Broncos Rumors

Peyton Manning Not Currently Considering NFL Ownership

When bids were coming in on the Broncos, Peyton Manning‘s name frequently came up. The Hall of Fame quarterback was mentioned by several prospective bidders as someone a buyer would include in the new ownership group, one of them being the winner of the bidding process (Rob Walton).

However, Manning is not currently involved in the team’s operations despite previously mentioning interest in a Broncos ownership role. Walton mentioned both Manning and fellow Broncos Super Bowl winner John Elway as candidates to take on a position of some kind upon the beginning of his tenure as owner. The latter remained with the organization until recently, but the former is not actively seeking out a role.

“I don’t think that’s anywhere on my radar by any means,” Manning said when asked about future ownership or other front office responsibilities (via Parker Gabriel of the Denver Post). “I love being an ambassador for the Broncos and for the Colts, for the University of Tennessee. Obviously, living here I get to go to all the Broncos games. I was out at the facility the other day… I still have my key fob from when I played.

“I still feel an attachment and have really enjoyed getting to know the Walton-Penner family as well. But as far as running a team, I don’t think that’s on my radar.”

Manning’s attention is currently aimed on his post-playing media endeavors, which have proven to be rather fruitful. His Omaha Productions company has a long-term agreement in place with ESPN, and he and brother Eli will again take part in the ManningCast this season. He is thus on track to remain in Denver (where he played four seasons to close out his career) in his current situation for the foreseeable future.

Walton brought on a number of notable names to join his ownership group, including former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. Manning would of course represent another high-profile addition if he were to come aboard. That should not be expected any time soon, though.

Latest On Broncos’ Center Competition

The cap-strapped Broncos saw one of last year’s top offensive performers, center Lloyd Cushenberry, sign with the Titans in free agency, leaving Denver with a major question mark at the pivot as it ushers in yet another new era at quarterback. 2022 fifth-rounder Luke Wattenberg will certainly have a chance to become the club’s starting center, but as Ryan McFadden of the Denver Post writes, the Broncos are also high on 2023 seventh-round selection Alex Forsyth.

McFadden says that the team views Forsyth as a potential starting-caliber center, which jibes with the comments that GM George Paton made on the matter earlier this year. Forsyth’s candidacy is buttressed by the fact that he served as the snapper for quarterback Bo Nix, the No. 12 overall selection in this year’s draft, when the two were at Oregon in 2022.

Wattenberg, meanwhile, started 16 games at center while in college, but he has played sparingly in his two years in the professional ranks, with most of his reps coming at the guard positions. And though his 129 total snaps certainly qualify as a small sample size, he has not played particularly well in that limited action.

The Broncos did sign Sam Mustipher to a one-year contract in April, and he has the experience that Forsyth and Wattenberg lack, having played 52 games (42 starts) in the NFL. He served as the Bears’ full-time pivot from 2021-22, but the fact that he was non-tendered by Chicago last year and had to settle for a one-year pact with the Ravens — and the fact that he did not even crack Baltimore’s initial 53-man roster — underscores his middling performance in the Windy City. The soon-to-be 28-year-old blocker did start two games for the Ravens last season in relief of the injured Tyler Linderbaum, and he performed reasonably well as a stopgap.

As McFadden notes in a separate piece, Wattenberg was working with the first-team offense in OTAs earlier this week, while Forsyth worked with the second unit. Still, the center competition in Denver appears to be wide open, despite the fact that Forsyth did not see any action at all in his rookie campaign. Sooner rather than later, Nix will take the reins at quarterback, and there is a good chance he will have a familiar face snapping him the ball.

Poll: Which Team Is Chiefs’ Top AFC Threat?

Representation in Super Bowls has not stretched wide in the AFC over the past decade. Since 2013, all of four franchises — the Broncos, Patriots, Chiefs and Bengals — have represented the conference in Super Bowls. The NFC in that span has produced seven Super Bowl entrants.

Since 2001, QB-driven graphics regarding Super Bowl participation primarily feature four faces — those of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes. An AFC team employing a QB outside that quartet has only reached the Super Bowl three times (2002 Raiders, 2012 Ravens, 2021 Bengals) in 24 seasons. As the NFC has rolled out 21 Super Bowl QB starters since Brady’s first appearance, it has been quite difficult for outsiders to forge a path in the AFC.

