How should the Broncos replace the players lost in the Russell Wilson trade?

Drew Lock. Credit: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports.
Nov 8, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) leaves the field after the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While trading for Russell Wilson was undoubtedly a great decision by the Denver Broncos and George Paton, a player of such value costs a lot, leaving holes throughout the current roster.

Luckily for Broncos fans, there is plenty of offseason left to replace the best players lost, maximizing their odds and taking advantage of their new Super Bowl window. 

To acquire Wilson, the Broncos had to trade Drew Lock, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and one fifth-round draft pick.

When evaluating such a trade, one should remember how important the quarterback position is. It is the most important position in the sport and can help mitigate deficiencies throughout the roster. 

While true, the Broncos should still aggressively pursue replacements at these positions, helping ease the workload of the new star quarterback. 

Here are some avenues they could take to replace those aforementioned contributors.

Shelby Harris

After just signing an extension with the Broncos last year, Harris was traded to the Seahawks and he is no easy piece to replace. Harris was on the Broncos for five seasons and was tremendously successful, becoming one of the more consistent players of the Broncos’ front seven. 

Another challenge to this trade is despite how good Harris has been, the Broncos could have used more bodies upfront, reinforcing their run defense, last year. After this trade, they have only gotten worse, making the need for run defense an even bigger one. 

Looking at the current pool of free agents, there has been plenty of worthwhile options to pursue. Some of those names would have included Sebastian Joseph-Day, Foley Fatukasi, or Tim Settle but after these players signed elsewhere the Broncos landed former San Fransico 49ers defensive tackle DJ Jones. 

Agreeing to a deal that will pay him $30M over the next three years, Jones is exactly what the Broncos needed as far as buffering their run defense. To further build a rotation, the Broncos should not be done addressing the need though. 

Jones may very well be their most expensive addition but to build depth, the Broncos could use one of their top 100 draft picks or simply sign a lesser name to a more cost-effective deal through free agency. 

Noah Fant

One of the league’s fastest tight ends, Fant is the most valuable of the players traded, being so young with so much potential. 

Replacing Fant is tough because we have not seen the best version of him yet. At his peak, he could be one of the better tight ends in football.

Luckily for the Broncos, Wilson doesn’t throw to the tight end as often as one may expect, making it so Denver doesn’t have to replace Fant with a player of the same caliber, as the positional value there has lessened some as a result of the trade. 

In their quest of replacing Fant, the Broncos should address this need through free agency as the tight end position is one that often takes a while to develop.  

On the roster now, Albert Okwuegbunam looks to be next in line as a player ready to take the next step but there is still plenty of concern centered around his health and blocking skills, making depth even more so important. 

A player the Broncos could add and would make a ton of sense is Gerald Everett. Specifically, because he played with Wilson this prior season, racking up 478 yards and four touchdowns, and he also has familiarity with the outside zone scheme, playing under Sean McVay for four seasons before going to Seattle, where he played under a McVay disciple. 

Drew Lock

A fan favorite, many were heartbroken to see Lock’s tenure with the Broncos finally come to an end, but it was time. At the end of the day, especially after trading for Wilson, Lock at best is a backup quarterback, making him a not-so-valuable and replaceable piece of this trade. 

Currently, on the Broncos roster, the only quarterback they have outside of Wilson is Brett Rypien. This is an area the Broncos would be wise to invest more into but in a cost-effective way.  

While it is exceedingly rare to find starting quarterbacks late into the draft, the Broncos should take a swing anyway in hopes of finding a suitable backup to Russell Wilson or attaining a future trade piece down the road. This is a strategy we have often seen the Patriots deploy, drafting and developing a quarterback to the point where they have more value than when they were initially drafted. 

A name that stands out in this draft class is Kaleb Eleby from the University of Western Michigan. Much like Wilson, Eleby is an undersized, yet toolsy, quarterback that is projected to be a day three selection in this year’s NFL draft. 

Having a player like Eleby learn under the likes of Wilson could do wonders for his development, offering the Broncos a present-day backup, and future bargaining piece. 

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