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Chandler Jones

Broncos Should Target These 6 Free Agents

  • Justin Melo
  • March 2, 2022
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The Denver Broncos must win the offseason. General manager George Paton made a bold decision to take his Broncos in a different direction by relieving ex-head coach Vic Fangio of his duties at the conclusion of the season. Paton ultimately replaced Fangio with former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who will undoubtedly bring change to Denver's offensive philosophies and system. Hackett has spent the previous three seasons working for the brilliant Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. We expect Hackett to implement the wide zone-blocking scheme he experienced so much success with under LaFleur, and that should have an impact on the type of players Denver targets in free agency. Much of the Broncos' offseason will focus on their never-ending search for a new quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent and is expected to depart Denver in search of a new opportunity. Paton will likely attempt to land a new signal-caller via a blockbuster trade that could involve Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson. Paton's options in free agency leave much to be desired, so we'll avoid adding a quarterback throughout this mock scenario. Paton has plenty of other needs to address and more than $39 million in cap space to upgrade a roster that hopes to gain ground on the Kansas City Chiefs in the ever-competitive AFC West. With cap, team needs, pending free agents, and draft selections all put into consideration, here are three offensive and defensive free agents Denver could target when the signing period begins on March 14.


The unforeseen situation surrounding Ja'Wuan James created an unexpected hole at right tackle for the Broncos. Paton added Bobby Massie to the fray as a one-year stop-gap option during last year's offseason. Massie wasn't terrible in 2021, but he's on an expiring contract and the Broncos should look to upgrade at the position. Massie will turn 33 years old before the 2022 campaign kicks off and Denver can do better given the resources at their disposal. His best years are behind him. Morgan Moses is a high-level right tackle that would immediately fix Denver's right-side woes. Moses is a scheme-versatile talent that can play in any system, but his 2021 experiences especially lean nicely to this fit. Moses played for Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur last season, who is the brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who new Broncos head coach Hackett worked under for a number of years. Hackett's offense in Denver will likely be awfully similar to what the LaFleur brothers currently run in Green Bay and New York respectively. Moses would bring a much-needed steadying presence to this offensive line in the midst of a system change.


We continue retooling Denver's offensive line with the addition of the rock-solid James Daniels. Right tackle isn't the only position that requires immediate attention across this starting five. Paton must improve the interior offensive line for the incoming quarterback, or he risks allowing an underperforming interior to derail their offensive plans. LSU's Lloyd Cushenberry III and Kansas State's Dalton Risner have failed to take the desired steps forward at center and left guard, respectively. Both Cushenberry III and Risner are ascending players with the potential to salvage their young careers, but the Broncos must better protect themselves going forward by adding competition and proven performers to the interior. Daniels is a highly-effective and versatile blocker that could start at any of the three interior positions for Denver. Daniels was a high-level center prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft that has spent the majority of his professional career at left and right guard in Chicago. Daniels is an ideal fit for Denver's incoming zone-based attack under Hackett, and he especially excels as a run blocker. Sophomore ball-carrier Javonte Williams would love running behind an athletic mauler such as Daniels.


Melvin Gordon is set to become a free agent. Gordon has been an underrated and underappreciated performer throughout a two-year tenure with the Broncos, but the presence of Williams means Paton is unlikely to pay Gordon what he should command on the open market. The writing was on the wall for Gordon's future in Denver the moment Paton selected Williams with the 35th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Gordon should land more money, opportunity, and carries elsewhere. Williams is a budding superstar, but the Broncos would be wise to add a low-cost No. 2 ball-carrier via free agency. Overextending Williams would be a mistake, and Denver can afford to take a chance on a high-upside running back on a short-term contract. Marlon Mack is one of the more intriguing reclamation projects available on the open market. Mack is still just 26 years old and should now be past a devastating Achilles injury that momentarily put his career on pause. Mack offers little as a pass-catcher, but Williams is perfectly capable of soaking up those targets. Mack qualifies as a cost-effective, ideal change of pace back to Williams.


The blockbuster midseason trade of their franchise-leading sack-artist Von Miller left the Broncos with a gaping hole opposite Bradley Chubb. Paton has been vocal throughout the offseason regarding Denver's desire to make a sizable splash at the EDGE position. A reunion with Miller would be Hallmark-worthy, but Miller is likely to remain in Los Angeles as the Super Bowl-winning Rams attempt to run it back. Paton should still aim to land a big-time pass rusher. Chandler Jones certainly qualifies. The Arizona Cardinal is almost certain to depart the desert in free agency after routinely failing to reach a long-term agreement with general manager Steve Keim. Jones is one of the most productive and consistent pass quarterback hunters in the NFL. He has plenty of elite football left in the tank. Playing in a division alongside the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert is a tough trade, and places extra emphasis on making the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. Chubb remains an ascending talent despite being limited to just seven games a year ago due to an ankle injury. Adding a game-changer like Jones would remove some of the pressure off of Chubb's shoulders while providing him with more single-block opportunities going forward.


Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Nate Hairston, and Bryce Callahan are among Denver's unrestricted free agents. Fuller experienced a disappointing season after his reuniting with Fangio didn't go as well as originally planned. The usually steady Callahan missed several games with a knee injury and is now viewed as a declining player on the wrong side of 30. If we had to venture a guess on how things shake out, the underrated Hairston will return to man the nickel position in 2022, and both Fuller and Callahan will be allowed to explore offers elsewhere. The presence of Patrick Surtain II alongside Ronald Darby on the outside means the position remains in good standing, but you can never have enough corners, especially in the high-flying AFC West. The Broncos will likely make a depth signing or two at cornerback. Packers free agent cover-man Kevin King is an adequate backup that would encounter several familiar faces in Denver. King's career hasn't lived up to his second-round draft billing, but he's an NFL-level player that could benefit from a change of scenery. Hackett spent time with King in Green Bay, as did several of his assistant coaches, including new secondary coach Christian Parker, who spent the previous two seasons as a defensive quality control assistant in Green Bay.


Starting inside linebackers Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell are both free agents, as are reserve players Micah Kiser (restricted free agency) and Kenny Young. It's a situation that nearly guarantees change. One of Johnson or Jewell should be back in Denver in 2022, but neither player is particularly effective in coverage. Paton may search for more of a coverage-based linebacker in order to fill out this group. We keep repeating ourselves, but so much of what Denver will set out to achieve in free agency will be predicated on the fact they compete in a division alongside Mahomes and Herbert. Capable coverage linebackers are a must in the AFC West. Jayon Brown's career began so promisingly in Tennessee, but injuries and inconsistent play have derailed his previous two seasons. The emergence of David Long Jr. and the mid-season acquisition of Zach Cunningham made Brown expendable in Tennessee, and he'll almost certainly depart Nashville this offseason. Denver could fill out this position group with a one-year, prove-it deal for Brown who is aiming to return to prominence. Brown would immediately become one of Denver's top coverage 'backers, and signing him wouldn’t break the bank.

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Justin Melo