This space used to ask which team was best positioned to KO the Patriots in the AFC. The Chiefs ended up getting there, first loading up around Mahomes’ rookie contract before assembling a low-cost (but highly effective) defense to help a team suddenly limited — beyond the Mahomes-Travis Kelce connection’s enduring brilliance — following the Tyreek Hill trade. As the Chiefs aim to become the first team since the mid-1960s Packers to threepeat (part one of Green Bay’s offering occurred before the Super Bowl era), which conference challenger is best built to disrupt their path back?

The AFC North appears a good place to start. The Ravens open the season with an Arrowhead Stadium trek and held the AFC’s No. 1 seed last season. Lamar Jackson skated to MVP honors, and Mike Macdonald‘s defense led the league in scoring. But familiar issues resurfaced for the team in the AFC championship game. An oddly pass-focused Baltimore effort ground to a halt, as Jackson committed two turnovers. Macdonald has since departed — the first Ravens coordinator to leave for a head coaching job since Gary Kubiak in 2015 — and ex-Baltimore linebacker Zach Orr moved into the DC post. The team also lost three starters up front. Although quiet in free agency (in terms of outside hires) beyond the splashy Derrick Henry addition, the Ravens added likely cornerback starter Nate Wiggins in Round 1 and kept Justin Madubuike off the market via the franchise tag and a quick extension.

Cincinnati has shown superior mettle against Kansas City since Joe Burrow‘s arrival, beating the Chiefs thrice in 2022 before falling as both teams battled key injuries in the January 2023 AFC title game. The Bengals losing Burrow in November removed a key obstacle in the Chiefs’ path, but the NFL’s highest-paid player is back. The team also retained Tee Higgins, being the only team left to have a player on the tag, and added new tackles in Trent Brown and Amarius Mims to join Orlando Brown Jr. The team revamped its safety corps by bringing back Vonn Bell and adding ex-Raven Geno Stone. Not many glaring issues are present in Cincinnati’s lineup, with longer-term matters — the receiver situation chief among them — the top roster storylines here.

Creeping into the playoffs despite a host of high-profile injuries on offense, the Browns showed their roster strength by shrugging off the injuries to Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb and their tackles. Cleveland acquired Jerry Jeudy via trade and then extended him, and other than adding some Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah supporting pieces at linebacker, returns the starters from a No. 1-ranked pass defense. Watson’s struggles, for the most part, since arriving via trade will continue to define where the Browns can venture.

Although the Bills parted with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, looking past Buffalo — a four-time reigning AFC East champion that defeated the Chiefs in three straight seasons in Kansas City — would probably be a mistake. The Bills made some cost-cutting moves, most notably disbanding its seven-year safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer (though Hyde remains in play to return), and saw concerning form from Von Miller following his second ACL tear. The Bills also lost Leonard Floyd in free agency. Focus will understandably be aimed at Buffalo’s WR crew, which now houses Curtis Samuel, second-rounder Keon Coleman and ex-Chief Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who certainly places a premium on QB talent). The Chiefs’ issues staffing their wideout spots last year provided a lingering problem; will the Bills make a higher-profile addition down the line?

With their backs to the wall, the Joe DouglasRobert Saleh regime will count on Aaron Rodgers belatedly delivering. The duo may or may not have attempted to strip power from OC Nathaniel Hackett, who is coming off a brutal two-year stretch. The Jets effectively replaced Bryce Huff with a more proven rusher in Haason Reddick and added Mike Williams as a supporting-caster on offense. The team will hope its pair of 33-year-old tackles — Tyron Smith, Morgan Moses — holds up, while Olu Fashanu looms as a long term tackle piece and potential short-term guard. Can the Jets do enough offensively to capitalize on their defensive nucleus of the past two seasons?

