Denver Broncos April Scouting Report
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that the Denver Broncos will face the Atlanta Falcons in the 2019 Hall of Fame Game on August 1. The game gives the Broncos an extra week of training camp and additional practices. The Broncos have appeared in the Hall of Fame game three previous times.
I have no idea what the Broncos are doing. Speculating on what John Elway's plan is feels pointless. The roster doesn't make sense. Elway has shown little ability to evaluate quarterbacks and seems to think the Broncos are in a better position in the league than they actually are. At best, Flacco is a stopgap until a better option can be found. Drew Lock could offer more upside than Flacco does and it make sense to look to the future. The loss of G/T Billy Turner and C Matt Paradis have exacerbated the Broncos’ need for offensive linemen. Denver has options but is limited by cap space. Elway, as he has done for 30+ years as both a player and executive, escaped a mess of his own creation by exploiting Washington’s glaring weakness with his trade of QB Case Keenum. Elway saved $3 million of dead money and saved $14 million overall with the trade, but the Broncos dead cap money is quickly becoming one of the highest in the NFL. However, offloading two-thirds of Keenum’s contract is a huge win for Elway. With the other moves that have been made, the Broncos’ 2019 salary cap figure is over $37 million. Getting a solid starting player (not QB) will cost Denver +/- $7M. Every position group except for outside linebacker could use remodeling. Elway needs to take long view; 2019 should be a transition year with an eye toward 2020. He needs to sign free agents because his own free agents may not be in his plans. The key for Elway will be to resist the urge to overpay on multiple free agents, which will create salary cap headaches. In free agency, teams get stuck and overpay. A building team like Denver has all kinds of needs and are desperate for players. But the draft is always the best answer, because there is no way to win if you’re always overpaying. In the first wave, teams generally plan on overpaying but they don’t have to significantly overpay. Green Bay's longstanding policy of structuring veteran contracts where a signing bonus is the only form of true guaranteed money (QB Aaron Rodgers is only exception) is a solid approach to free agency.
Signed Free Agents: Free agents tend to be signed by the teams that erred the most in predicting their true worth which is why free agent signings turn out so disappointing so often. ORT Ja'Wuan James $13 million per; $32M guaranteed; Teams were forced to overpay to get tackles who could start in NFL games. Finding a consistent option at tackle was worth it for the Broncos.
CB Kevin Johnson (31) $11M per &23M guaranteed; That is definitely steep, but the market is headed in that direction. It will be interesting to see where the Broncos plan to use him. The Denver Broncos have quite a bit of dead money this offseason, and Kareem Jackson helped ease the blow with a low 2019 cap hit. Essentially, this is a two-year pact with a solid option for both sides if things work out the first two years. CB Bryce Callahan $7M per $10 guaranteed.
TE Jeff Heuerman $4.5M per for 2-years.
DE Zach Kerr two years
Even with every prominent team need addressed, Elway will make a few value signings to fill some more holes and try to get some guys back that he wants back. $12.4M remains in the salary cap.
Lost C Matt Paradis; CB Bradley Roby; G/T Billy Turner; CB Bradley Roby; G Max Garcia; TE Matt LaCosse; OLB Shaquil Barrett;
Transactions: Won’t tender LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams; converted CB Brandon Langley to wide receiver; re-signed QB Kevin Hogan; waived first-year WR Jimmy Williams; singed their Exclusive Rights Free Agents S Dymonte Thomas, OT Elijah Wilkinson, LB Joe Jones, and WR Tim Patrick;
Combine Meetings *More than one meeting NC edge defender Malik Carney; TCU DL L.J. Collier; TE Drew Sample; Jose State TE Josh Oliver; OLB Jalen Jelks; DL Zach Allen; DL L.J. Collier; OT Andre Dillard*; QB Jarrett Stidham;
Pre-draft visits Fangio says not to read too much into the players the Broncos bring in for visits. "It could mean something; it might not mean something...". OT Dalton Risner*; QB Drew Lock*; QB Dwayne Haskins; TE Josh Oliver; DL Dre'Mont Jones; G Chris Lindstrom*; QB Clayton Thorson; QB Daniel Jones; QB Kyler Murray; edge Justin Hollins; WR N’Keal Harry; CB Isaiah Johnson; edge Ben Banogu; WR Diontae Johnson;
Denver Broncos’ 2019 offseason schedule
● April 2: Phase 1 of offseason program (conditioning)
CB Chris Harris did not report for the first day of the offseason program. He wants a new contract, but the Broncos don’t have the cap space in 2019 to change Harris’ contract. The Broncos will will move forward with Kareem Jackson, Isaac Yiadom, and Bryce Callahan as the top three corners.
