Who Should the Broncos Target this Offseason?

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The Denver Broncos defense has a lot of young talent with Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons. The Broncos defense is anchored by veterans, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., and Kareem Jackson. The defense wasn’t necessarily the problem this year, as the Broncos ranked 10th in the NFL in points allowed. However, they did give up a lot of fourth quarter leads this season. However, their offense had quite the struggles throughout the season, finishing 28th in the NFL in total points scored. The Broncos inability to put up points definitely costed them some games as they shuffled through three different QB’s throughout the course of the season. However, it appeared that the Broncos have found their guy in first-year QB, Drew Lock. Lock led the Broncos to a 4-1 finish to the end of the season, with their only loss coming to the future Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Although the Broncos finished 7-9 (2nd in the AFC West), the ending to their season definitely showed some promise when it comes to what these young guys are capable of and the various things that us Broncos fans can expect from these guys in the 2020 NFL season.

The two biggest questions entering free-agency is where CB, Chris Harris Jr., and FS, Justin Simmons will end up? It appears that John Elway is headed in the direction of letting Chris Harris Jr. walk, as CHJ is asking for too much money. Harris also mentioned that he is going to be exploring his options, as this will be the first time in his career, since joining the Denver Broncos in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent, to actually explore his options. This will give CHJ the option to talk to other team and see what other teams really think of him. Justin Simmons, on the other hand, has yet to receive a contract extension, and that is something that is leaving us Broncos fans in question. He is a young guy who’s stats definitely backed up his style of play. Simmons allowed a team low completion percentage of 52%, when being targeted by opposing QB’s. In addition to that, he allowed another team low in QB rating. When Simmons was targeted, he allowed a 43.6% QBR to opposing QB’s. Chris Harris Jr., on the other hand, allowed a total of a 67.1% completion rating to the opposing QB, with a QB rating of 112% when targeted, which is a very high number for CHJ considering his stats in the years past. If the Broncos lose any one of those key players, it will certainly have an impact on their defense. They will need to add more key-players to their secondary to make up for the absence of any one of those guys. The Broncos have an available $62.1M in cap space, which could land them a couple of big name free-agents. All of that being said, who should the Broncos target in the 2020 Free-Agency market?

  1. Byron Jones – CB – Dallas Cowboys
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Byron Jones has proven himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL In 2018, he was selected as one of the members of the Pro-Bowl, as well as someone deserving of the Second Team All-Pro honor. Jones in 2019, was targeted 64 times, and only allowed 34 completions. He lead his team at 53.1%, when it came to completion percentage allowed to opposing QB’s. In terms of QB rating allowed to the opposing team’s QB, he gave up a QB rating of 87.7%. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Byron Jones is more of a zone coverage type of guy. Also, there were points throughout the 2019 season, where Byron Jones was playing safety, which is something he was not all that accustomed to doing. It does appear that Jones could fit well in Vic Fangio’s system. The Broncos tend to run a lot of man-to-man coverage. Jones should definitely be someone that the Broncos target in the offseason, assuming that Chris Harris Jr., departs from the Broncos. However, if CHJ decides to re-sign with the Broncos, this signing would be a big help for the Broncos, as CB’s outside of CHJ really struggled in the 2019 season.

  1. Darius Slay Jr. – CB – Detroit Lions
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Darius Slay Jr. has proven himself to be one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. He is not a free agent. However, the Lions are listening to trade offers for their All-Pro cornerback. Slay is a 3x Pro-Bowler from 2017-2019. He joins Jalen Ramsey as cornerbacks to be selected to three straight Pro-Bowls. He was also selected as a member of the First Team All-Pro team in 2017. Also, he is one of the best CB’s in the league, when it comes to passes defended. Slay was tied this season for 20th amongst CB’s with 15 passes defended. Since 2015, Slay leads the NFL in a total of 82 pass breakups. Slay was targeted 92 times this season, only allowing 52 passes completed (55.9%). His QB rating when targeted was 81.6%. Slay has proven himself to be one of the league’s best man-to-man corners. When it comes to personal preference, I would much rather have the Broncos target Darius Slay over Byron Jones. He would fit the Broncos play style very well. As mentioned earlier, the Broncos run a lot of man-to-man on defense, and this is a guy who excels in man-to-man coverage, his stats backup his play. What the Lions would want for Slay is not known but he would definitely not come at a cheap price. It would more than likely cost the Broncos a couple of draft picks, as well as a top player from the Broncos. If the Broncos want to hold on to their draft picks, it might not be smart for the Broncos to make a deal for Slay. However, keeping in mind that Chris Harris Jr. might be departing, this is a guy who could certainly replace Harris and play at a very high level in Fangio’s defensive scheme.