The Texans sit as a fascinating piece of this puzzle, given their outlook going into the first three seasons of Nick Caserio‘s GM tenure. After low-key offseasons from 2021-23, Houston added Diggs and a few notable defenders to the DeMeco Ryans-led roster. Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry join ex-Ryans 49ers pupil Azeez Al-Shaair as key defensive additions. Although Diggs struggled down the stretch in his final Bills season, he certainly played a lead role in elevating Josh Allen‘s stature. The Texans, who have C.J. Stroud on a rookie deal through at least 2025, will hope the Pro Bowler pairs well with Nico Collins and the returning Tank Dell.

Miami and Jacksonville’s roster equations figure to change soon, as respective extension talks with Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are ongoing. The Dolphins have faded badly under Mike McDaniel and did not seriously threaten the Chiefs in a frigid wild-card game, though they have obviously shown elite offensive capabilities in the right environment. Handing the play-calling reins to OC Press Taylor in 2023, the Jaguars did not build on a strong 2022 finish. The Steelers also present one of the highest floors in NFL history, and they have upgraded at quarterback by adding two options — in Justin Fields and likely starter Russell Wilson. But they also have not won a playoff game since the six-field goal offering against the Chiefs — a game that represented the final shove for Kansas City to trade up for Mahoemes — seven years ago.

The Texans emerged from the NFL’s basement last season. Is there a stealth contender lurking? The Chiefs’ division does not look particularly imposing, once again, though Jim Harbaugh now overseeing Justin Herbert is certainly an interesting development. The national championship-winning HC has authored turnarounds everywhere he has gone.

No team has qualified for five Super Bowls in a six-year period, and none of the Super Bowl era’s threepeat efforts have reached the final stage; the 1990 49ers came closest, losing on a last-second field goal in the NFC title game. Who is poised to be the best Chiefs deterrent on their path to a threepeat? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your AFC thoughts in the comments section.

Latest On Broncos WR Tim Patrick, TE Greg Dulcich

Two of this decade’s most injury-prone players, Tim Patrick and Greg Dulcich are attempting to shake off two seasons sidetracked by maladies. In Patrick’s case, injuries kept him off the field throughout the Broncos’ Russell Wilson era.

Patrick suffered season-nullifying injuries during the Broncos’ past two training camps, going down with a torn ACL in 2022 and an Achilles tear last summer. Patrick was expected to be a key possession receiver for Wilson, but with the team bailing — at a historic cost — on the QB’s extension it authorized in 2022, the 6-foot-4 target now looms as a wild card of sorts for a regrouping Denver squad.

[RELATED: Latest On Broncos, WR Courtland Sutton]

The Broncos’ OTA workouts featured Patrick running routes, as The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider observes. The former UDFA is once again on track to be part of the Broncos’ receiving corps, but the past two years have certainly sidetracked the ex-Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater target’s career. Denver extended Patrick on a three-year, $30MM deal during the 2021 season. Despite Patrick being unable to play a down on that contract, the now-Sean Payton-fronted franchise retained him — but on a substantial pay cut. The 30-year-old wideout is now tied to a $1.63MM deal that contains no guarantees.

A surehanded target during the seasons before the Wilson trade, Patrick posted 742- and 734-yard showings in 2020 and ’21 and totaled 11 touchdowns. As injuries kept the likes of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and former second-rounder KJ Hamler off the field for extended stretches, Patrick provided a key insurance piece. The 2021 contract signified the team viewed him as a starter. With the Broncos adding Marvin Mims, Josh Reynolds and Troy Franklin over the past two offseasons, Patrick’s place is now uncertain. Though, the 2017 free agency addition could provide good value if he returns to form.

Dulcich’s injury pattern — and the Broncos’ limited tight end corps — may make his participation worth monitoring. Chronic hamstring trouble forced the 2022 third-round pick into an alarming four IR trips in two seasons. Dulcich last played in Week 6 of the 2023 season, reinjuring his hamstring shortly after being activated from IR. The Broncos designated the UCLA alum for return down the stretch last year but did not activate him; they are now bringing him along slowly.

The Broncos’ first OTA sessions featured Dulcich working on a side field. Denver’s top receiving tight end continues to see specialists about his hamstring trouble, and while Payton confirmed full participation is likely at some point this offseason, the team is not unleashing him for full-speed work still.

