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Examining the Broncos' 2021 unrestricted free agents and if Denver should re-sign them

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 10, 2021

George Paton’s first free agency with the Denver Broncos is nearly underway. But before the general manager looks to sign other team’s free agents, he’ll need to first take a look at who could be leaving Denver.

In his introductory press conference, Paton stated he wants drafting and developing players to be the “lifeblood” of the organization. That mentality would lead to an emphasis on re-signing his own players.

Here are the Broncos currently set to hit the open market on Mar. 17.


Reason to re-sign: Shelby Harris was already a good defensive lineman entering the 2020 season. Then he had his breakout year. Re-signing Harris would give Fangio a top-notch defensive lineman who can stop the run, rush the passer and lead the league in passes batted down.

Case to let him walk: John Elway let Shelby walk in free agency just last year when Harris was looking for a monster deal. However, after the market was significantly less lucrative than he expected, Shelby signed a prove-it deal back in Denver. If Shelby is again looking for a huge deal — which he very well may be after the season he just had — Paton may let him hit the open market to find a bigger payday.

Priority: High


Reason to re-sign: Elijah Wilkinson is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife. Since 2018, Wilkinson has started multiple games at guard and tackle and has played on both sides of the offensive line. Re-signing Wilkinson would be a commitment to depth on the offensive line. It would also give Mike Munchak another year to try and mold Wilkinson into Denver’s right tackle of the future.

Case to let him walk: Two years ago, Broncos’ versatile offensive lineman Billy Turner left Denver after receiving a four-year, $28 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. If Wilkinson is offered starting money anywhere close to what Turner was offered then, the Broncos could easily let Elijah leave.

Priority: Medium


Reason to re-sign: If the Broncos aren’t able to re-sign Wilkinson, Demar Dotson instantly becomes a much bigger priority. After Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season, Denver signed Dotson as depth at right tackle. In his eight starts in 2020, Dotson was a solid and stable presence on Denver’s line.

With uncertainty at right tackle, Denver could look to re-sign Dotson for another year to provide that veteran stability again. Don’t be surprised if this move doesn’t happen for a few months.

Case to let him walk: If Denver re-signs Wilkinson, re-signing Dotson will become far less of a priority, especially immediately. Additionally, if the Broncos draft an offensive tackle, that will make the need for Dotson less pressing as well. At 35 years old, Dotson is certainly not the future; he would only be a short-term fix.

Priority: Low if Wilkinson re-signs, but medium if he doesn’t


Reason to re-sign: Since joining the Broncos in 2019, Jeremiah Attaochu has 8.5 sacks in just 10 starts. That’s pretty-darn impressive. If the Broncos move on from Von Miller, bringing Attaochu back would instantly become a priority for Paton. The outside linebacker would not only play a role on defense, he would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job with Malik Reed.

Case to let him walk: If Von does return for another season, Attaochu could very well be Denver’s fourth outside linebacker fighting for a roster spot. With Von likely to cost a significant amount of cap space — even if he does take a pay cut or restructure — additional money to a veteran outside linebacker just might not be in the budget.

Priority: Medium


Reason to re-sign: One year ago, Will Parks left the Broncos in free agency in search of greener pastures where he could be a starter and get the playing time he was hoping for. But after his time with the Philadelphia Eagles went south before the year was over, Parks found his way back in Denver to close out the 2020 season.

Re-signing Parks for 2021 would make sense for both parties. It would give Denver safety depth and allow Parks to earn a starting role in Fangio’s defense when Kareem Jackson’s time with the Broncos is finished.

Case to let him walk: If Parks wants to try and find a starting role, Denver will not be the place, assuming the team keeps Jackson. With Parks’ ability to play multiple positions, letting him walk wouldn’t make sense for Denver other than if he’s looking for too much money.

Priority: Medium


Reason to re-sign: Denver’s former second-round pick quietly had the best year of his career in 2020. In four starts, Walker racked up 3.5 sacks and added one more sack in the other nine games he played in. If Fangio wants a situational pass rusher to add depth on Denver’s defensive line, Walker could be his guy.

Case to let him walk: After four years in Denver, Walker never lived up to his second-round draft status. If Harris returns, Walker will purely be a depth piece behind Shelby and Dre’Mont Jones.

Priority: Low


Reason to re-sign: De’Vante Bausby showed great flashes of shutting down NFL receivers in his two years with the Broncos. Bringing Bausby back would be a commitment to his high upside and an attempt to make him an all-around corner.

Case to let him walk: Despite cornerback depth issues, Bausby was cut multiples times by Denver in 2020. Bausby ended the season on the bench after being sat in Week 16 for what Fangio called “tackling, or not tackling” issues. From the way the season ended, it appeared Bausby’s time in Denver with Fangio is over.

Priority: Very low


Reason to re-sign: Joe Jones is and has been a special-teams superstar for the Broncos. While he only played five defensive snaps, it would absolutely make sense to bring Jones back to help Denver’s special teams.

Case to let him walk: There are only two reasons to let Jones walk. The first is if he wants a shot on defense. The second would be if he wants too much money to just play special teams.

Priority: Low

Other unrestricted free agents: Anthony Chickillo and Sylvester Williams


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