Broncos Rumors

Extension Candidate: Bradley Roby

After spending the better part of Champ Bailey‘s 10-year run in Denver trying to find a quality complementary cornerback, the Broncos landed two during a 2014 offseason in which they cut Bailey. And for the past four years, no team could match the Broncos’ cornerback trio of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby.

This coming season will feature a different Denver secondary, however. The Broncos traded Talib to the Rams and signed Tramaine Brock to likely slide in as their new No. 3 corner. With Harris a proven starter, eyes will shift to Roby as he becomes a full-time first-unit player for the first time.

He’s entering a pivotal year for his future with Talib out of the picture. Likewise, the Broncos will see how their pass defense changes without Talib and will be eyeing Roby’s viability as a long-term cog. No extension talks have been known to have taken place this offseason. Roby’s salary spikes to $8.53MM on the fifth-year option, which is part of the reason the Broncos traded Talib and his $12MM cap number.

Denver’s right cornerback the past four years in sub-packages, Roby has both been a key presence on one of the best pass defenses in modern NFL history and enjoyed the odd distinction (for a former first-round pick) of being the third-best corner on his own team throughout that span. However, Roby’s held his own while teams largely tried to avoid Harris and Talib. In 674 snaps, Roby graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 25 corner last season.

The Broncos are still relying on their Super Bowl 50 core, but they don’t have much of a future nucleus in place just yet. Despite having an integral role on the 2014 and ’15 Broncos teams that made the playoffs, Roby at 26 would fit the profile as a player to build around going forward.

On one hand, it would make sense for the Broncos to initiate talks with Roby now to see if they can get him locked down on the kind of team-friendly deal Harris signed in late 2014. After all, he held the same role for four seasons to give the team a solid glimpse of his capabilities. But given the kind of corner contracts handed out the past few years, it would also be logical for Roby to bet on himself and hope he can firmly place his price into the eight-figure-per-year range with a strong season as a starter.

The Logan Ryan/Dre Kirkpatrick/Jimmy Smith tier ($10MM-$11MM AAV) would be well within range for Roby if he thrives as a starter, with a possibility of a climb to a slightly higher perch — on a 2019 cap that can be expected to approach $190MM — likely in play as well.

While a Roby deal would keep part of the Broncos’ corner cast together, the team would also would seemingly have to address Harris. The All-Pro corner has played on an incredibly favorable deal for the Broncos the past three seasons and would be entering a contract year in 2019. The 29-year-old former UDFA proved to be the Broncos’ most consistent defensive back when he, Talib and Roby played together. And if Roby receives an extension, Harris would figure to justifiably ask for more on his next deal — if it comes from the Broncos. Denver also drafted third-round CBs the past two years in Brendan Langley and Isaac Yiadom. This route would provide an alternative to a future with two high-level cornerback contracts on the books, but Langley struggled in limited time as a rookie and Yiadom has yet to play a snap.

Also complicating a Roby re-up are the walk-year statuses of Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett — PFF’s top two overall RFAs from this past offer sheet window — along with the Broncos’ projected $9MM of 2019 cap space. Of course, some of their veterans’ contracts become easier to shed after this season, opening up flexibility in the event the Broncos believe they can retain Barrett and Paradis. Considering Miller and Bradley Chubb are signed long-term, that might not be feasible if Barrett has a strong contract year.

Of course, with corners and edge rushers being Denver’s calling card post-Peyton Manning, ensuring two quality outside cover men are still on the roster after this season could be a high priority for a team looking to maximize an older nucleus’ primes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vance Joseph On Hottest Seat In AFC West?

ESPN’s group of AFC West reporters recently took a look at who was on the hottest seat in the division, among coaches, players, and executives. Although Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie‘s name came up a couple of times, the consensus seemed to be that Broncos coach Vance Joseph was the one most likely to be fired should he falter to early on this season.