He’s close. Man, he’s had all the work done; we’re encouraged,” Payton said, via the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel. “I think you’ll see him sooner than later and we want to be smart. His rehab has gone well and it’s not going to be that we don’t see him until training camp.”

Dulcich played only 32 offensive snaps last season, suffering injuries in both contests he played. A woeful 2022 season for the Broncos’ offense did double as a somewhat promising slate for Dulcich, who totaled 411 receiving yards in 10 games. Of course, he also needed two IR trips due to hamstring issues as a rookie. It is safe to say Dulcich’s availability this season will determine if he has a viable path to TE1 work in the NFL.

Rumored to be wanting help at tight end this offseason, the Broncos stood down in both free agency and the draft. The team re-signed ex-Saints draftee Adam Trautman and saw former UDFA Lucas Krull make some late-season contributions. But Dulcich is the team’s top receiving tight end, barring a late addition.

It is interesting the Broncos, as Bo Nix arrives, have not added a more reliable piece at the position. The inaction represents good news for Dulcich, who looks to have a clear route back to regular work if he can stay healthy.

The Biggest Wide Receiver Contract In Each Team’s History

This offseason has brought changes to the wide receiver market, but a host of wideouts chosen early in the 2020 draft have taken center stage. Additional raises to the WR market’s ceiling are likely on tap, with the Vikings (Justin Jefferson) and Cowboys (CeeDee Lamb) employing a pass catcher due a monster raise.

Most NFL teams have authorized a big-ticket (by today’s standards) deal for a wide receiver. Ranked by guaranteed money and excluding rookie contracts and accords acquired via trade, here is the most lucrative WR deal in each franchise’s history.

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald‘s seven-year, $113MM extension (August 2011) holds the Cardinals standard for total value, but Hopkins’ pact checks in higher in terms of guarantees and AAV.

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

In total, Michael Crabtree‘s 2018 deal (worth $21MM) and Derrick Mason‘s 2005 agreement ($20MM) surpass Beckham’s. But the 2023 Baltimore rental’s guarantee came in higher.

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

The Browns have featured three higher-paid receivers on their roster since Landry’s contract, but both Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper arrived via trade and played on contracts designed by other teams. Jerry Jeudy‘s AAV ($17.5MM) on his 2024 extension also outpaces Landry’s, though the recent trade pickup’s total guarantee falls short here.

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Courtland Sutton‘s 2021 extension carries a higher AAV ($15MM) but included $18.85MM guaranteed.

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Brandin Cooks‘ 2022 re-up held a higher AAV, while the Stefon Diggs trade brought a higher per-year salary as well.

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s 2023 deal trails Agholor’s in AAV but carried the same full guarantee. Danny Amendola‘s full payout ($28.5MM) in 2013 tops both deals.

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Allen Lazard‘s 2023 deal and Santonio Holmes‘ contract back in 2011 brought more in total value ($44MM and $45MM, respectively) but did not match Davis’ for guarantees.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown‘s four-year, $68MM extension in 2017 also included a $19MM guarantee at signing but trailed Johnson’s in terms of total guarantees.

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin‘s 2022 deal beats Evans’ for at-signing guarantees ($40MM), while the all-time Bucs receiving leader’s 2024 agreement leads the way in AAV ($20.5MM).

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Latest On Broncos, Courtland Sutton

In what has become standard operating procedure for wide receivers carrying contract issues, a number of high-profile targets — Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins — have not shown up for OTAs. Courtland Sutton appears in that boat as well.

Sutton has been away from the Broncos during the pre-OTAs portion of their voluntary workout schedule, training in Florida. That appears to still be the case as OTAs get underway, per the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel. Sutton has expressed a desire for a contract upgrade, and the seventh-year veteran may be amenable to a straight raise.

Re-emerging as Denver’s No. 1 wide receiver last season, Sutton remains tied to his four-year, $60MM deal. No wideout has been tied to a higher AAV in Broncos history, but Sutton’s contract qualifies as team-friendly now. Agreed to during the 2021 season, Sutton’s deal was finalized before a receiver market boom the following offseason. His AAV now checks in at No. 23, counting Higgins’ franchise tag, at the position.

