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Welcome to 2024!
Ready to hear what’s in store for Broncos Country?
I broke out the crystal ball and figured out what moves the Broncos are going to make in the new year and how they’ll play out. (Hopefully, the crystal ball is a little more accurate than last year…)
Here’s the truth: You might not enjoy what you’re about to read.
But it’s exactly what is going to happen.
Here we go…
1 – The Broncos will finally beat the Raiders
Not only will the Broncos end their seven-game losing streak to the Las Vegas Raiders… but they won’t do it this week.
The Broncos will finish Sean Payton’s debut season with an 8-9 record, their best since 2016. But they won’t beat the Raiders until next season.
2 – Three Broncos will make the Pro Bowl
For the first time since 2018, the Broncos will have at least three representatives at the Pro Bowl. Pat Surtain II, Marvin Mims Jr., Justin Simmons, Courtland Sutton, Quinn Meinerz and Ja’Quan McMillian will be the top candidates.
While the awards will be a step in the right direction for Denver, the league-wide story will be the record number of Pro Bowl opt-outs, which will clear space for a third Bronco. The opt-outs will prompt the league to make drastic changes to the event for 2025 and beyond. Flag football, anybody?
The Broncos’ stronger social media push this year will also help their players’ chances.
3 – Russell Wilson will be released
Wilson’s days in Denver are numbered. He won’t be traded. He won’t rework his contract. The Broncos will release him after the season.
4 – Jarrett Stidham will start Week 1 in 2024
Sean Payton loves Jarrett Stidham. That’s why he signed the 27-year-old passer to a two-year deal almost immediately after free agency opened in March. That’s also why Payton wanted to see what Stidham could do with a pair of starts at the end of the season.
Stidham won’t finish the Broncos’ 2024 season as the starter, but he’ll be the man behind center on opening day.
5 – Michael Penix Jr. will be a Bronco
Michael Penix Jr. has his flaws—the 24-year-old rookie has had multiple torn ACLs and a surgery on his throwing shoulder—but Payton won’t be scared away from the Heisman Finalist out of Washington.
While mock drafts will project Penix to fall out of the first round because of his injury history, the Broncos will make him the fourth quarterback selected in April’s draft.
6 – Penix will have an up-and-down season
Penix will sub into a couple of games to provide a spark before eventually taking over the starting role for the second half of the season. He’ll have his moments, and he’ll be the undisputed starter after the season, but he won’t have a “Rookie of the Year” type of performance.
Broncos fans will call him the second-best rookie quarterback of 2024. The rest of the league will have him third.
The Broncos’ 2023 passing numbers will be better than their 2024 passing numbers.
7 – The Broncos will trade Jerry Jeudy
All of the Broncos’ receivers will return in 2024… except for Jerry Jeudy.
Given Denver’s salary cap situation, Jeudy’s lack of production, and the return of Tim Patrick (who will accept a pay cut), the decision will be easy. Unfortunately, the Broncos won’t get anything close to the first-round pick they asked for last offseason.
The $13 million in new cap space might be worth more than the pick.
8 – George Paton is back
Speculation surrounding general manager George Paton’s future with the Broncos is rampant. The Broncos could justify moving on—he was responsible for bringing both Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett to Denver—but they won’t.
Sean Payton will run the player personnel decisions, giving Paton a de facto demotion while he keeps his title and salary. He’ll continue to serve as more of an advisor than a decision-maker, but his scouting expertise will be invaluable during draft season.
9 — Javonte Williams will have the best season of his NFL career
Fresh off an ACL repair, Williams wasn’t himself in 2023. By Pro Football Reference’s count, Williams broke a league-leading 31 tackles as a rookie. Through 17 weeks this season, he’s broken nine.
By 2024, Williams will be back. With some help from his offensive line, he’ll put up the best numbers of his career… setting himself up for a payday when he becomes a free agent in the offseason.
10 – Pat Surtain II and Quinn Meinerz will get extensions
While negotiations with Javonte Williams will come after the 2024 campaign, the Broncos will put the bow on a couple of big-money extensions before the turn of the calendar.
