A No Bull look at the current Denver Broncos roster, its strengths, weaknesses, and what we can expect to target in free agency and the draft.
With the season over and a huge change in coaching regime for the Denver Broncos, it is a great time to step back, take a look at the roster, and play a little armchair GM before free agency. All of this is my own personal opinion based off what I’ve seen from the players on the field.
We’ll kick things off with our Defensive Line groups and find out what holes the Broncos should be looking to fill in the 2019 NFL offseason.
Player Rating Key:
1 - Project / developmental - lacking necessary skills to contribute as it stands today
2 - Backup quality - Can play, but isn’t a guy you want out there every snap
3 - Mediocre starter - Doesn’t bring anything special to the table, but is able to do the job
4 - Good starter - An above-average talent
5 - Blue chip player - Top 10 talent in the NFL at what he does
Unit Rating Key:
1 - Blow it up - the Broncos have nothing NFL quality to work with
2 - Severely lacking at least one starter
3 - Mediocre need
4 - Solid talent and depth
5 - Elite talent level
Derek Wolfe - 4
Like many in Broncos Country, I love me some Derek Wolfe. I find him open, candid, and absolutely willing to call it like he sees it week in and week out. He’s a leader in the locker room and isn’t afraid to call out coaches, players, or anyone who isn’t doing things the Bronco Way.
Wolfe is a guy you want in the trenches because he’s willing to do all the dirty work that doesn’t get the flashy attention. He stunts and clears guys out to open up lanes for Von and the guys on the outside. He knows when and how to pull linemen aside (also known as holding) as well to help get gaps cleared for his ILBs to get to the backs. He’s strong against the run and is a guy who doesn’t get moved off his spot.
The biggest downside with Wolfe is his injury history. He’s been plagued with problems throughout his career and I was honestly blown away with his ability to stay healthy in 2018. The other downside to him from a financial standpoint is his contract. The team can save ~$8.5M with ~$2.4 in dead money.
It will be interesting to see what the Broncos do here honestly. He’s a great guy to have on the team, but his age, cost, injury history, and the growth of the younger D-Linemen make it pretty easy for the Broncos to part ways with him. What I’d like to see most is for the team to restructure and extend him somehow that makes his cost a bit lower on a per-season basis.
Adam Gotsis - 4
Adam Gotsis was a pick that defensive line coach Bill Kollar pounded the table for a few years ago. He’s grown into a potent 3-4 DE as a run defender with the endurance and ability to flash at times and make plays.
The only knock on him is a lack of consistent ability to penetrate on pass rushing downs, but he’s not completely without ability here as he leads the linemen in sacks and QB hits for the 2018 season.
Gotsis is on the final year of his rookie contract. He’s very affordable and is an easy fit as a 2019 starter at DE.
UFA Zach Kerr - 2
Zach Kerr had a solid season for the Denver Broncos in 2018. He’s a rotational lineman who helps spell the starters and did a superb job in that role for the team.
He’s more of run defender than pass rusher and he does a superb job on the inside in that role.
As an Unrestricted Free Agent, I’d love to see if he’s sign back on with the Broncos if the price is right. I didn’t see enough from him that I think that is unreasonable unless a team needing to spend down cap space desperately needs a depth lineman.
DeMarcus Walker - 3
DeMarcus Walker has to be the weirdest situation on the Broncos team in the past two years. From the outside, it looks like the former coaching staff had a beef with him. In 2017, they moved him to OLB (which made no sense whatsoever based on what I saw from his college film). Then last year in a lost season he only saw the field for 21 snaps.
I haven’t heard anything or seen anything that leads me to believe that Walker is himself the problem so I’m not moving on my rating of him from last year. I think he’s a talented pass rushing lineman. I’m not sure if he fits the scheme of what Vic Fangio wants to do, but as a guy who is under contract for two more years for the Broncos, he’ll have every change to see the field more in 2019.
Caushaud Lyons - 1
Lyons has been an NFL practice squad player with only a few weeks active in the 2015 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The guy hasn’t seen the field and didn’t catch my attention last offseason in any way. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to contribute in 2019.
Overview - 3
As it stands, this unit is without a solid backup rotational guy. If they sign Kerr back, I’d change this to a 4. A lot of our defense’s success stems from the solid play we get from the front line on defense. They do a great job and the only thing that would seriously shake things up with this group is if Vic Fangio has a different vision for how his line needs to look.
UFA Domata Peko Sr. - 3
Domata Peko had a slower year in 2018 than he did in the season prior. That’s not to say his game has slipped a great deal, because it hasn’t. He’s always been a very solid run defender in the middle of the field that doesn’t get moved and he fit that role very well in 2018.
His personality and leadership is very valuable and it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff change wants him here or if they will make a decision to find younger options for the NT in our defense.
RFA Shelby Harris - 4
Shelby Harris is ready. As the season wore on he saw more and more of the field. He looked better and better the more time he got as well. He’s a penetrating lineman who is very successful at getting through the LOS and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
I’d love to see Harris get an opportunity to start with us and really hope to see the team bring him back for the 2019 season. He’s a priority resign in my eyes and a guy who deserves to get paid for the hard work he’s put in and the development he’s shown. The only obstacle is that he’s put a lot of good work on tape and may catch the eye of another team willing to pay him more than the Broncos will.
Overview - 1
Until both of these guys get resigned, this is a huge hole in the roster for the Broncos. There just isn’t anyone on the team who can fill the role. Even Kerr from the DE group is a UFA this year and the other guys don’t seem to have the right skill set for it.
Defensive roster status overall:
Defensive Ends - 3
Nose Tackles - 1