ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the 2019 season wound down, the Broncos' offensive core showed flashes of its potential.
En route to a 4-1 finish, Drew Lock earned the right to be the team's presumptive 2020 starter, Noah Fant solidified himself as the top rookie tight end, Dalton Risner capped off a strong campaign, Phillip Lindsay broke 1,000 yards again and Courtland Sutton put the finishing touches on a Pro Bowl season.
All told, the team's young players demonstrated why the Broncos' offense has potential to take strides in 2020 under new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur.
When free agency officially begins on March 18, John Elway and the Broncos can add even more talent to the unit.
Here's a look, then, at some of the top players on offense who could hit the open market next week.
[Note: This is not an all-encompassing list. Rather, the following players are among the top options at their positions and could fill needs for the Broncos. The list also does not contain current Broncos who are set to be free agents next week.]
WR AMARI COOPER
The Cowboys reportedly want to keep both Cooper and Dak Prescott in Dallas, but they're running out of time to make that a reality. If Dallas is unable to come to a long-term agreements with Prescott and Cooper by March 16 — the new reported deadline to use the franchise tag — then the Cowboys will likely be forced to franchise their quarterback. If that's the case — and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is approved — Cooper would hit the open market. The four-time Pro Bowler is just 25 years old and caught 79 passes for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. If the Broncos were to pair him with Sutton, Denver would instantly have one of the more dangerous wide receiving duos in the league. Cooper would likely demand the largest contract of any available wide receiver.
WR ROBBY ANDERSON
If the Broncos don't want to spend top dollar on Cooper, Anderson could be another good option. The speedy wide receiver could help stretch the field and complement Sutton's size and strength. Though he's never made a Pro Bowl, Anderson ranked 13th in the league in yards per catch among players with at least 50 receptions in 2019 and caught 52 passes for 779 yards and five touchdowns. He has recorded at least that many touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, and he has 40 catches of at least 20 yards over that span. The Jets are reportedly trying to re-sign Anderson before free agency begins, but he could be an option for the Broncos if they choose to go after a receiver. With a historically deep wide receiver class in this year's draft, the Broncos could also choose to wait until April to add speed to the offense.
G JOE THUNEY
The Broncos will have a new starting right guard in 2020 after Elway announced the team will decline its option on Ron Leary's contract. Washington's Brandon Scherff would likely be the best available option, but Washington reportedly plans to franchise him before free agency begins. That means Thuney could be the next-best target. A 2016 third-round pick, Thuney has never missed a game during his four-year career with New England, and the 6-foot-5, 308-pound player has helped anchor the Patriots' offensive line as the team's left guard. He has allowed just seven sacks in his career and only one over the last two years. If the Broncos were to pursue Thuney, he would either need to move right guard, or the Broncos would have to shift Risner from left guard, where he started every game last season. Denver's plans for the interior line may depend on whether they choose to re-sign center Connor McGovern, who would also enter free agency next week.
RB DERRICK HENRY
The Broncos have a pair of capable running backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, but there's always allure when a player of Henry's caliber is available. Henry rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019 on 303 carries as he led the Titans to a late-season playoff surge. Once in the field, the former second-round pick was dominant in both of the Titans' playoff wins. In the wild-card round against New England, Henry rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. The following week, he carried the ball 30 times for 195 yards in a win over the top-seeded Ravens. The Titans will likely aim to keep Henry in the fold, but that decision could depend on how the quarterback landscape shakes out. If the Titans choose to move forward with Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback, that could lead to Henry hitting the market. Like the Cowboys' situation, the Titans' ability to keep both Tannehill and Henry could depend on whether the new CBA passes. If it does, teams would lose the ability to use the franchise tag and transition tag.
RB MELVIN GORDON
Ahead of the 2019 season, the two-time Pro Bowler held out in hopes of a new deal. Gordon returned to the field against the Broncos in Week 5, but Austin Ekeler ended the season with more all-purpose yards and touchdowns. The Chargers recently announced they have signed Ekeler to an extension, which means Gordon could be on the move. And while his numbers dropped in 2019, he is just a year removed from a Pro Bowl season in which he rushed for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also added 50 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns during that 2018 season.
T ANTHONY CASTONZO
If the Broncos decide they want to upgrade at the offensive tackle position, Castonzo could be an option. The former first-round pick ranked seventh among NFL tackles who played at least five games last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He would enter the 2020 season as a 32-year-old, but he's started all 16 games in three of the last four seasons and has missed just 12 games in his nine-year career. The Colts seem hopeful to keep Castonzo in Indianapolis, though, and he would command a sizeable contract if he hits the open market next week. After the Broncos signed Ja'Wuan James in 2019 to play right tackle, they may plan to move forward with either Garett Bolles or a draft pick at left tackle. If the Broncos are in the free-agent market for a tackle, they could also potentially target Tennessee's Jack Conklin or Green Bay's Brian Bulaga. Both men have played at right tackle, so signing either of those players may require the team to shift some players around on the line. The Redskins have also reportedly allowed seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams to seek a trade.