Denver Broncos Rumors & News

Broncos Notes: Strausser, JPP

Despite being released off a defense that ranked 29th last season, Earl Mitchell logged an extensive street free agency tour before signing with the 49ers. After a Broncos offer to Mitchell was reported last night, the new 49er said the Seahawks also made him an offer, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (on Twitter), before he opted for the Bay Area. The Seahawks joined the Falcons as fellow NFC teams pursuing Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Texans and three with the Dolphins. This is his third four-year contract.

  • The Broncos lost an assistant offensive line coach who was affiliated with the organization for less than a month when John Benton agreed to become the 49ers’ O-line instructor. They plan to fill his position by bringing in a college coach of their top lineman, with former Boise State and Washington offensive line coach Chris Strausser set to succeed Benton, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Strausser coached Broncos center Matt Paradis — and Bears left tackle Charles Leno — during his time in Idaho before spending the past three seasons with the Huskies. Strausser has coached in college for more than 25 years; this will be his first NFL job.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul could also make it to free agency, although there’s a reasonable chance the Giants tag him. However, should he venture onto the market, Matt Mosley of the Dallas Morning News writes the Broncos or Raiders could be fits. Pass rush isn’t exactly high on the Broncos’ radar, with Von Miller and Shane Ray under contract, but it wasn’t two years ago when Denver drafted Ray in Round 1. However, the Broncos have plenty of greater needs and JPP could aim for Olivier Vernon-type money — which they don’t realistically possess. The Raiders play a 4-3 scheme but obviously have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin employed, so that would be an interesting fit.

Details On Broncos' Offer To Earl Mitchell

  • Before defensive tackle Earl Mitchell agreed to a deal with the 49ers on Friday, the Broncos offered him a three-year contract featuring a $4.5MM salary in 2017, reports Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). He ended up with a four-year, $16MM pact that includes $5.5MM next season.

Broncos Sign Bobby Richardson

  • The Broncos signed defensive lineman Bobby Richardson, as Mike Klis of 9NEWS tweets. The 24-year-old Richardson had brief stays on the practice squads of the Redskins and Chiefs last season. Prior to that, the ex-Saint started in 11 of 15 appearances as a rookie in 2015 and posted 40 tackles to go with an interception.

Broncos Could Pursue Andrew Whitworth

With the Broncos set to move on from left tackle Russell Okung, they’ll need to find a new blindside protector for their quarterback – whomever it may be – in 2017. Here’s some good news for that QB: The expectation is the Broncos will show interest in the best pending free agent tackle in this year’s class, the Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth, if he reaches the market March 9, reports Troy Renck of Denver7.

Andrew Whitworth (featured)

The Bengals are prioritizing re-signing Whitworth, who has spent his entire 11-year career with the club since it selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft. However, Whitworth is open to departing Cincinnati in advance of his age-36 season.

“I love Cincinnati and I want to be there,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday (via Conor Orr of NFL.com). “I’m pretty positive that things will work out in a way that I’ll be there again, but I want to take advantage of the opportunity of being free and listen to what other people have to say. I think that’s the right way to do it.”

Should Whitworth leave Cincy for Denver, it would be a major blow to the former and a significant boon for the latter. Whitworth, after all, has been both durable and effective during his career, having logged nine 16-appearance, 16-start regular seasons and earned three Pro Bowl nods. He’s now fresh off his second straight Pro Bowl campaign, having ranked as Pro Football Focus’ second-best tackle among 78 qualifiers in 2016. Whitworth made $9MM last season and would be within reason to push for a raise on a short-term contract in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Decline Russell Okung’s Option

The Broncos have informed Russell Okung they will not be picking up his option, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The option was technically for $1MM, but it would have triggered a four-year, $48MM deal with $20.5MM in guaranteed cash. Russell Okung (vertical)

[RELATED: Examining Russell Okung’s Self-Negotiated Contract]

Last year, Okung made the unusual decision of negotiating his free agent deal without the help of an agent. Although the pact came with the possibility of guaranteed money for 2017 and beyond, there was really nothing in guaranteed cash at the time of signing. If Okung had an agent at the time, it’s hard to imagine that he would have ever agreed to such terms. After all, even minimum-salary players often receive guaranteed $80K signing bonuses. He also put himself behind the 8-ball since agent-less players cannot interact with teams during the legal tampering period before free agency officially starts.

