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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The offseason has been eventful for the Denver Broncos, to say the least.
John Elway got himself a new coaching staff, new quarterback, new right tackle and a new dangerous secondary.
But in the end, how much better did the Broncos actually get?
The BSN Broncos Crew breaks it all down.
Best move of the offseason
Bryce Callahan – From the second the Broncos hired Vic Fangio, Bryce Callahan skyrocketed to the top of my board in terms of players that should be priority free agents for the Broncos this offseason. His familiarity in Vic Fangio’s scheme added to his ability to allow Chris Harris Jr. to move to the outside was extremely valuable to me.
When news broke that Denver was signing Kareem Jackson early in the process, I was a fan of the move, but the downside to me was that it likely signaled that Denver wouldn’t be signing Callahan.
For the Broncos to get Jackson and then add Callahan on top of that was an absolute home run to me. And at that price?! A steal.
Vic & Mike — Elway perfectly narrowed down his two head coaching finalists—Vic Fangio and Mike Munchak.
And then, with a lot of help from Munchak’s family ties to Denver, landed them both.
What they’re both capable of doing to the team on the field is special, to say the least.
Bryce Callahan — I’m partial to the coaching hires as well, and truthfully, Bryce Callahan never comes to Denver if not for the ol’ ball coach, so the Fangio hire is embedded in this answer.
Why Callahan then? for starters, he’s only 27, is a tremendous athlete who’s already familiar with Vic’s defense, and brings a crazy amount of versatility to the secondary, allowing Fangio to mix and match his nickel defenders. Signing Kareem Jackson was the first step in making the secondary more versatile, Callahan put Denver’s unit over the top, with arguably the best group of slot cover guys in the entire NFL, a key to defensive football in the modern game.
If he can stay healthy, a big if, the former Rice standout promises to be a slam-dunk singing at the modest figure of $21 million over three years, and has the upside to be the Broncos next great cornerback. This is high praise for a third-cornerback who didn’t receive big money in free agency, but after watching Callahan in depth he’s the guy.
With the 10th-overall pick, the Denver Broncos select…
Ed Oliver – I reserve the right to change this 784 times before draft day, but this is the side of the bed that I woke up on today.
John Elway has a soft spot for talent that falls, and Oliver is a perfect example of that. Once considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, Oliver has seen his stock fall in part due to an altercation he had with his coach on the sideline while nursing an injury. There are also some concerns about his lack of development over his time in college, but the talent is unmistakable.
Additionally, as much as I think the Broncos should go with a linebacker here, I just keep having trouble seeing John Elway do it. I think many of Denver’s moves in the offseason were made in an effort to allow them to go BPA in the draft and if Oliver is there, I think he fits the bill.
Adding a scary pass rusher on the inside to the team’s existing duo outside might just be too much to pass up.
Inside linebacker Devin — This feels wrong to say, think, type and utter. But everything this offseason has pointed to either Devin White—if he’s available—or Devin Bush being the pick at No. 10.
It feels so incredibly wrong because it’s hard to imagine John Elway using this premium of a pick on a position he has so undervalued throughout most of his tenure.
But this one’s for Vic.
Fangio stated at the Combine he needed a few more inside linebackers. So far, nothing along that front.
So why not give him an elite quarterback of his defense just like the Bears did last year, drafting Roquan Smith No. 8 overall. After all, the result wasn’t too shabby as Fangio created the best defense in the country.
Don’t get defensive — The on-brand pick for Elway would be adding a defensive lineman, a smart selection in a draft class loaded with talent in the trenches, but this feels like No. 7 will go against the grain and break his trend by selecting a linebacker.
White will almost certainly be gone in the 4-to-8 range, which leaves Bush, who’d be a solid pick at 10 but far from a steal. He would, however, be a great fit in the new ‘D’, adding the type of range, cover ability, and athleticism that we haven’t seen from a Broncos middle linebacker in a long time.
Bush isn’t perfect and would need the big uglies up front to protect him, as he isn’t strong taking on blockers, adding someone like Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery in round two would be outstanding, as he’s maybe the best fit for Fangio’s ‘D’ of any prospect out there. Offensively, the best fit would be Garrett Bradbury, the NC State center who was brought on to earth to block for a zone scheme, exactly what new OC Rich Scangarello wants to run.
Did Denver gain or lose ground to their AFC West rivals?
Definitely gained – John Elway clearly has a plan in place now and the plan should have the rest of the division keeping a side eye on Denver’s every move.
If there’s one thing we learned in the colder months last season, it’s that no matter how much the league shifts toward offense, a dominant defense will still have the upper hand.
With the additions of Jackson and Callahan, the Broncos have restocked their secondary to pair alongside Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. It’s clear that Elway is going back to the well that brought him Super Bowl 50. Build a dominant defense and put the offense on the hands of a wily vet who can get the team in the right plays at the line and make big plays in big moments.
If Elway and Co. are able to put the finishing touches on the defense in the draft and put a real weapon in the hands of Vic Fangio, the Broncos will certainly be in a much better place in the division.
The wild, wild west — Last year, the Chiefs and Chargers owned the division, while the Broncos and Raiders were left merely watching their two counterparts run into the playoffs.
Not even one offseason later, the race has tightened—how much is still yet to be seen.
But the Broncos and Raiders—to Denver fan’s dismay—made significant improvements across their roster this offseason, not allowing, at least on paper, the two “C” teams to run into the playoffs as easy this year.
There’s no doubt Denver’s better than they were last year and that should set up a much more competitive, and wild, AFC West.
Gained — The Chiefs defense is worse than it was a year ago, the Chargers have stayed quiet thus far, and the Raiders made all sorts of splashy moves, while the Broncos did exactly what they needed to; restoring the secondary to fit what Fangio needs and patching up the biggest need on the OL with James. Not to mention, Denver has upgraded at quarterback too, which can’t be understated.
So while the race has tightened, a Broncos team that was putrid in 2018 but still in the playoff race with a month left in the regular season, already got better and we haven’t even had the draft yet.
John Elway may be implementing more of a short-term approach with these moves than a long term strategy, but that’s allowed Denver to close the gap, especially with some major upgrades to the coaching staff.
What will the Broncos record be?
9-7 – To be honest, I hate doing these sort of predictions this early because so much will change between now and Week 1, but on paper, I think Denver has done enough to get themselves back into the playoff hunt. Between the additions of Vic Fangio and Mike Munchak to the coaching staff, an upgrade at quarterback and the haul they pulled in during free agency, this team should be above .500.
Above .500 — Three years ago, this bar would have been disgusting to Broncos fans. Now, after 11 combined wins the past two seasons, this would be a significant upgrade and very encouraging for the organization moving forward.
The Broncos nailed free agency, upgrading their second and third cornerback, right tackle and, most importantly, quarterback.
Additionally, Elway landed two of the best coaches in the game, Fangio and Munchak, who have both historically done wonders to their respective areas of expertise.
All of these should combine for at least a three-game improvement, even in what could very well be the best division in football.
9-7 — Assuming the Broncos can take care of business in the draft by patching up some of their remaining holes, we could be looking at double-digit wins.
For now, the Broncos are good enough to steal a couple of inter-divisional wins at home with their defense and should manage six wins against out of division opponents in the NFC North—which Fangio knows all too well—and AFC South.
With the upgrades that have been made, a three-win improvement seems like a reasonable prediction with the potential for more.