All-Pro cornerback Pat Surtain II will sign a five-year, $125 million deal that will make him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.
Meinerz will take a four-year, $56 million deal, placing him in the league’s top 10 highest-paid guards. It will be somewhat of a discount for the Broncos, but extra guaranteed money will convince Meinerz to agree. Bonuses for All-Pro nods will help, too.
11 – The Broncos won’t find the money for Lloyd Cushenberry III
Unfortunately, Cushenberry will play his way out of Denver. He won’t get the four-year, $57 million contract that PFF is projecting, but he’ll come close. With Garett Bolles, Ben Powers, Mike McGlinchey, and, eventually, Quinn Meinerz making big money, Denver won’t be able to justify extending Cushenberry this spring.
Cushenberry will be the Broncos’ biggest offseason loss, and they’ll feel the pain of his departure during the season.
12 – Randy Gradishar will become a Hall of Famer
The wait is over.
Randy Gradishar, the 200-tackle-per-year machine at the heart of the Orange Crush defense, is already a Senior Finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A year from now, he’ll be wearing the gold jacket he should have gotten decades ago.
13 – The Broncos will make no changes to their linebacker room
Speaking of linebackers, the Broncos will run it back with their backers next season.
Josey Jewell will continue to wear the green dot after an extension that catches his salary up to Alex Singleton’s. Singleton will rank among the league’s top five tacklers for the third consecutive season.
14 – The Broncos will sign Von Miller
I’ll admit, this one is crazy.
But here’s how it will play out…
The Bills signed Miller to a mega-contract, but he hasn’t lived up to it. He was great for the first half-season before tearing his ACL. He recovered but struggled this season. The Bills made him a healthy inactive last week.
Miller’s contract is complicated, but these are the two most likely options, in my opinion:
- They keep him for one more season.
- They ditch him before this season, saving them about $6 million compared to waiting to release him next year.
I think they’ll decide the Vonster isn’t worth $6 million and move on.
And that’s where the Broncos swoop in.
Miller will take a veteran minimum contract regardless of where he signs. Long story short, his current contract has off-set language that means whatever his new team pays him will be deducted from what the Bills owe him. He’ll come away with the same amount of cash regardless of whether he signs a $5 million deal or a veteran minimum deal, so he’ll help his team by taking a minimum deal.
And where will he sign?
Contenders might be interested. Some might already have edge rushers. Others might think he’s done.
Denver will offer him a spot, too, because he fits their unique needs perfectly. Denver has young talent at edge rusher—Jonathon Cooper has 8.5 sacks, Nik Bonitto has 7 sacks, Baron Browning has played at a 6.5-sack pace since returning from a torn ACL—but they lack a veteran presence.
Randy Gregory and Frank Clark provided the veteran presence early in 2023, but both were let go before the season’s mid-point. The young guys in the room still heap praise onto the duo for what they taught them. They’re still in surprisingly frequent contact with both Clark and Gregory, who still provide tips and pointers.
Imagine what Miller, the founder of the Von Miller Pass Rush Academy, could teach the trio. His mind alone is worth a minimum salary. The morale boost for the fanbase alone is worth the minimum, especially in an offseason in which the Broncos won’t make splash signings.
And who knows, maybe he looks more like 2022 Von Miller than 2023 Von Miller and provides a solid option on third downs if the youngsters don’t pop.
I’ll admit, this is by far the craziest prediction.
15 – The Broncos will be featured on Hard Knocks
Any team can volunteer to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks, but volunteers are rare. Typically, the network picks a team that it can force to participate. To be forced to participate, teams must fulfill three requirements:
- The team missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
- The team has the same head coach as the previous season.
- The team hasn’t been featured in the past decade.
As of today, 12 teams fit that criteria. Five of those teams are still eligible for the playoffs. A few more could have coaching changes.
Here are the potential options:
- Arizona Cardinals
- Chicago Bears
- Denver Broncos
- Green Bay Packers – playoffs?
