Opinion Time: What do you think of the Broncos’ free-agency moves so far?
What do you think of the Broncos' free-agency moves so far?
Dale Shrull, Sentinel sports editor
The good news is they have upgraded the offensive line. The bad news is free agency has been like flag football for the Broncos — no (left) tackle.
That’s still the No. 1 need and will now have to come via a trade or the draft.
I like the signings of Ronald Leary, a guard from Dallas, and right tackle Menelik Watson, from the Raiders.
They bring physicality and attitude, the same traits John Elway used to build one of the nastiest defenses in the NFL.
Denver also re-signed RT Donald Stephenson (insert head scratching here) under a restructured contract. He wasn’t good last year and might not even make the final roster, but this isn’t a bad move for depth and the fact that sometimes a mediocre lineman is as good as you can hope for.
DT Domata Peko from the Bengals and DT Zach Kerr from the Colts are nothing special but will help with depth. The run defense was Denver’s weakness last year and two new big guys should help.
A player still available that creates the most intrigue for me is Dontari Poe, Kansas City DT. His salary demands might be too steep for Denver but he would be an immediate solution to the run defense problems.
Tight end Jared Cook also intrigues me. It would be nice to add another athletic weapon to the mix but I’m not sure the former Packer TE would be money well-spent for Denver.
Denver might still trade Trevor Siemian (the Jets want him) for a quality veteran depending on what happens with Tony Romo.
The Romo drama continues to play out slower than a Tom Clancy novel, but he’s the one player who could make this a great free-agency year.
Think of this: The past 14 Super Bowl winning teams had a proven, experienced QB at the helm. Denver’s win-now mentality means that Romo remains the prize free-agency catch the Broncos need.
Matt Meyer, Sentinel sports writer
At least Denver escaped this ridiculous free agency period without over-paying for an offensive lineman. That’s a win for the Broncos. Russell Okung inexplicably became the highest paid left tackle in the NFL with a four-year, $53 million deal from the Los Angeles Chargers. His $13.25 million per year is $50,000 more than Trent Williams, the cornerstone left tackle for Washington. It’s more money than is made by Tyron Smith, Joe Thomas, Terron Armstead, Jason Peters and Andrew Whitworth, tackles who, by almost every available measurement, outstrip Okung’s production.
Reilly Reiff, Matt Kalil and Kelvin Beachum all got deals paying at least $11 million per year. With the exception of maybe Reiff, none of those guys are worth that kind of money.
For right tackles, Ricky Wagner (who?) became the highest paid right tackle in football, pulling in a five-year, $47.5 million deal from Detroit.
It’s fortunate, then, that Denver was able to sign Menelik Watson at right tackle for three years at slightly more than $18 million. That’s a good deal for a former early round pick who’s displayed solid blocking skills and a physicality that has been absent from the edge of Denver’s line for some time. It’s a good player for an acceptable price, and doesn’t come with the potential setbacks of sinking $53 million into a mediocre investment. I’d rather see Denver struggle at left tackle than be stuck with a decent-to-bad tackle at an obscene price.
Ronald Leary, at $36 million over four years, is an instant upgrade at left guard. He’s a talented, veteran presence and he isn’t overpaid.
Domata Peko and Zach Kerr give Denver some big boys along the defensive front and, again, they weren’t overpaid. There’s a common theme here, with John Elway refusing to sink large sums of money into mediocre players just to fill gaps in a lineup. If it’s not the right player, it’s not worth it for Elway. That’s something I like and respect.
I’d love to see more movement with Tony Romo, but the Broncos are stuck waiting until Dallas releases him. Otherwise, Denver has made additions along both lines and those were the biggest focus this offseason. It would have been nice to make a splashy signing at tackle, but not for that price. Hopefully one of these left tackles in the draft offers Denver a solution, although that seems unlikely. It might be another year of Elway selecting the best player available, regardless of need.
Rick Jussel, Sentinel sports columnist
Free agency in the National Football League is fluid, players coming and going in a long, slow procession from early March until late August.
One week into the signing period, the Denver Broncos have been — let’s see, how do I say this politically correctly? Oh, hell, Donald Trump is president and there is no PC! — asleep at the wheel!
In need of a left offensive tackle first and foremost, Russell Okung is now a Los Angeles Charger, Andrew Whitworth a Los Angeles Ram, Riley Reiff a Minnesota Viking and Matt Kalil a Carolina Panther. Those left tackles signed with new teams before Denver GM John Elway could blink on March 9, the first day of the signing period. Okung, whom Denver had hoped to bring back at a reduced rate, won’t be missed in Denver. The other three will be.
Sure, Elway did bring in a new guard in Ron Leary — maybe fourth or fifth in the pecking order of FA guards — and he brought in a new right tackle in Menelik Watson, but there is no real reason to believe either or both will immediately upgrade what was Denver’s weak link last season.
Ditto on the defensive side where bargain signings of tackles Domata Peko and Zach Kerr add beef, but questionable talent.
So far, Denver’s signings and Elway’s thinking have brought about one big collective yawn. But one thing to remember — and this is the key to the entire NFL equation — is that there is plenty of pocket change remaining in the Bronco pocket, close to $20 million. As Yogi would say, it ain’t over until it’s over.
Chris Magninie, Sentinel sports copy editor/designer
The Broncos’ free-agency signings have all been about adding more size and nastiness to the offensive and defensive lines. Last season, the offensive line got no push and therefore the running game was stuck in neutral, forcing Trevor Siemian to beat teams with his arm.
On defense, Denver’s line got pushed around, which allowed teams to run at will and negated the Broncos strength — Von Miller and the No Fly Zone.
With the additions of Ronald Leary, Menelik Watson, Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, Denver gets an increase in size and hopefully won’t be pushed around.
I’m going to focus on the addition of Kerr, who could be a bargain if he plays up to his potential. When John Elway signed Darian Stewart in 2015, he only had two career interceptions and averaged 40 tackles in his first five seasons. Since joining the Broncos, Stewart has four interceptions and has averaged 65 tackles per season.
If Kerr can make a jump similar to Stewart, the Broncos may have found their nose tackle for a bargain. Kerr has 5.5 career sacks, but his focus in Denver will be on keeping the running game at bay and occupying blockers for the pass rushers on third down.
The moves the Broncos have made in free agency haven’t been fantastic, but they provide solid depth at positions of need. Yes, the Broncos missed out on Calais Campbell, but Elway tried to lure him back to Colorado. Yes, the Broncos still need a left tackle, but Elway can still work his magic to trade for one or perhaps one of the tackles in the draft — Cam Robinson, Garett Bolles or Ryan Ramcyzk — can be the left tackle of the future.
If Denver can use its remaining money to continue to upgrade at key positions — stay away from Tony Romo — 2017 will be a successful reloading year.