For QB-needy teams like the Denver Broncos, this year’s free agency frenzy was full of potential. One’s opinion of how the Denver Broncos performed will be tied to whether they believe in the newly acquired Case Keenum. If they believe in Keenum, they will likely think highly of General Manager John Elway’s performance. If they don’t believe in Keenum, they will likely think that this period was a bust and just another step towards obscurity. Without further ado, here are the grades for the Denver Broncos Free Agency in 2018.
Denver Broncos Free Agency Grades
1) Quarterback Case Keenum Signed
Kirk Cousins was the most reliable option on the table but also the most expensive. If Denver had signed Kirk Cousins, it would have created a big issue in salary cap space and would have hurt the team more in the long run.
In a surprising twist, Denver reportedly did not even place a formal offer for Cousins as all of their eggs were in Keenum’s basket. To not even make an attempt at getting Cousins is baffling. In not making an offer for Cousins, Denver did not even give themselves a chance to have their cake and eat it too. Meaning, they killed any chance of getting the better quarterback at an affordable price, or they knew like everyone else that the price would in no way be affordable.
In the end, with Keenum coming off of a career year and becoming available at a reasonable price ($36 million over two years with $25 guaranteed), Denver did a good job in taking the fiscally responsible option, even if it meant passing on Cousins. Keenum could play at a very high level in 2018 as the Broncos have many of the same pieces that were in Minnesota such as a strong wide receiver duo, a similar running attack, and a strong defense that should still perform at a very high level this year, even with the loss of Cornerback Aqib Talib. While not perfect, Denver is in a very good place with Keenum.
2) Aqib Talib to Rams for Fifth Round Pick
Considering the Seahawks could not get a trade partner for Richard Sherman, Denver should be happy they got anything at all in return for Talib. The main reason for releasing Talib was to save $11 million, most of which was believed to be used to help get Kirk Cousins to Denver. However, with no offer for Cousins, it was a little surprising that they were so eager to move on. Denver fans should be very worried about the condition of the No Fly Zone in 2018 as it could potentially be noticeably weaker without Talib. A lot is riding on the shoulders of Bradley Roby.
3) Signed Cornerback Tramaine Brock from Vikings
The Broncos dug deep to find Talib’s replacement and they found some potential on the Vikings’ Bench, signing Tramaine Brock to a one-year, four million dollar deal. Brock, 29, has earned nine interceptions in his last five seasons including five in 2013. In comparison, new teammate Chris Harris Jr. has twelve interceptions during that same period of time.
Brock did not play much last year but with the pool of talent that Minnesota had in their secondary, he simply got lost in the shuffle. Brock will be a sufficient addition as the nickel/ no. 3 corner of the No Fly Zone.
4) Linebacker Todd Davis Re-Signed
Linebacker Todd Davis will be a Bronco for the foreseeable future after signing a three year, $15 million contract with $6 million dollars guaranteed. Going into free agency, the Denver Broncos did not need to let any defensive pieces go. As far as defenses go, the Broncos have one that is still one of the best in the league. The problem over the last couple of years has entirely been with the offense. The Broncos need to keep all defensive pieces in place and focus on the offense this year. Signing Todd Davis was the right move.
5) Quarterback Trevor Siemian to the Vikings
General Manager John Elway has made some mistakes in taking quarterbacks in the draft. However, in taking Siemian with the 250th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, Elway hit it out of the park.
Siemian led the Broncos to a 9-7 campaign in 2016, that just barely missed the playoffs. The following year was obviously uglier and the reason for this trade but he also delivered a beatdown of a Cowboys team fresh off of a 13-3 season and a shutout of the New York Jets. Siemian’s defeat of the Cowboys stands as the best win of the post-Manning era. The shutout of the Jets was the first completed shutout by Denver since 2005.
For a seventh-round pick, Siemian was well worth his price. Elway sent Siemian and a 2018 7th-round pick to the Vikings for a 2019 5th-round selection.
6) Offensive Lineman Billy Turner Re-signed
The Broncos needed someone to fill the roster spot and Elway liked Turner’s performance before he broke his hand during the 2017 season. He was signed on a team-friendly $2 million, one-year deal that gives him a chance to prove his worth and it gives the Broncos a chance to move on if needed. At 26, Turner could still continue to improve and he still has a lot of gas in the tank. However, Elway did not push for any big-name replacements so this signing leaves a little to be desired.
7) Wide Receiver Cody Latimer to the Giants
Latimer was never re-signed in Denver and so he became a free agent, eventually landing with the Giants. Denver’s decision to let him go was understandable. Behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, there are no real standouts left on the roster at the wide receiver position. The Broncos need a third wide receiver and so Latimer’s departure cleared a roster spot for a true third man to fill. However, they will miss his play on special teams.
8) Tight End Virgil Green to the Chargers
Denver has been lacking a true producer in the tight end position for some time. Losing Virgil Green to free agency will have a similar effect to that of Cody Latimer’s departure in that the Broncos now have an extra space for their next bona fide starter.
The interesting fact for Denver is that Green is going to the divisional rival Los Angeles Chargers. They will likely use him in a big way considering that the Chargers’ tight ends caught a combined 81 catches in 2018. The question will be if Green can produce better as a pass catcher in Los Angeles than in Denver.
9) Linebacker Von Miller Restructured Salary
In a surprising move, Denver restructured Pro Bowl MVP and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller’s contract to save cap space in the short term at the cost of having to pay more later. This move could spell trouble for the Broncos down the line but it allows the Broncos to acquire some more talent for this season. This move could be good or bad depending on how Elway spends this new space. One thing is for sure: Elway is not done making moves yet.
10) Defensive Lineman Clinton McDonald Signs With Broncos
11) Broncos Acquire T Jared Veldheer In A Trade With Arizona Cardinals
In a late move as free agency is winding down, Elway traded the Broncos 2018 6th-round pick for Arizona Cardinals Offensive Tackle Jared Veldheer.
Veldheer has had injury issues throughout his career, but if he can remain healthy this is a clear upgrade over Menelik Watson and fills a much-needed hole. To put it in a little bit of perspective, Watson gave up 9 sacks last season, while Veldheer has given up 14 in the past five years.
Another benefit for the Broncos is that they will only acquire roughly $6.9 million in cap, as he will not cost the $10+ million he was due towards the Cardinals 2018 cap.
And the Verdict is…
The Broncos did what they absolutely had to do in landing a top free agent quarterback, although it was not the cream of the crop. However, they needlessly let Talib become a Ram. They signed/re-signed some pieces to fill holes, and made a move to upgrade the offensive line.
Overall, the Broncos did what they absolutely had to do but they didn’t shatter expectations. The Broncos still need a third wide receiver/receiving tight end and some better linemen. That being said, the draft could solve these shortages. In the end, there’s still plenty of time and cap space for Elway to continue to make moves as the offseason progresses but there is still plenty of work to be done.
Final Grade: B-