- Houston Texans – playoffs?
- Indianapolis Colts – playoffs?
- Minnesota Vikings
- New England Patriots – Belichick gone?
- New Orleans Saints – playoffs?
- Pittsburgh Steelers – playoffs?
- Tennessee Titans – Vrabel gone?
- Washington Commanders – Rivera gone?
HBO will be disappointed that the Packers and Steelers qualified for the postseason. The network will narrowly choose the Broncos over the runner-up Bears.
16 – Three different cornerbacks will start across from PS2
The Broncos won’t be able to invest many new assets at cornerback, so they’ll try three different cornerbacks at CB2 in 2024.
Damarri Mathis will get another chance as a starter. Riley Moss will start at some point, as well. A third cornerback—maybe Fabian Moreau, maybe a different veteran, maybe a rookie—will also get a start.
17 – PJ Locke will be an opening-day starter
PJ Locke will be an unrestricted free agent this spring, but the Broncos will offer a multi-year deal featuring substantial guarantees, which he’ll sign instead of bigger, one-year deals.
Locke will beat out Caden Sterns, Delarrin Turner-Yell and JL Skinner in training camp for the starting job next to Justin Simmons.
18 – The Broncos will be .500 entering Week 18
I can’t predict the final record (the Broncos’ final game of next season will be in 2025), but I can tell you that they’ll be 8-8 entering a season-ending matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
They’ll earn a couple of early wins. An October slump will prompt a quarterback change. A late push will carry the Broncos into the thick of the AFC Wild Card Race.
And they’ll be alive for a playoff spot in Week 18.
19 – The Broncos will draft Cade Stover
Some people like fast tight ends. Some people like big tight ends. Personally, I think a great stiff arm makes a great tight end, and Ohio State’s Cade Stover has the best stiff arm in the draft class. (And he’s pretty big and fast, too.)
Stover will quickly become the Broncos’ do-it-all tight end. Chris MAnhertz will still be the blocker. Greg Dulcich will have a role, especially on third downs, when he’s healthy.
20 – One of the Broncos’ third-round picks will be a defensive linemen
A half-decade ago, the guys over at Arrowhead Pride did great work calculating the success rates of drafting each position in each round. They found that defensive linemen selected in the third or fourth round are more likely to become starters than second-round d-linemen. Maybe teams get too excited about “traits”?
Sean Payton loves his analytics. If Chiefs fans can figure this out, his team certainly can, too. His team needs to add depth in the trenches, and he’ll follow the numbers.
They might even add another in the fourth round.
21 – The Broncos will have new uniforms
Denver will debut new uniforms for the 2024 season, and fans will love them.
The “D” logo will return, but this time with the current color scheme.
22 – We won’t get an update on the new stadium
The Broncos’ brain trust, behind closed doors, will informally agree that building a new stadium is the best path forward for the team. The news of their plans to construct a new home by 2033 won’t break in 2024, though.
In fact, no stadium news outside of routine management—replacing the turf, for example—will break.
23 – Broncos Country will want Travis Hunter
Courtland Sutton will keep up his 2022 play.
Tim Patrick will provide a steady 700 yards.
Marvin Mims Jr. will take a step forward.
But there will still be room for the type of dominant receiver Penix excelled with at Washington.
Plus, nobody will put their stamp on the CB2 job.
Broncos Country will beg the team to move up in the draft for Travis Hunter, but they’ll fight over whether he should play wide receiver, cornerback… or both.
24 – The Broncos win their first game of the season… in primetime… against Russell Wilson’s Steelers… in Denver
Remember Russell Wilson’s Denver debut in Seattle?
Well, history is going to repeat itself.
The Broncos are scheduled to host the Steelers in 2024, and as soon news breaks that Pittsburgh is doubling down on a keep-it-close-and-win-it-at-the-buzzer style of ball, they’ll pencil in a Week 1 primetime homecoming for the 35-year-old quarterback.
And the Broncos will win.