Chris Harris Discusses 2018 Incentives

  • Chris Harris has some interesting incentives in his contract, one the Broncos adjusted this year. The standout cornerback’s been attached to an incredibly team-friendly deal the past four years, and the Broncos added $3MM in incentives. Some of those escalators can only be triggered by team success, with the six-, eight- and 10-win benchmarks representing possible six-figure bumps for the 29-year-old corner. Harris preferred that being part of his contract. “Last year was unacceptable as a team,” Harris said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required) in an expansive piece on Denver’s DBs. “This year I’m putting that in my contract to make sure these guys are on the same page as me, how I think on the field and prepare them for games.”
  • Jhabvala adds that Denver’s Su’a Cravens addition could threaten Will Parks‘ role more than anyone else’s. The third-year defender serves as a backup safety and occasional dime linebacker, and Cravens looks set to make a strong push to assume that role for a team that gave up a fifth-round pick to get him. The Broncos were said to view Cravens strictly as a safety, but the former second-round pick played a hybrid role with the Redskins in 2016.

This Date In Transactions History: John Lynch

John Lynch has had an enviable career in professional sports. He was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball draft by the expansion Florida Marlins, and he threw the first pitch in Marlins’ organizational history as a member of one of the team’s minor league affiliates, the Erie Sailors. His Sailors jersey resides in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a result, but he was later selected in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Buccaneers, and he is probably pretty happy that he ultimately chose to pursue football.

Lynch spent the first 11 seasons of his NFL career with Tampa Bay, and during that time, he established himself as an elite safety. He became one of the most feared tacklers in the league, and he was heralded for his leadership both on and off the field. His playmaking statistics leave a little to be desired, as he tallied just 26 interceptions and 13 sacks in his 15-year career (although he did not become a full-time player until 1996, his fourth year in the league). That could be one of the reasons why he is still on the outside looking in at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his play went beyond raw stats. He was always someone that opposing offenses had to plan around, and his work earned him nine Pro Bowl bids and two First Team All-Pro selections. He was also a key figure in the Bucs’ only championship, helping the team capture Super Bowl XXXVII.

Tampa Bay released the two-sport Stanford athlete following the 2003 campaign, and he was snapped up by the Broncos. Despite switching from strong safety to free safety, Lynch maintained a high level of play with his new club, as he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons in Mile High. He served as Denver’s defensive captain during the 2006-07 seasons, and on this day in 2007, he and the Broncos agreed to terms on a renegotiated contract that would keep him with the team for one more year.

He considered hanging up the cleats after the 2007 campaign, but Broncos owner Pat Bowlen convinced him to come back for one last hurrah. Even at age 36, though, Lynch expected to be on the field for every snap, and it became clear during the 2008 training camp that he would not be used in sub-packages. He ultimately left the team and was signed by the Patriots, though he never played a regular-season game for New England, which released him just a few weeks later.

Lynch formally announced his retirement in November 2008, and he subsequently enjoyed a successful stint as a color commentator for Fox. He was surprisingly named GM of the 49ers in January 2017, and while the jury is obviously still out on his tenure as an NFL executive, the early returns are promising.

Taking over a club in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, Lynch managed to acquire the team’s quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo last October in exchange for a second-round draft pick. This offseason, he (briefly) made Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history, even though the East Illinois product has played a grand total of seven games in his professional career. Lynch’s fate with the 49ers will, of course, be tied to Garoppolo’s, but he has done as well as could be expected thus far. Indeed, San Francisco is being mentioned as a fringe playoff contender, no mean feat considering the roster that Lynch inherited. And while the playoffs may still be out of reach in 2018, one more good offseason of work could get the 49ers back to postseason play.

This date 11 years ago therefore marked the beginning of the end of Lynch’s on-field career, but his involvement with the league after retiring as a player has been pretty notable in its own right. He is a member of the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor and the Broncos’ Ring of Hame, and he remains a viable candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And while it’s certainly too early to engage in these types of discussions, maybe he’ll one day get into Canton as an executive even if he doesn’t make it as a player.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Is AFC West Favorite?

The AFC South’s received some justifiable buzz about being perhaps the conference’s strongest division. However, for sheer intrigue, the AFC West might have that beat.

A credible case can be made for all four teams winning the division. Prior to training camp and preseason injuries, though the Chargers have already suffered a big one, this division can be categorized as wide open.

The Chiefs are coming off the only instance in franchise history of back-to-back division titles. They added Sammy Watkins to an explosive skill-position core, albeit at a lofty price, and return most of their improving offensive line. The obvious question will be the viability of Patrick Mahomes, the franchise’s first Round 1 QB investment since 1983 but a player who is replacing one of the NFL’s most risk-averse passers in Alex Smith. Will Mahomes be able to keep the Chiefs’ loaded offense afloat while he learns on the job?