That contract calls for a $13MM base salary in 2024; just $2MM of that total is guaranteed. Sutton is angling for a new deal — one the Broncos are unlikely to hand out due to two seasons remaining on his current pact — but ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler said during a recent SportsCenter appearance (via Heavy.com) Sutton would like to bump his salary up into the $15-$16MM range. No progress is coming out of these talks, Fowler adds.

Players regularly seek extensions when their contracts fall out of step with the market or when existing deals have already paid out guarantees. Sutton probably falls into both camps, but it would be interesting if a raise on his 2024 salary would bring about a resolution. The Broncos took a similar step with Chris Harris back in 2019, after the team had given Kareem Jackson a deal with a higher per-year salary. Denver gave its decorated cornerback a straight raise, bumping his 2019 pay from $8.9MM to $12.05MM.

Some clear differences between that situation and Sutton’s exist, however. En route to All-Decade honors, Harris had been the NFL’s top slot corner for several years ahead of those negotiations. The Broncos also authorized a pure raise for a player in a contract year. That agreement also came during John Elway‘s GM tenure. Sutton, an Elway-era draftee who signed his extension in GM George Paton‘s first season, has two years remaining on his deal and has not approached the heights Harris reached during his Broncos tenure. A decision-maker not around for either his draft arrival or extension, Sean Payton, now carries the most weight in the organization.

A raise would set a precedent under Payton, and teams generally prefer extensions to notable pay bumps. While Sutton has four 700-plus-yard seasons on his resume, 2019 represents his only 1,000-yard season. The Broncos are not expected to trade the 6-foot-4 wideout, who is recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Teams called the Broncos ahead of the draft. The former second-round pick does carry some leverage; the team stands to need him as a reliable target to break in Bo Nix.

Sutton, 28, profiles as Denver’s best bet for steady receiving production this season, though the team has added a few pieces under Payton — from Josh Reynolds to draft choices Marvin Mims and Troy Franklin. While Sutton sits as the highest-floor player in the Broncos’ pass-catching corps, the two recent draftees’ development will play a role in the veteran’s Denver future. A trade-rumor mainstay, Sutton is tied to a $13.5MM nonguaranteed 2025 salary.

Broncos LB Drew Sanders Suffered Torn Achilles

One of the Broncos’ rising defenders will miss a significant chunk of the 2024 campaign. According to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, linebacker Drew Sanders suffered a torn Achilles.

The injury occurred back in April during Denver’s offseason program. Sanders later underwent surgery that was deemed successful. Wilson notes that there’s some hope that Sanders could return late in the 2024 campaign, but there’s also a chance the defender misses his entire sophomore season.

The Arkansas product was selected in the third round of last year’s draft and got into all 17 games as a rookie. While the Broncos initially had him lined up at inside linebacker, Sanders ended up transitioning to the edge towards the end of the season. He finished the campaign with 24 tackles while garnering four starts.

Towards the end of last season, Sanders was soaking up leftover snaps behind Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning, and that was likely going to be the arrangement heading into 2024. The team does still have 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto hanging around, and Wilson notes that Sanders’ injury may have influenced the team’s decision to select outside linebacker Jonah Elliss in the third round. The Utah product was ultimately the team’s second pick, behind first-round quarterback Bo Nix.

Latest On Broncos’ QB Competition

The Broncos added their preferred Russell Wilson successor in the first round of the 2024 draft. Bo Nix is positioned to see plenty of time at the helm of Denver’s offense over the course of his rookie contract, but that may not mean he sees the field right away this year.

The decision to move on from Wilson (along with more recent one to waive Ben DiNucci) has left Denver with three signal-callers. Nix is joined by offseason trade acquisition Zach Wilson and returnee Jarrett StidhamThe latter is the only one with experience working under head coach Sean Payton.

A report from earlier this month confirmed, to no surprise, that Stidham is expected to open OTAs with the Broncos’ first-team offense. The 27-year-old started two games last year after Wilson’s benching, and he will have the opportunity to earn the Week 1 starting gig depending on how Nix and Wilson are evaluated over the course of the summer. Payton recently confirmed those two passers will receive plenty of looks as well, though.

