The 2021 NFL season kicks off with a free agency frenzy, with many household names heading to new cities, including Joe Thuney to Kansas City, Matthew Judson to New England, and A.J. Green to Arizona. For Broncos fans, while they have witnessed an interesting, yet active first week of free agency. Have the Broncos upgraded or downgraded from these moves? Has George Paton given Broncos fans hope for next season?
March 15th: Broncos Re-Sign DE Shelby Harris To A Long-Term Deal
A highly anticipated Denver Broncos’ move came on Day 1 of free agency, with veteran defensive end Shelby Harris re-signing on a 3-year deal worth up to $27 million. Paton gets away from with an underrated move as this is an underpayment for a guy of Harris’s caliber. Harris totaled 7 passes defended along with 2.5 sacks and 32 total tackles. It is safe to say that he’s a crucial part of this defensive line and was well deserving of a long-term contract.
March 15th: Broncos Address Need At CB By Signing Ronald Darby
At the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Season, Denver needed to address their lack of talent at the cornerback position. So, Denver went all in on former Washington and Eagles’ cornerback Ronald Darby, paying him $30 million over the course of his 3-year deal. This is a signing that most Broncos fans are very satisfied with, as Darby fits perfectly in Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme. He’s a very physical corner that excels in breaking up passes. However, some have approached the Darby signing with caution. He commonly bites on double moves, can get out ran by speedy receivers, and has recently failed to stay healthy consistently. In my opinion, I’m satisfied with this addition, but haven’t set an exaggerated expectation of him.
March 15th: Broncos Place Tenders On Phillip Lindsay, Alexander Johnson, And Tim Patrick
As you can see, Paton was active during the beginning of free agency, placing tenders (commonly used on quality restricted free agents) on restricted free agents Phillip Lindsay, Alexander Johnson, and Tim Patrick. Paton placed a 2nd-round tender on Alexander Johnson and Tim Patrick, essentially assuring that Johnson and Patrick would return to Denver in 2021. On the other hand, Phillip Lindsey was given an original round tender, which is the lowest tender one can place on a player. This tender would mean that a team would need to give up nothing to sign Lindsay but the Broncos would have the option to match any offer that is presented to Phillip Lindsay. This move increases the likeliness of Lindsay departing from the Broncos and moving on to a new team.
March 16th: Broncos Pick Up Star OLB Von Miller’s Club Option Keeping Him For 2021
While it is safe to say that Von Miller will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was not as safe to say what uniform Miller would wear after the tumultuous end to his 2020 season. There was major controversy over Von Miller. Should Denver let him go or keep him? He provides leadership, and is a tenacious intimidator that consistently drew double teams. On the flip side, his recent injury may cause him to regress, as he turns 32 in March of 2021. Denver currently has solid pass rushers in Malik Reed and Bradley Chubb, and Miller would come with a heavy price tag. In the end, Denver elected to keep the former Super Bowl champion around for another year. Will Von be a Denver Bronco for life? We don’t know. Will he be a Denver Bronco in 2021? Definitely. Will he revert back to the prime version of himself? Hopefully. To say the least, Broncos fans are ecstatic to see the legendary Von Miller back in action.
March 18th: George Paton Signs His First Former Viking: RB Mike Boone
With the upcoming departure of Phillip Lindsay becoming a likely scenario, Denver was in need of a depth running back. For Paton, his answer came from his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, signing Mike Boone to a 2-year deal. Many believe that Boone isn’t a suitable replacement for Lindsay and many believe that Boone doesn’t have to necessarily be a “replacement” for Lindsay but a quality backup. Overall, I’m a fan of this move and I believe, based on watching Boone’s film and reading over his career statistics, that Boone will be a great depth piece behind Melvin Gordon.
March 19th: Broncos Finally Give Justin Simmons The Long-Term Deal He Deserves
It finally happened! The Denver Broncos finally payed Justin Simmons a 4-year deal worth $61 million. Simmons has been nothing shy of elite in his 4-year career with Denver. Now, we get to see 4 more years of Simmons. He stated himself that he hasn’t even played his best football yet and that the best is yet to come. Simmons totaled 5 interceptions along with 96 total tackles in 2020. He made his first Pro-Bowl in 2020 but questionably fell short of making an All-Pro team. Every Denver Broncos fan should be excited about this move, as Simmons is among the top safeties in the NFL, and is arguably the best Broncos player, and to the liking of every Broncos fan locked in until 2025.
March 19th: Broncos Mutually Part Ways With The “Colorado Kid”, Phillip Lindsay
It was bound to happen when Denver placed an original round tender on him, but the Broncos and Phillip Lindsay officially decided to mutually part ways. Lindsay was a 2-time 1,000-yard rusher and was undrafted out of the University of Colorado that immediately provided explosiveness from day one of his time in Denver. He will be headed to the Houston Texans in a backfield that includes himself, David Johnson, and Mark Ingram. Lindsay and the Broncos went on to have many great memories together and as a fan, I will miss him deeply. In the end, this is a very saddening departure for Broncos fans, but we wish nothing but the best for Lindsay in the future.
March 21st: Broncos Land Former All-Pro CB Kyle Fuller
On the last day of the first week of free agency, they signed former All-Pro Kyle Fuller. He was obviously a well-known player to Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio as the two were together on the Chicago Bears in 2017 and 2018. With Chicago, Kyle Fuller totaled 19 interceptions, 82 passes defended, and 390 total tackles. In 2018, Fuller allowed a 63.7 passer rating, which is among other elite corners, such as Jalen Ramsey (76.4), Stephon Gilmore (73.9), and Richard Sherman (92.6). Kyle Fuller played in 96 games with the Bears and hasn’t been very injury prone other than an injury he suffered that kept him out of the entirety of the 2016 season. Fuller will fit greatly in Fangio’s defensive scheme and will join a cornerback room that consists of the newly acquired Ronald Darby, rookie Michael Ojemudia, star slot corner Bryce Callahan, and the undrafted and underrated Essang Bassey. With this addition to the team, the position of cornerback turned from a desperate need into a notable strength. Well done George Paton.
Obviously, the majority of free agent acquisitions have been on the defensive side of the ball. With their major defensive needs being filled prior to the draft, the Broncos have given themselves flexibility when drafting. Cornerback is no longer a 1st-round need, safety is no longer a high-round need, among other things. They can trade up to try and draft a quarterback in Justin Fields or Trey Lance. They can trade back into the teens and draft the likes of Notre Dame linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, or they can go further back and take Zaven Collins out of Tulsa. It will be extremely difficult for the Broncos to go wrong, and with the strong moves that Paton has made, they have opened up endless possibilities for the Broncos.