Defensively, the Chiefs threw big dollars at longtime Cowboys starter Anthony Hitchens, poached RFA Xavier Williams away from the Cardinals and traded for Kendall Fuller to man the slot. However, the since-traded Marcus Peters profiled as one of the best cornerbacks in team history and was responsible for the most forced turnovers among any corner since he entered the league. Can the Chiefs, who have some injury questions affecting edge presences Justin Houston and Dee Ford, be expected to boast a sufficient pass rush?

Las Vegas views the Chargers as the biggest threat to the Chiefs’ crown, despite the franchise having not won the division since 2009. Los Angeles featured the only team in the division to end last season with top-12 DVOA offensive and defensive units. Philip Rivers bounced back from a substandard season and ended the year ranked behind only Tom Brady in DYAR. He now has Mike Pouncey set to block for him.

Derwin James joins a defense that houses the now-extended Casey Hayward and the dynamic Melvin Ingram/Joey Bosa edge tandem. While Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear deprives Rivers of one of his go-to options, an issue the Bolts have dealt with frequently in the recent past and haven’t taken any steps to remedy this year, Keenan Allen and Co. represent a promising pass-catching contingent.

Oakand plummeted from last season’s favorite to a team that purged its coaching staff. And the Raiders, after steady building under Reggie McKenzie since he took over as GM, set off on a different course this offseason under Jon Gruden. Some of McKenzie’s power’s been stripped, and the Raiders signed a slew of free agents. They took more risks in the draft and free agency than in the recent past, Martavis Bryant chief among them.

That said, the Silver and Black still have one of the league’s better offensive lines and a 2016 MVP candidate who suffered an injury last season in Derek Carr. This is likely the division’s most enigmatic team.

What needs to happen for the Broncos to rebound isn’t mysterious. Case Keenum must provide the kind of improvement over Denver’s previous quarterbacks that will justify a franchise-QB (albeit at just $18MM AAV) salary. The Broncos still have plenty of holdovers from their Super Bowl 50 team and managed to add Bradley Chubb and three offensive players — Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and DaeSean Hamilton — the team hopes will provide a better supporting cast for Keenum after featuring top-heavy skill batteries the past three years.

All of this said, the Broncos are entrusting the back end of some key players’ primes to Keenum’s out-of-nowhere breakout being legitimate. They passed on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen for a more immediate solution, so plenty rides on the 30-year-old Keenum.

So, who enters training camp with the best roster? Can Mahomes elevate the Chiefs to a higher level from the get-go, or will Smith’s exit be noticeable in 2018? Will the Chargers finally break through after a quiet offseason? Can the Broncos salvage what’s left of their championship core’s windows, or is that contending avenue closed? What do you make of the Raiders’ new-look depth chart?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Sign Rookie RB Royce Freeman

That’s a wrap. The Broncos have now signed every member of their 2018 draft class after inking Royce Freeman to his four-year rookie deal (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News). 

In accordance with his slot, the third-round pick will receive a signing bonus of $997K on his contract. As the No. 71 overall pick, he’s set to earn $3.46MM over the course of the deal.

Heading into the draft, Freeman felt that he deserved to be one of the top running backs selected. As it turns out, there were seven running backs drafted before him. Some evaluators believe that his 947 carries at Oregon worked against him, but Freeman doesn’t think his odometer should be viewed as a negative.

“I feel like all of that durability and all of those carries just reflected my productivity throughout my four years at Oregon,Freeman said in May. “It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries. I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back.”

The Broncos released C.J. Anderson earlier this offseason, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the leading candidates to become the team’s next top running back. However, Freeman’s durability and history of production suggests that he could see a big role right off of the bat. Recently, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said that Freeman “absolutely” has a chance to wind up on top if he has a strong training camp.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Broncos’ 2018 draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 Will Be Important Season For Paxton Lynch

  • Paxton Lynch has two more years left on his contract, and Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the quarterback’s longterm outlook with the Broncos will depend on his performance next season. While the team is unlikely to pick up Lynch’s fifth-year option, Klis believes the team won’t end up dealing the former first-rounder. After all, Lynch would presumably have little trade value if he sits on the bench behind Case Keenum, and he’d likely be too valuable for the Broncos is he makes his way into the starting lineup.

