Despite major free-agent departures, Broncos earn average offseason grade
The offseason following a Super Bowl victory is rarely an easy one, and the Broncos have certainly been living proof of that in 2016, with the added complication of a backup quarterback cashing in to leave for good measure. The Broncos knew their price for their departing free agents, and weren’t going to budge to “keep the band together.” Another in-season extension (becoming a trademark of John Elway’s style of contract management) helped cushion the loss of Malik Jackson, with Derek Wolfe extending his stay in the Mile High City. Extensive losses in free agency saw the Broncos needing to recoup some of those hits in the draft, which they went some way toward doing, but with three starters owning PFF grades of 80 or higher lost, their work was cut out for them. A solid draft helps earn the Broncos a C+ grade for their post-Super Bowl offseason efforts thus far.
Offseason grade: C+
Acquisitions and retentions
OLB Von Miller, LB Brandon M. Marshall, OT Russell Okung, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Mark Sanchez, RB Ronnie Hillman, S Brandian Ross, S Shiloh Keo, WR Jordan Norwood, TE Garrett Graham, DI Jared Crick, OT Donald Stephenson
QB Peyton Manning (retired), DE Malik Jackson, LB Danny Trevathan, G Evan Mathis, OT Ryan Clady (trade) S David Bruton, QB Brock Osweiler, OT Tyler Polumbus (retired), TE Vernon Davis, LS Aaron Brewer, OLB Lerentee McCray, S Omar Bolden, WR Andre Caldwell, OT Ryan Harris
The departure of Malik Jackson and two quarterbacks who started during their championship run was tough to counter. The Broncos added to their difficulties by giving running back C.J. Anderson a low-restricted free-agent tender, forcing them to match an offer sheet from the Dolphins to retain his services for 2016 and beyond. At offensive tackle, the Broncos shipped out Ryan Clady and brought in Russell Okung; both have had problems with injury since they entered the league, with Okung’s form suffering in the last couple of seasons, even though he hasn’t missed much playing time. Ultimately, the prize of this offseason for the Broncos in free agency will be hammering out a long-term deal with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. A game-winner on the biggest stage, Miller is the centerpiece of a defense that carried the Broncos to glory last season, and a long-term deal is essential.
- Round 1 (pick No. 26) (from Seattle) Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
- Round 2 (pick No. 63) Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech
- Round 3 (pick No. 98) Justin Simmons, S, Boston College
- Round 4 (pick No. 136) Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
- Round 5 (pick No. 144) (from Baltimore) Connor McGovern, G, Missouri
- Round 6 (pick No. 176) (from Cleveland) Andy Janovich, FB, Nebraska
- Round 6 (pick No. 219) Will Parks, S, Arizona
- Round 7 (pick No. 228) (from San Francisco) Riley Dixon, P, Syracuse
Entering the draft, the Broncos were facing a quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian in training camp, so you knew they had to make an aggressive move to get a QB. They did just that, moving up five spots to get Paxton Lynch at the end of the first round. Lynch’s offense at Memphis may make for a tough transition to the NFL, but throws like this with the game on the line against the University of Cincinnati is what make the Broncos believe they have their quarterback of the future.
The Broncos’ strong draft wasn’t all about their quarterback though; the acquisition of Booker in the fourth round was a highlight, adding a natural fit for the Broncos’ zone scheme on the ground, while adding skills in the passing game that aren’t quite the strength of C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. Booker may yet carve himself a role as a rookie to augment the Broncos’ offense.
Where the Broncos stand
Denver’s offense will be a work in progress as a new quarterback is brought along and a new offensive line is patched together, but in spite of the loss of Jackson and Trevathan, the Broncos’ defense still looks suffocating. Whether in base or in dime, the defense is still stacked with talent at every level, and will once again ease the burden of the offense.