The Denver Broncos started the season with an offense that had a lot of talent in the skill stations and a few good players on the offensive line, but the biggest question mark was the quarterback.
Everything suggested the Broncos were likely to have an average offense, with the potential to be good depending on the QB play. While it’s easy to judge the Broncos by their last loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the overall picture of the offense is that it lived up to expectations: an average unit, with a few good games and a few bad ones. .
With 10 games on the books and seven remaining after the bye, we now have answers to more specific questions about each position group and where the Broncos are likely to make changes during the offseason, regardless of what happens. after the bye.
For the second part of Mile High Huddlemid-season State of the Broncos series, let’s go over each position on offense and what is likely to happen in the future.
Teddy Bridgewater has been named the starter to open the 2021 season. Overall, he hasn’t been that great, but he hasn’t been that great either. And while his game against the Eagles was bad – and it’s not just because of his actions after Darius Slay’s fumble returned – he has shown he can be a capable starter.
However, even if it is capable of it, Bridgewater is clearly not the long-term answer. Meanwhile, Drew Lock, having been removed from the COVID-19 list, is available to play after the bye if needed.
The truth is, the Broncos will have to start Lock at some point after the bye. At the very least, the team will need to determine if he can be the gateway QB to another passer that Denver is drafting and developing.
Lock will be under contract in 2022 and it will cost less than what veterans are likely to cost. While I wouldn’t expect the Broncos to pay $ 10 million or more for a veteran, Lock’s $ 1.3 million base salary is still less than what the team is likely to pay. for a free agent.
What concerns me is that Vic Fangio isn’t considering launching Lock at any point because, like most head coaches in the hot seat, he doesn’t want to bench a veteran against a younger QB, unless this guy is a rookie. .
But for the long-term picture, it’s best for Lock to see the terrain at one point. If he gets the chance to start and fails to do so, the Broncos can officially close the book on him. But if he does provide a spark, it may be worth going forward with him in 2022.
I don’t agree with the argument that Fangio resents Lock or thinks throwing him will make him look bad. After all, if Lock starts out and the Broncos return their fortunes, that means a trip to the playoffs and a better chance for Fangio to save his job.
As for Bridgewater, given that he will likely remain the starter for the time being, he’ll have to do better than his performance against the Eagles – again, it’s not just about chasing a defenseman who recovers a fumble. Bridgewater has missed open receivers and threw several bad passes, and if this continues the calls to start Lock will only increase.
But if Bridgewater lasts for the season, any photo of his return means he’ll have to strike a value deal or the Broncos will move on. I don’t see any chance for Bridgewater to get anything close to the three-year, $ 21 million deal the Carolina Panthers gave it in 2020.
Both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams were productive fullbacks, but they each escaped. Gordon’s breakaways have been newer and more expensive, however, so they tend to get bigger.
One can argue about what should be 1A and 1B in this backfield pair, but there’s no way either of them will get all the litters. The truth is, the days of the back every time are fading, and teams that rely on them can be put in a tough spot if that back is injured.
That said, Williams is certainly positioned to be 1A in next year’s offense as Gordon will be an unrestricted free agent and could be looking for more money than general manager George Paton would be willing to pay.
Expect Williams to go 1A at some point, but whether it’s this season or next, the Broncos will be signing a cheaper veteran to be the 1B or drafting another next offseason.
When I sat down to write this series, I was ready to write about how the Broncos should choose between Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick, who were both going to be unrestricted free agents after this season.
Instead, Paton made a deal with Patrick, signing him for a three-year extension for what could have been a lot less money than he would have received on the open market. And the extension still keeps Sutton.
It remains to be seen how much Sutton will receive, but one thing is clear: he is not going to redefine the market. The extensions DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones recently got are clear outliers, both more on the team that pacified them when they saw other receivers go beyond the original deals they signed.
Instead, it’s the contracts for Amari Cooper and Kenny Golladay that are more likely to come into play – although it remains to be seen whether a potential free agent outshines those deals. On the one hand, it will be an extensive talent pool for free agency; on the other hand, a number of receivers might have to accept lower cost offers for one reason or another.
Either way, it won’t be impossible to keep Sutton. Jerry Jeudy is not eligible for an extension in 2022 and is unlikely to enter such discussions until 2023 at the earliest. KJ Hamler is also not eligible in 2022, and it won’t surprise me if the Broncos let him play until 2023 before they decide what to do with him.
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Noah Fant hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this season, although it is debatable whether that is due to him, the call-of-play, or the QB game. Either way, Fant needs to improve as a tackle because even though he’s not a pure tight end, he still has to be good at it to justify being No.1.
The main decision in 2022 will be whether or not to choose his fifth year option. The most recent fifth year options were OJ Howard and Evan Engram, both for around $ 6 million. Because Fant was taking 20th place overall, his fifth-year option shouldn’t be much higher than that.
However, any call to hurry and prolong it must be tempered. It’s true that Dallas Goedert was paid well, but that doesn’t mean you’re rushing into overtime for Fant. Give Fant the next two seasons to show he deserves this extension.
After all, Albert Okwuegbanum has improved this season and his contract runs until 2023. If he continues to improve, he could be the one to get extra time.
As for Eric Saubert, I’m not against his staying on another cheap one-year contract. He’s been a good tight end and probably won’t get much more than the $ 990,000 base salary he’s making this season.
Left tackle Garett Bolles hasn’t played at the level he reached last year, but he’s always been a regular player. He’s reduced his penalties – he’s only got two in eight games – and he continues to do well as a run blocker and pass protection.
The right tackle remains a question mark in the long run, however. Bobby Massie has been solid, but he’s not getting any younger. He will be an unrestricted free agent and there is no guarantee the Broncos will bring him back.
Calvin Anderson played well enough to warrant the Broncos giving him the second-round offer and signing up for the straight tackle in 2022, but the Broncos will still need to recruit someone who can at least be the swing tackle.
As for Cameron Fleming, he is what he is: a good point blocker but poor pass protection. He won’t be returning with the team in 2022.
Inner offensive line
Graham Glasgow’s injury allowed Quinn Meinerz to enter the starting lineup. He’s been good in two games and shows a lot of promise.
Dalton Risner, however, hasn’t improved since his rookie season. Maybe he’s trying to do a lot alongside Lloyd Cushenberry, who has been slightly better this year, but still not good enough to show he can be a guy for the long haul.
That’s why the Broncos will have to make a decision in 2022 on what to do at the center. The team could be better served by having a veteran start there, to see if that helps Risner settle in.
The question, however, is whether the Broncos are hopeful Glasgow will be healthy and move him to center (he has experience there) or if they release him and sign a veteran free agent.
I guess you could move Meinerz to the center, but he didn’t seem comfortable there during the preseason. Maybe it would be better if he played guard, although I’m not ruling out the possibility of moving him to the center.
And while the Broncos have Netane Muti, it might be smart to have him as an option at left guard – maybe even start him late in the season if it’s clear the Broncos won’t make the playoffs. playoffs.
Not only do the Broncos have a decision to make as a quarterback, but they also have to think about the offensive line, which includes a long-term guy on the right tackle, and whether or not they’re comfortable with all of them. the inside offensive linemen who have started at some point this season.
Resolving the QB’s situation will go a long way in bringing the offense out of medium to good slump and an offense that will allow the Broncos to challenge the rest of the division.
But, as I often believe, the best thing about a quarterback is having a quality offensive line. Addressing that, with QB, should mean the rest of the offense takes care of itself.
In our last installment of State of the Broncos, we’re going to look at the defense.
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