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Tracking every Broncos move as the NFL's new league year begins

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 15, 2021

George Paton’s first free agency leading the Denver Broncos is underway.

Here are the moves the Broncos and Paton have made to start off their 2021 campaign.


Re-signed Kareem Jackson

On Tuesday, just over one week after declining his team option, the Broncos re-signed safety Kareem Jackson, as first reported by Ian Rapoport.

Jackson spent the last two seasons with the Broncos after signing a three-year, $33 million deal with the team in 2019. Partnered with Justin Simmons, the two became one of the best, if not the best, safety duos in the NFL. Carrying a cap hit of nearly $13 million for the 2021 season, however, Denver did not exercise the final year of Jackson’s deal after not being able to workout a new contract with him.

But after spending just over a week as a free agent, Jackson re-signed with the Broncos on a one-year, $5 million contract, as reported by Brandon Krisztal.

Jackson is the third All-Pro in Denver’s secondary, along with Kyle Fuller and Simmons.

Broncos sign All-Pro Kyle Fuller

Shortly after the All-Pro cornerback was released from the Chicago Bears on Saturday, George Paton and the Broncos signed Kyle Fuller. The 2018 All-Pro joins Denver on a one-year, $9.5 million contract, as reported by Tom Pelissero.

Fuller reunites with Vic Fangio after the two spent four seasons together in Chicago from 2015-18. The former first-round pick in 2014 had his best season in 2018 under Fangio when he had a league-best seven interceptions, was named a first-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl.

Paton was the second starting cornerback Denver signed this week after locking in Ronald Darby to a three-year, $30 million contract on Monday. Additionally, the Broncos signed Justin Simmons to a record-breaking deal on Friday. In less than a week, the Broncos’ transformed their secondary.

Brandon McManus and Mike Purcell create cap space

According to Brandon McManus himself, he and teammate Mike Purcell both converted their 2021 roster bonus into signing bonus in order to free up cap space for the Broncos.

By doing so, Denver will free up a few million dollars in cap space this year.

Signed Justin Simmons to a long-term deal

On Friday, Justin Simmons finally received the long-term contract he has been waiting for from the Broncos. Simmons and the Broncos agreed on a four-year deal worth $61 million that includes $35 million guaranteed, as first reported by Benjamin Allbright.

With a per-year average of $15.25 million, Simmons becomes the high-paid safety in the NFL and resets the market.

Since being a third-round pick in 2016, Simmons has excelled on the field, in the locker room as a leader and off the field with his work in the community. Over the past two season, Simmons has become one of the NFL’s best safeties, earning All-Pro honors in 2019 and his first Pro Bowl nod in 2020.

The two sides had unit July 15 to workout a long-term deal after the team franchised tagged Simmons for a second-straight year, but Paton wanted to get the deal done significantly before the deadline. On Friday, it became a done deal.

Broncos expected to go after Kyle Fuller

According to Mike Garafolo, the Broncos are expected to make a “strong push” for cornerback Kyle Fuller once he is available.

On Thursday, it was reported the Chicago Bears were going to release Fuller. However, the All-Pro cornerback isn’t expected to be officially released until Friday afternoon if the Bears aren’t able to find a trade partner.

Whether it’s via trade or signing him on the open market, the addition of Fuller would be massive for Denver’s defense. The former first-round pick had the best year of his career under Vic Fangio in 2018 when the two were in Chicago together. Fuller led the league in interceptions, made his first Pro Bowl and was named a First-team All-Pro.

If the Broncos are able to land Fuller, Paton would have completely revamped Denver’s cornerback room in less than a week by adding an All-Pro and signing Ronald Darby to a three-year, $30 million deal.

Rescinded RFA tender on Phillip Lindsay

By rescinding the right-of-first-refusal tender that Denver had placed on Phillip Lindsay on Monday, the Colorado Native immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent and officially ends his three-year run with the Broncos.

Paton and Lindsay talked on Thursday morning and decided it was best for both sides to mutually go their separate ways, a source told DNVR.

The Broncos originally placed the tender on Lindsay when they were unsure if they were going to be able to sign another running back in free agency. However, after signing Mike Boone on Wednesday night, the team decided to do right by Lindsay and let him be an unrestricted free agent.

Lindsay will now hit the open market with no constraints to where he can sign.

The graduate of South High School had a short, but incredibly sweet career in Denver. After signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Lindsay became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. A year later, he became the first undrafted player to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Lindsay racked up 2,550 rushing yards in his three-year career with the Broncos.

Signed running back Mike Boone

After watching Mike Boone closely in Minnesota the past three years, Paton decided to bring the fourth-year running back with him to Denver on a two-year deal, as first reported by Mike Klis.

The former Viking running back received $2.6 million guaranteed and a $1.6 million signing bonus from the Broncos, according to Tom Pelissero.

