We’ve made it to December, and before you know it, the NFL offseason will be upon us. That means the Denver Broncos will have to make several consequential decisions on players presently with the team, some of them in starring roles.
To preview the impending offseason and free agency, Pro Football Focus compiled a list of the NFL’s top-75 upcoming free agents and ranked them in order of quality.
The Broncos had four players make the list, but three of the four aren’t presently playing for the team.
Bryce Callahan is the highest-ranked Bronco on the list, coming in at No. 48. Injuries have long been the concern for Callahan throughout his career, but he’s still a remarkably talented player at a premier position.
That’s been no different this season, as he’s been on injured reserve since Week 8 with a knee injury. However, prior to his injury, one could have easily argued he was the Broncos’ best cornerback, even with how well Patrick Surtain II was playing.
Especially when considering Vic Fangio’s murky future, it seems unlikely that Callahan returns to Denver, but he’s certain to be a valuable addition to whatever team he signs with.
The other two Broncos listed that aren’t presently on the field for the team are Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, who rank 68th and 67th, respectively.
Fans have been quick to forget just how well Jewell and Johnson were playing early in the season, but the fact of the matter is, they were fulfilling a role very similar to the one Kenny Young has taken over, and they were doing it better.
The fact that Young didn’t make the top 75, while Jewell and Johnson — who have missed the overwhelming majority of the season with injuries, and who are either older than Young, or of the same age as him — made it, is evidence of this.
For Jewell, PFF highlights his tackling ability and intelligence, though they point out his athletic shortcomings and the fact that he might not be 100 percent at the on-set of next season.
For Johnson, they highlight his run defense and physicality, while questioning his coverage ability and his overall age.
The final player in Denver to make PFF’s list might surprise Broncos Country, as he’s the second-highest ranked Bronco on the list, despite facing a lot of well-deserved in-season criticism. That player is Teddy Bridgewater, who is PFF’s 52nd-ranked free agent.
“An accurate passer who teammates and coaches love, Bridgewater is a viable starter, but nothing more,” PFF wrote in their summary of Denver’s starting quarterback. “Any team chasing better than that will view him as a backup or a stopgap.”
That is far from a glowing review, which might leave some puzzled as to why Bridgewater makes the list, but don’t overlook the value of a mediocre or below-average starter. Denver’s defense has been worse on the whole than it was a season ago, the coaching staff has been atrocious, and yet they still have their best record through 12 games of the post-Manning era. Largely because they have their best quarterback of the post-Manning era, which says more about the carousel of ineptitude that Denver has experienced at the quarterback position than it does about Bridgewater.
Thankfully for Bridgewater, many other NFL teams find themselves wading through the quarterback abyss, and in those dark and murky waters, Bridgewater looks like a remote island paradise.