Broncos show patience on first day of free agency


DENVER — Broncos general manager George Paton has left the combine with a secret. He had set the parameters for a successful deal for Seattle.

As Denver awaited Aaron Rodgers’ decision, knowing he was likely returning to Green Bay, Paton waited to finalize the trade with Seattle — five draft picks and three players for Wilson and a fourth-round pick. The Broncos became relevant again, creating howls of celebration when the trade news broke and Wilson headed to the UCHealth center for his physique last week.

Wilson’s arrival changes everything. Moves can be made to win now and win from now. Wilson, 33, should serve as a magnet for free agents. Even though Wilson makes the Broncos contender, the wrinkles need to be ironed out. Denver opened free agency Monday at 10 a.m. with about $23 million to spend on the needs of point carrier, cornerback, defensive line, right tackle and tight end.

Paton, more typical of his nature than the hit contract, showed discipline and patience for the first six hours. It’s reminiscent of his approach and also that the draft, even without a first-round pick, can fill some holes, maybe even at right tackle. Additionally, good players are paid very well on Day 1, which can put a strain on a team’s budget.

As the Broncos considered options, their former quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found a new team. He returns home, the Liberty City product agreeing to a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins as a backup, per ESPN. Bridgewater was 7-7 as a starter for the Broncos, leading Denver to a 3-0 start before sputtering against good teams, while suffering two concussions. Bridgewater earned the respect of his teammates for his personal approach to leadership and was voted team captain. He is emerging as an ideal replacement.

With Drew Lock shipped to Seattle in trade from Wilson, only Brett Rypien, who was offered an unsecured contract on Monday, remains from last season’s quarterback room. The Broncos will be looking to add another player over the next few weeks.

They have more pressing needs.

Looking to add to the rusher edge, as of 4 p.m. most of the top players remain on the board, except for Haason Reddick (three years, $45 million at the Eagles) and Emmanuel Ogbah (four years, $65 million dollars to stay with Dolphins).

The Broncos are interested in Arizona veteran Chandler Jones. At 32, he’s a year younger than Von Miller and has double-digit sacks in six of the last seven seasons. He finished with 10.5 a year ago but has only produced 5.5 in his last 14 games. He brings a familiarity with coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was an assistant at Syracuse for two overlapping seasons with Jones.

Randy Gregory, 29, is another possibility. The Broncos brought him in, the sources say, but multiple teams are involved. Gregory can be a dynamic player, but has struggled with his availability due to injuries and suspensions. The former Nebraska star tied his career high with six sacks last season in 12 games.

Von would be welcomed with open arms by Broncos Country. The Broncos have an interest in a reunion, but at the right price. With nine sacks in the last eight games, including the Super Bowl victory, Miller has put himself in a position to land a two-year contract worth around $36 million. Denver balked at paying Von $17 million last season, so it’s unlikely they’ll pay more for a player who turns 33 this month. In other words, there should be a compromise on both sides and so the Rams and other suitors don’t get into a bidding war to get Von back.

The idea of ​​a proven veteran is simple: the Broncos want results and a platform for Bradley Chubb to bounce back from. Chubb nearly set the all-time rookie record and reached a Pro Bowl in 2020, but knee and ankle injuries sabotaged nearly two full seasons. He is entering his fifth year, trying to bounce back. No decision has yet been made on whether to offer Malik Reed a contract. He’s been a valuable reserve and on-site starter for the past three seasons.

As for the cornerback, he remains one of the most expensive elements in free agents, and he did not disappoint on day one. JC Jackson has agreed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Chargers. Denver is looking for a complementary player to team up with Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby. The Rams’ Darious Williams could fit, and it’s fair to wonder if Chris Harris Jr. could return as a veteran.

Along the defensive line, Cincinnati kept BJ Hill on a new contract. Denver needs to add depth here after trading Shelby Harris to the Seahawks and struggling to stop the run last season.

As for the right tackle, there are some interesting options if the Broncos choose not to seek the main answer in a deep draft of the post. The Cowboys could cut La’el Collins, who has struggled with injuries the past two seasons but is only 28 years old. Dennis Kelly, 32, is a possible veteran to fill a hole in the position. The Broncos provided depth, if not a contender for the starting job by signing restricted free agent Calvin Anderson.

On Monday, Denver also added depth on the inside line by signing former Packers guard Ben Braden. Another former Green Bay player, tackle Billy Turner, is now also a free agent.


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