Draft April 25-27 Picks (after Flacco trade): Round 1: 10th-overall pick Round 2: 41st-overall pick Round 3: 71st-overall pick Round 4: 125th-overall pick (from Houston) Round 5: 148th-overall pick, 156th-overall pick (from Minnesota) Round 6: 182nd-overall pick Round 7: 237th-overall pick (from Houston) There is good running back and receiver depth, difference-makers on the defensive line (RD 1), and overall depth on the offensive line. The value in the draft is in the second-round range for wideouts, (RD 2&3) and running backs (RD 2-5). Interior offensive line, defensive tackle, and linebacker should be the focus of a best player available draft for the Broncos. In a draft heavy in defensive talent, Elway will be tempted to draft a defender in the first round. In his previous eight drafts, he has used five of seven first-round picks on defensive players (2012 no first round pick, but in the second round he selected DE Derek Wolfe.
The Broncos have meetings set up with the top four quarterbacks in the draft. Fangio will evaluate the quarterbacks from a defensive standpoint knowing which type quarterbacks are hard to defend. His view on defensive linemen is that they "are interchangeable": "To me, they're defensive linemen. Period. End of story."
Orangeman’s Take: Denver’s coaching staff in 2019 is markedly improved from the last three years. While the Broncos may not have solved the quarterback position permanently, they have certainly addressed it in a big way. With Flacco, the Broncos have a veteran who has really seen and done it all. His experience under center in Scangarello’s offense and winning is what brought the 34 year-old to Denver. He only has to work this year for the Broncos, but he could play another 3-4 years. James, at 26, could play another 10 years opposite another first round pick, Garett Bolles. Elway isn’t concerned about the offensive line, but is always tring to upgrade it: Garett Bolles, left tackle; Ron Leary, left guard; Connor McGovern, center; Elijah Wilkinson, right guard; Ja’Wuan James, right tackle. The Broncos now have solid depth at cornerback. Harris can move outside as a true number one cornerback. Jackson’s versitility gives the Broncos a great number two/match up corner. Callahan is one of the best nichel corners in the NFL. Elite small receivers like Sanders stay fantasy-relevant longer (than 6’2+ receivers) giving Denver experience and leadership for its three young receivers. TE Jeff Heuerman solidifies the tight end corp. RBs Lindsay and Freeman are a dynamic duo. Building the culture Fangio wants happens "By improving the play." Fangio says "I think you just be honest with the players, be direct, make it simple and show them examples of how it should be done. If you can improve the player as a player, then everything else falls into place." The Broncos will start minicamp before the draft without RB Phillip Lindsay and CB Bryce Callahan. Both players will return for training camp.
The AFC West becomes more competitive with the Raiders adding WR Antonio Brown to KC’s QB Patrick Mahomes and his weapons in the passing game. Fangio thinks Flacco has a lot left and the offense is better than the perception. Flacco is an upgrade over Case Keenum. Lindsay’s wrist surgery was not minor, and he could have trouble regaining all of his wrist strength. Freeman will get his short-yardage touchdowns and has the upside for more. The safest time to draft Sutton is round eight. Monitor the offensive line as the Broncos’ season hangs on Flacco’s ability and his declining deep ball. Denver needs more talent in its interior. Sanders remains a question mark, so bringing in a field stretching wide receiver and tight end would be good. Denver improved its defense at cornerback, but needs a defensive tackle, and an inside linebacker. The Broncos need to fortify its roster with depth. The whole team is a work in progress and should be be drafted by fantasy owners with that in mind. At this point, the defense is the only fantasy starter.
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