert. If Denver can’t find a way to re-work Davis’ deal, they could go after Schobert, who Benjamin Allbright first noted the Broncos are interested in. He’d be an upgrade over Davis, and the trio of Davis, Schobert and Alexander Johnson would be ferocious. Schobert enjoyed 133 total tackles last year, with four interceptions, four forced fumbles and two sacks. He’s an all-around, do-it-all linebacker who can even cover tight ends, something Denver’s needed for a while.
Signing Amukamara, Jones and Schobert would give Denver a no-doubt Top-5 defense once again. Because, we can’t forget about Von Miller — who will bounce back in 2020 — as well as Bradley Chubb, coming off the Injured Reserve hungry.
Those three free agents, along with Shelby Harris, Simmons and McGovern count for around $55 million in cap space. Denver would still need to likely address that defensive end position with Wolfe leaving, which could be done with that extra $15 million or possibly in the draft. Also, expect the Broncos to sign a veteran wide receiver, as well as another guard.