Boone was primarily a third-string running back during his three years in Minnesota. However, he has made the most of his opportunities as he averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry over his career. In 2020, he ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

For the Broncos, the 5-foot-10, 206-pound back will have an opportunity to compete for the backup running back job and will be a valuable contributor on special teams, just as he was in Minnesota.

Second-round tender placed on Tim Patrick and Alexander Johnson

A sourced confirmed to DNVR the Broncos have placed a second-round tender on both Tim Patrick and Alexander Johnson.

By placing a second-round tender on the two players, both are expected to return to the Broncos in 2021. As restricted free agents, both will have the opportunity to test free agency.

However, if either of them are offered a contract by another team, the Broncos will have the opportunity to match that contract. If Denver decided not to match the offer, the Broncos would receive a second-round pick from the team who signed either player. If they aren’t offered a contract on the open market, they will return to the Broncos on their one-year deal.

Patrick and Alexander will make $3.3 million in 2021 on the second-round tender.

Will pick up Von Miller contract option

The Von Miller era will continue for another year after Paton and the Broncos decided they will pick up Miller’s contract option for the final year of his deal, as first reported by Mike Klis.

After much debate, Denver decided to exercise Miller’s option that will pay him $18 million in 2021. He will carry a $22 million cap hit.

According to Klis, the Broncos tried to restructure his contract to lower his cap hit, but Von declined. After seeing the pass rush market explode on the first day of free agency on Monday, the team decided paying Miller $18 million was worth it. Von now enters 2021 on the final year of his contract.

“I have totally bought into being a Coloradoan for life, let alone a Denver Bronco,” Miller said in a statement on his Instagram. “I want to be here forever through the thick, the thin, the Super Bowl seasons, the losing season. I want to be here forever.”

Won’t exercise Kareem Jackson’s option

After not being able to restructure Kareem Jackson’s deal, Paton decided to decline the contract option for the final year of the veteran safeties deal, as first reported by Mike Klis.

By not exercising the option, Jackson will become a free agent. The move saves the Broncos $10 million in salary cap space for 2021, while only costing $2.8 million in dead money.

Jackson signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Broncos in 2019 and quickly became part of a top safety duo in the NFL alongside Justin Simmons. But after placing the franchise tag on Simmons for a second-straight season — and working on a long-term deal with him — Paton opted to save money at the other safety position by moving on from Jackson.

Placed right-of-first-refusal tender on Phillip Lindsay

By placing the low tender on Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos are allowing the Colorado Native to hit the open market and negotiate with other teams in free agency. If, for the slim chance, Lindsay doesn’t receive an offer from another team, he will return to the Broncos just slightly above the $2 million price tag that comes with the tender.

Earlier in the offseason, Paton stated he wanted Lindsay to return, but had not committed on what tender the team was going to give him. If Denver had given the fourth-year back a second-round tender, it would have paid him $3.3 million in 2021 and would have forced any team that signed him to give up a second-round pick in order to do so. That would have nearly guaranteed his return. However, with the right-of-first-refusal tender, a team that signs him wouldn’t have to give up anything to the Broncos to do so. Denver will have the opportunity to match any offer a team gives to Lindsay.

After becoming the first undrafted running back in NFL history to rush for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, it’s very possible Lindsay has played his last snap in Denver for the Broncos.

Signed Ronald Darby

The Broncos locked in a starting cornerback on the first day of free agency after agreeing to a three-year contract with Ronald Darby, as first reported by Adam Schefter. According to Ian Rapoport, Darby’s three-year contract with Denver is for $30 million and includes $19.5 million guaranteed.

Darby, 27, was the Buffalo Bills’ second-round pick in 2015 out of Florida State. After two seasons, he moved on to Philadelphia, where he won a Super Bowl with the Eagles. During his time in Philly, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound cornerback battled multiple injuries and was never able to play a full season.

However, last year, in his lone season with the Washington Football Team, Darby played all 16 games and was a key piece in Ron Rivera’s top defensive unit. Darby’s 16 passes defended was the fifth-most in the NFL.

He’ll join Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia in Denver’s cornerback room.

Re-signed Shelby Harris

Paton stayed in Denver for his first move of free agency as he re-signed Shelby Harris on Monday. Denver kept the 29-year-old defensive lineman in town with a three-year, $27 million contract with $15 million guaranteed, as first reported by Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.

“Shelby sets the tone on our defensive line,” Paton said in a statement via denverbroncos.com. “As a disruptive pass rusher and physical run defender, he’s hard to handle up front. We’re excited to have Shelby back with the Broncos.”

After testing the market in search of a large payday last year, Harris wasted no time locking in a long-term deal which will keep him with the Broncos through the 2023 season.

Moving on from Austin Calitro

According to Ryan O’Halloran, the Broncos will not tender restricted free agent Austin Calitro. Additionally, the team will not re-sign him. Calitro was a special teams player for the Broncos in 2020 and didn’t play a single defensive snap.


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