Free agency is almost upon us, which means the Broncos will have to make a lot of tough decisions in the coming week, 27 to be exact.

That’s the number of players the Broncos have with contracts that are expiring this offseason. There are also four more players Denver could decide to cut in order to save cap space.

Here’s what to expect from each and every one of those 31 players:


Top priority unrestricted free agents (Justin Simmons, Chris Harris Jr., Shelby Harris, Connor McGovern, Derek Wolfe):

You can make a strong case for why the Broncos should bring back all of these players, but given the market value each of them will command, Denver will have to be selective with who they re-sign.

Simmons is the lone no-brainer in the bunch, as an elite emerging safety that perfectly fits Vic Fangio’s system; the Broncos will find a way to make that deal happen.

Harris Jr. and Wolfe have been long-time stars for Denver’s defense, but it seems both are as good as gone. Wolfe has missed time in four of the last five seasons and Harris Jr. is coming off the worst season of his career.

Shelby Harris and McGovern have been valuable pieces in Denver’s trenches the past two seasons but it’s unlikely either return.

Top priority restricted free agents (Elijah Wilkinson, Mike Purcell, Tim Patrick)

Denver should bring back Elijah Wilkinson, Mike Purcell and Tim Patrick, and it would be pretty surprising if any but Patrick left in free agency.

Both Wilkinson and Purcell should receive high enough tenders to scare off any potential free-agent suitors. Wilkinson isn’t a starting-caliber tackle, but at the very least he’s a great sixth man on the line, and a move to guard could be best for him. Purcell transformed Denver’s run defense and should absolutely be brought back.

Patrick is the Broncos’ second-best wide receiver as of now, but the Broncos could be ready to completely overhaul the position. That being said, he still offers value as depth.

Rotational unrestricted free agents (Will Parks, Jeremiah Attaochu, Adam Gotsis, Cyrus Jones, Theo Riddick, Casey Kreiter, Corey Nelson, Devontae Booker):

Considering how little they contributed to the 2019 squad, it would be pretty surprising if Booker, Riddick, or Gotsis returned in 2020. The Broncos will want to bring back Parks, but he could demand starter-level money, which would be a deal-breaker for Denver. Attaochu should be another priority for the Broncos, but he could also look to capitalize after his red-hot close to the season.

Restricted free agents that could return (De’Vante Bausby, Brandon Allen, Joe Jones):

This group of free agents may hold the most questions of any. It seems like De’Vante Bausby will return to Denver, but will he be the same player after his grizzly injury?

The Broncos need a backup quarterback and Brandon Allen was fine last year, but is he good enough to serve as the backup, even though he has no familiarity with the new scheme?

The Broncos will have to determine the answers to the questions before re-signing this bunch.

Exclusive-rights free agents (Diontae Spencer, Trey Marshall, Davontae Harris, Jake Rodgers):

It would be wise for the Broncos to retain all of their exclusive-rights free agents. All Denver would have to do is offer them a one-year contract worth the veteran minimum, and they’ll be Broncos next season.

They all serve important roles, either on special teams or as rotational pieces and there’s no reason not to bring them back.

Disposable free agents (Dymonte Thomas (UFA), Dadi Nichols (RFA), Joel Heath (UFA)):

Whether or not the Broncos bring back Dymonte Thomas, Dadi Nichols and Joel Heath, it’s highly unlikely you would ever notice as a fan. The trio combined for a grand total of zero snaps last season (including special teams). Thomas has been a valuable preseason contributor, but that’s it.

Team options (Ron Leary)

If the Broncos were to accept the team option and bring Ron Leary back for the 2020 season, it would be one of the more baffling moves of Elway’s tenure, even despite the needs on the offensive line. In fact, he said the team will not be picking it up.

Leary is a deteriorating, expensive lineman that was easily the worst on a unit that boasted Elijah Wilkinson, Garett Bolles, and a rookie in prominent roles. Turning down the option saves the team $9 million and improves the team upfront.

Notable Cut Candidates

Joe Flacco: It’s long been rumored that the Broncos will look to move on from Flacco this offseason and with good reason. It would make sense to attempt to find a trade partner first, which would save the team $20 million, but it’s unlikely anyone else will want to take on his bloated contract.

That makes cutting Flacco the most logical solution, as it will save the team $10 million against the cap, and will free them up to find a more viable backup quarterback.

Jeff Heuerman & Jake Butt: Following the drafting of Noah Fant and the emergence of Andrew Beck, the Broncos don’t have much need for Jeff Heuerman or Jake Butt. Cutting Heuerman would save the team almost $4 million and moving on from Butt would free up $750K.

Bryce Callahan: It would be a bit of a surprise, but it’s not unreasonable to think the Broncos could move on from Callahan. If he doesn’t return well from his foot injury, Denver could save a little over $5 million by cutting the oft-injured cornerback.

Check back for Part 2 tomorrow!