Rumors are flying surrounding possible quarterback acquisitions, but let’s take a look at the new coaching staff as well as the current roster as we dive into the Denver Broncos offseason needs.
The Denver Broncos are ushering in a new era after hiring first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The new lead man in Denver began his coaching career at the ripe age of 23 years old, serving as an assistant linebackers coach at small college UC Davis. For the next decade he would bounce around from college to the NFL, serving in assistant roles on the offensive side of the ball. In 2013, he was named the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. He is one of the youngest coordinator hires (33) in the history of the NFL.
He remained as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo for two seasons before spending the next four seasons in Jacksonville, filling the role of quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator during his time in the Sunshine state. In 2019, the Green Bay Packers hired head coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur immediately knew who he wanted to bring in to help coach the offense, and Hackett leapt at the chance to coach a team with future hall-of-famer Aaron Rodgers. Hackett helped revitalize the entire offense, transforming the team back into one of the top units in the league en route to Rodgers winning back-to-back MVPs.
The franchise found a leader for the coaching staff, now they must focus their efforts in finding one for the locker room. They boast one of the most talented wide receiver groups in the league (when healthy), and Javonte Williams is on the verge of superstardom. Youngster Noah Fant is the perfect compliment for any offense, giving the team a mismatch most weeks at tight end. The offensive line definitely needs some help at right tackle, no matter who the quarterback is. They could also look to improve on the interior to help shore up the line.
On the defensive side, Denver is still formidable but will have to add some talent at a few positions to keep pace with their ever-improving division. The team brought in Rams’ secondary coach Ejiro Evero to head the defensive unit, hoping to add an aggressive approach that Broncos fans will quickly fall in love with. One major issue that the team faced in 2021 was a severe lack of playmakers. Evero stated upon his arrival that they will make a concerted effort to bring more explosive plays to the table.
The secondary is Evero’s specialty, and that aligns well with a depth chart that features a two-time all-pro at safety — Justin Simmons. First-round pick from 2021, Patrick Surtain ll, looks to be a star early on in his career. Ronald Darby is also serviceable on the other side, giving the team three pillars to build around. The front-seven contains question marks, though.
Linebacker lacks anything more than “solid” players, and after trading franchise legend Von Miller, the team has the oft-injured Bradley Chubb leading the way on the edge. Malik Reed played very well in 2021, but the team can’t rely on so much uncertainty at one of the most important positions in the NFL. The elephant in the room is the quarterback conundrum that Denver finds itself in the midst of.
Ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset, the franchise has been searching far and wide for his replacement. Teddy Bridgewater will never be a guy to take you to a Super Bowl, nor will former second-round pick Drew Lock. One would think that the teams’ No. 9 overall pick will be used to acquire a quarterback, or perhaps be included in a trade for an established veteran like Hackett’s former quarterback in Green Bay — Aaron Rodgers.
Is there a chance that general manager George Paton doesn’t go with either of these approaches? Instead opting to send a later pick for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo or scour the free agency market for Marcus Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky. I am not a member of the “QB Wins Matter” club, but it is worth noting that all three of those quarterbacks have taken a team to the playoffs in their career.
The only thing certain for the Denver Broncos in the 2022 offseason is uncertainty itself. Buckle up, free agency is only the beginning.
Denver Broncos Offseason Needs
QB, OL, EDGE, LB, DT, Safety
Impending Free Agents:
-LB Josey Jewell
-LB Kenny Young
-CB Nate Hairston
-DL Shamar Stephen
-QB Teddy Bridgewater
-TE Eric Saubert
-OLB Stephen Weatherly
-CB Mike Ford
-DL Cameron Fleming
-LB Micah Kiser
-RB Melvin Gordon
-CB Kyle Fuller
-CB Bryce Callahan
-DL Justin Hamilton
-S Kareem Jackson
-OT Bobby Massie
-LB Alexander Johnson
-C Brett Jones
Who to Bring Back
LB Josey Jewell – The Denver Broncos are going to have to address the linebacker position in free agency or the draft (or both). Baron Browning looks like a good piece going forward after a solid rookie season, but the rest of the depth chart is nonexistent. Josey Jewell is someone that Paton should look to bring back to serve as a glue piece for the group. Especially if the team goes young at the position, it would be a major benefit to have the steady guidance of Jewell.
CB Bryce Callahan – Callahan is an interesting decision for the team. He’s had injury concerns, but is still productive from the slot when healthy. With the frequency of starting slot defenders being available in the draft, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the team go with a more durable and younger option. I believe that he has enough left and would be more than worth bringing back on an incentive-based one-year deal, though. There are more pressing needs across the roster than slot cornerback.
RB Melvin Gordon – With the emergence of Javonte Williams as the season progressed, you would think that the team would be ready to give him the reins as the feature back. General manger George Paton stated recently at the NFL Combine that he would “love” to bring Gordon back if it made sense for both sides. I personally would not bring Melvin back, but he is very well-liked by the front office and locker room alike, so bringing him back on a short, cheap deal wouldn’t be the worst move.
OT Bobby Massie – This one comes with a caveat. If the Denver Broncos are able to find an upgrade at right tackle, they absolutely should make the move. In the event that they tie a lot of resources up in a trade, they may have to settle for a stopgap at tackle for the 2022 season. Massie is far from spectacular, but there are worse players out there. Again, he’s not someone that I would personally bring back as a starter but depending how this offseason goes, he could be the best of the options available.
Good as Gone
CB Kyle Fuller – After a surprise release by his former team the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos signed the veteran cornerback to a one-year deal. Fuller did not play particularly well in 2021, showing why the Bears were willing to cut ties. It is not impossible that Fuller returns to form, but with the secondary being such a strong point for the roster — even without Fuller — there’s no reason to throw more money at it. Adding a younger guy in the middle of the draft is a much better option.
QB Teddy Bridgewater – There is no guarantee that the Broncos land any of the veteran quarterbacks that they are currently being linked to. If they miss out, bringing Teddy back could present a realistic option for Denver. Settling for a quarterback as uninspiring as Bridgewater would not only send a signal to fans that the franchise isn’t serious about contending for a Super Bowl, let alone an AFC West title. I can’t say exactly what method they will take, but the Broncos cannot trot the same quarterbacks out in 2022 or the fans will start making noise — and not the good kind.