“We’ll figure it out,” the former Saints Super Bowl winner said during minicamp about a QB rotation once training camp begins in July (via ESPN’s Jeff Legwold). “With young guys, the reps are important. But we’ll have a rotation, and we’ll go from there.”

Wilson struggled mightily during his time with the Jets. The 2021 second overall pick was slated for backup duties in 2023, but Aaron RodgersAchilles tear thrust him back into starting action. Wilson did not progress compared to his previous campaigns, and New York dealt him to Denver as part of a Day 3 pick swap. One year remains on his rookie contract, with the Broncos footing half of the bill per the terms of the trade.

Of course, most of the attention at Broncos’ camp will be aimed at Nix. The Auburn and Oregon product made a record-breaking 61 starts during his time in college, and he is likely much closer to his NFL ceiling than many of the five other passers selected within the draft’s opening 12 picks. Payton and Co. were frequently connected to Nix in the pre-draft process, and the Broncos had him ranked as their third-best QB prospect.

Given the team’s struggles in finding a true Peyton Manning replacement, the Broncos will be satisfied with any of their in-house options taking charge in the upcoming quarterback competition over the short term. It will be interesting to see how Nix stacks up against Stidham and Wilson, and how quickly he is handed the reins depending on their respective performances.

Extension Candidate: Quinn Meinerz

Broncos GM George Paton has gone from a respected hire, succeeding John Elway in 2021, to the exec that greenlit three of this decade’s most criticized moves. But prior to the Nathaniel Hackett hire and the Russell Wilson trade and extension calls that set the franchise back, the Paton-fronted 2021 draft gave the Broncos an array of talent that remains in key roles on Sean Payton‘s second Denver roster.

The Broncos received steady criticism for passing on Justin Fields to start that draft, but their Patrick Surtain move has aged well. The All-Pro cornerback will be on track for a mega-extension, and after trade rumors during this year’s draft proved unfounded, extension talks are expected to begin soon. Denver also added starting running back Javonte Williams in Round 2; this will be a big year for the hard-charging RB, as he struggled for much of last season upon returning from ACL and LCL tears. Third-rounder Baron Browning and seventh-rounder Jonathon Cooper have started regularly at outside linebacker, and the team may turn to fifth-rounder Caden Sterns — a Week 1 starter last season before suffering an injury — as a first-stringer post-Justin Simmons.

While that Surtain-fronted haul will be heard from in Denver this season, the group also housed a Division III prospect who has turned into one of the NFL’s better players at his position. The Broncos chose Quinn Meinerz near the end of Round 3 (No. 98) out of Wisconsin-Whitewater. That pick has proven critical for the team, as offensive success stories have been hard to find for the Broncos in recent years.

Meinerz, 25, initially captured attention for mid-’80s Rocky Balboa-style workouts, following a COVID-19-nixed senior season at the D-III level, and practice jerseys exposing his midriff area. But the small-school prospect quickly showed he was capable of quality NFL play. Since taking over for an injured Graham Glasgow midway through the 2021 season, Meinerz has been the Broncos’ most consistent O-lineman. The now-extension-eligible blocker has settled in at right guard over the past two seasons.

As the Broncos cratered to last place in scoring offense during the ill-fated Hackett-Wilson season, Meinerz played well in 13 starts. Pro Football Focus graded Meinerz as a top-five guard in 2022. Last year, PFF slotted Meinerz third among guards. Known more for his run-blocking power, Meinerz has set himself up for a big contract year — should the Broncos not come to an extension agreement before that point.

Denver does not have considerable recent experience with extensions for interior O-linemen. The team has opted to fill its guard needs in free agency for many years, signing the likes of Louis Vasquez (2013), Ronald Leary (2017), Glasgow (2020) and Ben Powers (2023) to big-ticket deals. This span also included a training camp Evan Mathis addition (2015). While the team has seen some decent play from draftees at center and guard in this span (Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry), extensions have not emerged. Paradis, Risner, Cushenberry, McGovern and Billy Turner each departed after solid contract years.