    [SOURCE LINK]

Top Broncos Executive Stepping Away From Role

A key Broncos executive is stepping away from his front office role. Mike Klis of 9News.com reports Tom Heckert Jr. is not working with the organization as he focuses on his health. The 50-year-old was diagnosed with a treatable blood disorder back in 2016.

“I’m going to take some time off and not work anywhere for a little while,’’ Heckert told Klis. “The Broncos have been great. They have gone above and beyond during my time there with my health stuff. I’m getting treatment and overall I am doing well.’’

The Broncos will now be left with a huge hole in their front office, as Klis describes Heckert as one of general manager John Elway‘s “top lieutenants.” As Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets, the move will leave former coach Gary Kubiak as the “lone senior personnel advisor” on the staff.

Heckert has been working in the NFL since 1991, when he started working as a pro and college scout. The executive ended up spending 10 years with the organization, eventually rising to the role of director of pro personnel. He eventually moved on to the Eagles organization, where he spent four years as the team’s general manager. The Eagles made the playoffs during three of those four seasons, including a 2008 campaign that saw the team losing in the conference championship. After spending a brief time as the Browns general manager, he eventually joined the Broncos staff back in 2013.

During his nearly 30 years in the NFL, Heckert’s teams have earned 17 playoff appearances, three conference championship appearances, and one Super Bowl championship.

Poll: Who Will Be The First Coach To Get Fired This Season?

It’s a new year for every coach in the NFL, but not every coach will survive the year. Already, there’s speculation about which coaches could be on the hot seat in 2018. Some coaches with shaky job security may include:

  • Hue Jackson, Browns: Jackson is the oddsmaker’s favorite to lose his job first. After compiling a 1-31 record in his two seasons at the helm in Cleveland, it’s hard to argue with the professionals. Jackson certainly has more talent to work with thanks to the arrivals of running back Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and a vastly improved secondary, but along with that comes raised expectations. When also considering that Jackson is a holdover from the previous regime and not necessarily the preferred choice of new GM John Dorsey, it’s quite possible that Jackson could be ousted with another bad start.
  • Adam Gase, Dolphins: When Gase was hired in 2016, he was the league’s youngest head coach at the age of 38. He earned a playoff appearance in his first year on the sidelines, but last year turned ugly after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season and replaced by Jay Cutler. Tannehill’s return should help matters, but it’s fair to wonder whether this team has improved much at all after losing Ndamukong Suh on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins’ early schedule may also hurt Gase as they open against the Titans, Jets, Raiders, and Patriots. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dolphins split those games, like they did in 2017, but it’s also conceivable that they could open the year 0-4. As you can probably guess, an 0-4 start is historically difficult to climb out from. Of the 117 teams that have started 0-4 in the 16-game era, the ’92 Chargers are the ones to have reached the postseason with with an 11-win campaign. The 2004 Bills and the 2017 Chargers both rallied to win nine games, but neither club reached the playoffs.
  • Marvin Lewis, Bengals: The Lewis saga took some weird twists and turns last season. In the midst of a second-straight season without a playoff appearance, there was speculation about Lewis’ job security. Then, in December, we started hearing rumblings that Lewis might leave the Bengals to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Ultimately, Lewis was signed to a two-year extension to, theoretically, keep him under contract for his 16th and 17th seasons in Cincinnati. Lewis has avoided lame duck status for 2018, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll survive the year if the Bengals falter.
  • Vance Joseph, Broncos: Joseph was nearly axed after the 2017 season before John Elway ultimately decided to retain him. The Broncos’ defense is still jam-packed with talent and they have a capable quarterback in Case Keenum, so anything short of a playoff appearance will be a disappointment in Denver. This will be Joseph’s second season at the helm in Denver, but it’s clear that he is under pressure it win.
  • Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: Koetter was already believed to be on the hot seat but he was placed squarely behind the 8-ball last week when quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the season. Even if the Bucs come out of September unscathed, they’ll be up against an overall schedule that is the fourth-toughest in the NFL, based on the combined win percentage of opponents in 2017.

The list goes on from there. Jay Gruden (Redskins), Todd Bowles (Jets), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), John Harbaugh (Ravens), and Ron Rivera (Panthers) could also be in varying degrees of jeopardy with disappointing seasons. We’d be surprised to see a quick hook for Garrett, Harbaugh, or Rivera no matter what happens, but you may feel differently.

Click below to make your pick for who will be the first to get the axe. Then, you can head to the comment section to back up your choice.

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