Brock Osweiler among Denver's biggest free agent decisions
The Denver Broncos roll into the NFL offseason with the Lombardi Trophy in hand, and while that signals a job well done for one year, it means little going forward. They now have a roster to re-assemble, and it begins with free agency—retaining their players, allowing free agents to walk, and maybe setting their sights on some new blood to join the team.
With that in mind, let’s preview the approaching free agency period through the lens of the Denver Broncos’ front office.
OLB Von Miller
Denver’s biggest issue is where to spend the money. They have multiple impending free agents in key positions, the most important of which is edge rusher Von Miller. Miller is the one player the Broncos must lock down to a new deal, and they may have to use the franchise tag in order to buy time to do it. Miller ended the season on an absolute tear, averaging 7.5 total pressures over his final four games, including the Super Bowl, where he was the game’s MVP. He will be looking for a contract that makes him the league’s highest-earning defensive player, and that puts the team immediately in a cap squeeze.
QB Brock Osweiler
If Miller was their only free agent, Denver would be fine, but they have several other key players hitting the market, and there simply isn’t enough money to go around given the contracts some of them will be chasing, even with the potential to open up significant cap space with a Peyton Manning retirement and another move or two. If Manning does walk off into the sunset, then retaining Brock Osweiler becomes crucial, even if his upside is still to be determined.
DE Malik Jackson
That leaves Denver with limited funds to make a run at retaining Malik Jackson, who will be looking for big-money after multiple fine seasons inside. Jackson is the priority here, but if the team can’t lock him down, then plan B might be to try and keep Danny Trevathan instead at LB.
DE Antonio Smith
Antonio Smith was brought in as a career specialist in inside pass-rush. He has never played the run well, but always generated consistent pressure. This was the first season since 2008 that he did not have a PFF cumulative pass-rushing grade in double-digit positives, and just 34 total pressures over his snaps this season were less than the team likely expected. Given the cost to retain him and the depth of the Broncos’ defensive roster, he is an obvious casualty.
TE Vernon Davis
The other player to jettison is TE Vernon Davis. Davis came to Denver in a mid-season trade with the 49ers, but did little to suggest he would be worth bringing back after the Super Bowl. He caught 20-of-27 passes thrown his way as a Bronco, but had the fewest average yards-per-catch of the three Broncos’ TEs and dropped two of the incompletions.
DE Jason Jones
Denver’s issue is too many players and not enough money, so they are likely to be a net loser in free agency. If they can’t retain some of their own players because of financial restrictions, they are likely shopping at the bargain bin if they bring in anybody. A player like Jason Jones could fill the specialist pass-rusher role that Antonio Smith had, and be a productive part of the rotation. Mis-cast as an end for much of his career, he enjoyed his best season as a pro inside as a 4-3 DT, notching 40 total pressures and three batted passes that season in just 678 snaps.