With Meinerz joining Surtain as the team’s top extension candidates from Paton’s first draft, it will be interesting to see how the Broncos proceed. Meinerz’s rookie contract has been valuable to the team in recent years, particularly in 2023. As Payton brought in Powers (four years, $52MM) and right tackle Mike McGlinchey (five years, $87.5MM) to pair with the Elway-era Garett Bolles extension (four years, $68MM), the rookie deals for Cushenberry and Meinerz became important.

Payton has been no stranger to O-line extensions. The Saints fortified these spots for years, most recently extending the likes of Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk on the Super Bowl-winning HC’s watch. They also re-signed Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat. While Bo Nix‘s development has obviously become the central Broncos storyline in 2024, how the team handles its O-line contracts will be worth monitoring as well.

Bolles’ deal expires after this season, and the seven-year left tackle has expressed interest in a third contract. The 2017 first-rounder, however, will turn 32 later this month. Seeing about a younger LT upgrade and allocating money to keep Meinerz in the fold would be a viable path. Wilson’s astonishing dead money figure has settled in at $84MM when the QB’s Steelers offset is factored in, though the team is absorbing the lion’s share of the hit in 2024.

That contract will be on the Broncos’ books through 2025. The team may not want four veteran O-line deals — even around Nix’s rookie contract — on the payroll, creating a potential Bolles-or-Meinerz call. A longer-term Meinerz extension would, however, stand to align with Nix’s deal.

Guard salaries have ballooned past $20MM per year over the past two offseasons. Four guards are in the $20MM-AAV club. Meinerz not having a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod on his resume may exclude him from that price range, but six more guards are tied to deals north of $15MM per year. Cushenberry also used a contract-year surge to command the second-highest guarantee at signing ($26MM) among centers. Meinerz staying on course will position him as one of next year’s top free agents, as guard franchise tags — since O-linemen are grouped together under the tag formula — are rare.

With Browning and Cooper also due for free agency in 2025, the Broncos ($38MM in 2025 cap space, as of mid-May) will have some decisions to make over the next 10 months. Meinerz’s earnings floor stands to be higher by comparison, and the team’s issues developing offensive talent in recent years would seemingly point to an extension being considered. The Broncos hold exclusive negotiating rights with their 2021 draftees — though, Surtain is signed through 2025 via the fifth-year option — until March of next year.

Broncos Unlikely To Bring Back S Justin Simmons

A number of veteran safeties were let go in the lead-in to free agency, and many remain unsigned well after the draft. That includes Justin Simmons, who saw his eight-year Broncos tenure come to an end in March.

Denver’s decision to cut bait created $14.5MM in cap savings for 2024, the final year of Simmons’ deal. The 30-year-old’s future with the team was in question before his release, given the nature of his contract. Rather than pursuing an extension to lower his cap hit, though, the Broncos made Simmons one of the most high-profile players to be let go this offseason.

The two-time Pro Bowler has not been connected to any new teams during his ongoing free agent spell. It would come as a surprise if he were to reunite with the Broncos, however. Parker Gabriel of the Denver Post writes that it appears “very unlikely” a new deal keeping Simmons in the Mile High City will be worked out. As Gabriel notes, the Broncos have not acted in a way which suggests they are open to exploring a way to renew this relationship.

Not long after Simmons was let go, fellow safety P.J. Locke was retained on a two-year deal. The latter took on starting duties when Kareem Jackson missed time through suspension in 2023, and his play earned him a new investment from the team. Denver also has Caden Sterns as well as Delarrin Turner-Yell and JL Skinner in place as returnees on the backend.

In free agency, the Broncos moved quickly in adding Brandon Jones. The former Dolphin secured $20MM on a three-year pact, and he will be counted on to replace Simmons’ production moving forward. Jones, 26, has amassed three interceptions and nine pass deflections in his four-year career. Those figures fall well short of what Simmons has accomplished (30 interceptions, 64 pass breakups), but Jones will have significant opportunities to make an impact on his new team.

Denver did not select a safety during the draft, leaving Jones and Locke as starters for the 2024 campaign. While a Simmons reunion cannot be entirely ruled out until his next contract is in place, signs point toward him playing on a new team for the first time in his career in 2024. He could represent the first of many safety dominoes in the waning stages of free agency around the league.