  1. AJ Green – WR – Cincinnati Bengals
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With recent news coming out about Green wanting out of Cincinnati, Denver would be a perfect landing spot for the 7x Pro-Bowler. Green has appeared in the Pro-Bowl for 6 straight seasons, with a couple of Second Team All-Pro honors (2012, 2013, and 2015). He would be a great fit in the Broncos system, with promising QB, Drew Lock. Also, Green would be paired with Pro-Bowl WR, Courtland Sutton. The Broncos need another great WR in their arsenal, to make them that much more stronger on offense. It is hard to deny that AJ Green is a great WR. However, he is very injury prone, only playing in a total of 9 games in the last two years. When AJ Green is on the field, he is an instant threat for defenses. The Broncos should target Green in the off-season. It would all depend on the type of money that AJ Green wants. It is also important to keep in mind that if the Broncos are unable to land a WR during free-agency, there is always the 2020 NFL Draft, where there are a couple of great wide receivers that the Broncos could certainly put on their radar. However, if they are able to land a wide receiver as Green, they would certain be that much more dangerous on offense, with young stars in Phillip Lindsay and Courtland Sutton.

  1. Jack Conklin – RT – Tennessee Titans
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As a lot of people may known, the Broncos offensive line have had their struggles during the season. Current RT Ju’Wuan James was signed to a 4yr/$51M contract in the 2019 offseason. However, he went down with a knee injury that sidelined him for the season, after playing just two games with the Denver Broncos. After James went down, the Broncos struggled to find a good RT to play that wouldn’t allow defenders to shed blocks easily and sack the QB with ease. Jack Conklin is a RT that the Broncos should definitely target in free-agency. Conklin was a member of the First Team All-Pro team in 2016. He has played in the league for 4 years and only has missed a total of 7 games, which all came in the 2018 season. Conklin is also someone who does not give up penalties very often, which is something that the Broncos offensive line has struggled with in all of 2019. Conklin has only received a total of 21 penalties in a total of 57 games. He is someone the Broncos should target and release Ju’Wuan James, as he is very injury prone. Also, not to mention, Conklin is a very good run blocker, and with Phillip Lindsay behind the line of scrimmage, running the ball in his direction could lead to very high success.

  1. Kelvin Beachum – LT – New York Jets
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I’m sure a lot of Broncos fans out there are really excited to replace current left tackle, Garett Bolles. Bolles is someone who caused the Broncos more frustration than anyone else. He gave up a lot of penalties this year, which became quite costly at times. The Broncos are in need of a new LT as well. Kelvin Beachum would be the perfect guy to replace Bolles. He is a free-agent for this upcoming season and although Beachum does not have any Pro-Bowls or All-Pro selections to his name, he is a very solid all-around tackle. This is a guy who has played in over 100 games in his career, totaling 45 penalties over his career in the NFL. Bolles has played a total of 48 games for the Broncos, racking up 32 penalties over his tenure with the Broncos. He racks up a lot of false start and holding penalties, which is very much costly for the Broncos. Beachum is someone who can fit in the Broncos scheme as well, he is a very well rounded offensive lineman, who would (hopefully) limit the penalties for the Broncos.

Wrap-Up

The Broncos are in need of a lot of positions in this off-season. Their starting Center is listed to be a free-agent as well. The Broncos are in need of a WR, CB, some offensive lineman and possible even a DT because Shelby Harris is a free-agent for this season as well. The Broncos could possibly use their draft picks to their advantage in drafting some potential studs in the draft, or they can use them in some potential trades for key players. The decision is on Elway’s plate and he hasn’t been the greatest when it comes to picking the right draft picks. Hopefully Elway can make the right choices and put the Broncos in a good place to succeed, and possible compete for a playoff spot this upcoming season.

Sources:

  • https://www.pro-football reference.com/teams/den/2019.htm
  • https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/dal/2019_advanced.htm
  • https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/2019_advanced.htm
  • https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/player-stat/defense-pass-defenses
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_Slay
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._Green#2019_season
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Conklin
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvin_Beachum
  • https://www.si.com/nfl/broncos/news/examining-how-denver-broncos-can-break-the-curse-at-offensive-tackle

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