Okung bet on himself and his gamble did not pay off. Although he turned in his first-career 16-game season, the advanced stats at Pro Football Focus gave him a 73.5 grade, which placed him as the No. 38 tackle in the NFL last year. Okung drew a dreadful 55.0 score for his pass blocking, though his 79.7 run blocking grade was the 21st best showing in the league in 2016.

This year’s free agent tackle class currently includes Andrew Whitworth, Ricky Wagner, Kelvin Beachum, Riley Reiff, Ryan Clady, and other notable names. It’s not the strongest OT crop I’ve seen, but Okung ranks no better than the third tackle in this group in my estimation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Hire Chris Kragthorpe

  • The Broncos have hired former LSU assistant Chris Kragthorpe as an offensive quality control coach, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. In addition to spending time in Baton Rouge, Kragthorpe also previously worked for the University of Georgia.

Broncos Hire Charles Gordon

  • After just over a month as Denver’s assistant offensive line coach, John Benton is leaving to become the 49ers’ O-line coach, reports the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). Prior to his comically brief stint with the Broncos, Benton worked with front fives in St. Louis, Houston, Miami and Jacksonville from 2003-16. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan was with Benton on the Texans’ offensive staff from 2006-09.
  • While the Broncos are losing one coach, they’re also adding another, as the club is hiring former Northern Colorado defensive backs coach Charles Gordon as a defensive quality control assistant, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Gordon, who had a short NFL career with Vikings from 2006-09, had been UNC’s staff for the past three years.

Kuharsky: Todd Davis Could Have RFA Suitors

  • Within the same mailbag piece, Kuharsky adds Broncos RFA linebacker Todd Davis could have several suitors. The Broncos experienced an eventful RFA last year, placing a low-end tender on C.J. Anderson before ultimately matching a Dolphins offer sheet on their starting running back. Denver applied a second-round tender to Davis’ inside linebacker mate, Brandon Marshall, last season before signing him to a four-year extension later.

Latest On Broncos’ Offseason Plans

The Broncos will attempt to address their defensive line during the free agent period, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS. Former Dolphin Earl Mitchell is one candidate to join Denver’s front, and Klis reports Mitchell will meet with the Broncos on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Mitchell has a busy schedule, as he’ll visit the Seahawks on Monday/Tuesday, the 49ers on Tuesday/Wednesday, and the Falcons on Thursday/Friday.Earl Mitchell (Vertical)

[RELATED: Broncos Working To Re-Sign Kayvon Webster]

If Denver is able to sign Mitchell (who would play end in the Broncos’ 3-4 scheme), it will then focus on securing a replacement for nose tackle Sylvester Williams, per Klis. Williams, a former first-round pick, is expected to test the free agent waters on March 9. The Broncos are also interested in retaining defensive lineman Vance Walker, who missed the entirety of the 2016 after tearing his ACL, according to Klis.

On the offensive side of the the ball, the Broncos will target at least one lineman in free agency, reports Klis. Denver holds an expensive option on left tackle Russell Okung, right tackle Donald Stephenson is expected to be released, and the Broncos’ guards could also be upgraded. Denver’s offensive line ranked as just the league’s No. 24 unit in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus’ year-end rankings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DT Earl Mitchell To Meet With Broncos

  • Following his release by the Dolphins earlier this week, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has lined up a number of visits. According to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter), the veteran is set to meet with the Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons, and Broncos next week. Mitchell joined Miami prior to the 2014 season, playing in 37 games over his three seasons with the team.

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