Name one team or GM who has done better to kick off the offseason than John Elway of the Broncos.
In less than two weeks, Elway has pulled off two terrific trades while addressing huge holes at cornerback, the offensive and defensive lines, and franchise tagged their most important free agent in safety Justin Simmons.
And it’s not just that he’s filled the roster voids with talented players, the way he’s done so has been quite impressive.
Elway initiated this wild offseason, getting a jump on the rest of the GMs by brilliantly trading for former Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye.
But it goes deeper; Elway traded away Emmanuel Sanders last year, in the final year of his deal, for a fourth-round pick from the 49ers. The Duke of Denver then sent that pick to Jacksonville for Bouye; Boo-yah!
Time will tell if Bouye is better or worse than Chris Harris, but given age and experience, it should be a relatively even swap.
Then, on Wednesday, Elway made another arguably better trade. He acquired the talents of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey for a mere seventh-round pick.
Casey should be well-known for his two-sack, one fumble game against Lamar Jackson and the No. 2 seed Baltimore Ravens in last season’s playoffs. Last year, he compiled five sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries from that interior position, which is phenomenal production.
And, consider Elway traded just a seventh-round pick for a stud like Casey; it was one of the best moves of the offseason so far. It was highway robbery!
Like Bouye replacing Chris, Casey will replace the other Harris, Shelby. After being a well-kept secret for years, Harris will be paid handsomely somewhere else.
How about free agent signings for the Broncos?
Elway addressed backup quarterback with the signing of Jeff Driskel on Tuesday and then waived Joe Flacco on Thursday. In total, the Broncos will gain just north of $8 million towards their salary cap number.
Also on Tuesday, the Broncos signed Graham Glasgow, a little-known yet highly-effective offensive lineman. Originally, when he was picked up, most believed he would play center. But, it’s recently come to light that he will be plugged into right guard, where Ron Leary has been let go. Glasgow is a great guard who can play on either side of center, or be the snapper himself. That versatility is important, and his efficiency — being called for only three penalties and giving up zero sacks lat year — means he will be an upgrade.
Along that offensive line, it’s hard to tell whether or not it will be better or worse on the whole; Connor McGovern left for the New York Jets which leaves unknown quantity Patrick Morris to play center. At least for now. Expect Elway to either sign a center in free agency (less likely) or draft one.
And now, onto the Broncos’ own free agents.
Justin Simmons was without a doubt the most-important free agent of Denver’s going into free agency, with Shelby Harris right behind him. Considering his youth and recent rise to stardom, Simmons was the perfect choice.
Franchise tagging Simmons means paying him $11.15 million this year. However, it’s really a move to keep him in a Broncos jersey and not allow another team to swoop in. Plus, he’ll get a longer-term deal later in the summer, which is Elway’s modus operandi. And, Elway helped the secondary a little more too, re-signing De’Vante Bausby to a one-year deal.
Besides just Simmons — who was named a Second-Team All-Pro last year — the Broncos placed a second-round tender on Mike Purcell, basically locking him up, too. If another team were to come in and sign the defensive tackle away, Denver would be compensated with a second-round pick.
Purcell went from unknown to unstoppable last season when he was given a shot by Vic Fangio; he was the No. 1 run defender in the NFL per Pro Football Focus’ grading system. He was also the 15th overall interior defensive lineman, edging out Harris by two spots.
Other tenders the Broncos have placed on their own free agents were on Tim Patrick, Dionte Spencer, Elijah Wilkinson and Jake Rodgers.
For the quick recap:
Traded for: CB A.J. Bouye, DT Jurrell Casey
Signed: OL Graham Glasgow, QB Jeff Driskell
Franchise tagged: S Justin Simmons
Tendered: DT Mike Purcell, WR Tim Patrick, KR/WR Dionte Spencer, OL Elijah Wilkinson and OL Jake Rodgers.
So, what’s next?
Elway’s done superbly so far, but there are still a lot of voids to fill. And, Denver has around $13 million in cap space per Spotrac, with another $10 million coming after June 1 thanks to Flacco’s deal.
The Broncos still need another starting cornerback (unless Isaac Yiadom will be that guy), they need another starting linebacker (Joe Jones?), more depth on the defensive line and at receiver.
Look for Denver to possibly sign another player or two, putting the cherry on top of this already great offseason. Then, Elway’s got to do what he’s rarely done before: Well in the draft.
John Elway has long been a master of the free agency period — he’s signed Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders and the list goes on — but he’s also reached too often in the draft. This year’s draft is crucial for the near future of the Broncos, so stay tuned.