The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is just a week away, which means that even though the Super Bowl just ended, we're already on the march toward another season.
As the offseason begins in full swing, I'm taking a look at the some of the questions facing new Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager George Paton. I'll examine free-agent options on offense, whether Russell Wilson will bounce back in 2023 and more.
To leave a question for a future mailbag, click here or tweet at me @AricDiLalla.
Let's get to it.
Do you believe Denver will make any significant changes to the WR core such as a possible trade for more draft capital or signing a veteran such as Jakobi Meyers or Sterling Shepard? - BroncosEdge_
This is one of the most fascinating questions of the offseason, and I don't think anyone other than Sean Payton and George Paton know the answer. Personally, I think the Broncos could use one more dynamic skill player, but I could be swayed whether that player needs to be at wide receiver, tight end or running back. In Payton's offenses in the past, there's been one or two players that have traditionally shouldered the load each season. If the same is true in Denver, I believe Jerry Jeudy can be one of those guys. Can Courtland Sutton or Tim Patrick be the other? Can a player like Greg Dulcich emerge in that role? It will be interesting to see, but I certainly wouldn't rule out Payton and Paton bringing in competition. This isn't limited to the wide receiving corps, but I'll be fascinated to see how quickly the roster turns over and how many new players will be brought in. Payton acknowledged the first couple of years were difficult and uncomfortable in New Orleans as they upgraded the roster, and it's possible that some tough choices may need to be made in Denver. The free-agent wide receiver market seems to be a little thin, so the Broncos will have to be intentional about their choices.
Other than O-Line, [what are some] top FA options? - JJ
We touched on the wide receiving corps already, so if we're directing our attention away from that group and the offensive line, there's a couple of spots I'd focus on in regards to Denver's offense. The Broncos will likely need to add a running back to work alongside Javonte Williams, and they'll also need a backup quarterback. Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders were the most productive rushers in 2022 who are slated to become free agents, but all three players could be candidates to be franchise tagged. After a productive second half of the 2022 season, perhaps Latavius Murray could be a candidate to return, given his ties to Payton. A dual-threat running back could also be an option, given Alvin Kamara's success under Payton. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Case Keenum, Andy Dalton and Taylor Heinicke are among a slew of free-agent quarterbacks that could be possibilities if Denver wants a veteran option behind Russell Wilson. Denver could also pursue upgrades in the draft, but there should be free-agent help available if the team chooses to move in that direction. Defensively, defensive line would be an area to watch depending on the team's decisions on Dre'Mont Jones and DeShawn Williams.
How many games do you think Denver will win next year? - @ReeseWDavidson
If you're looking for a sign that the Broncos can quickly improve their win total, you don't have to look much further than the Broncos' record in one-score games. Denver was 4-9 in one-possession games, which is encouraging for a couple of reasons. First, it means the Broncos were highly competitive in almost all of their 12 losses. Second, the Broncos should likely see improvement on that number in 2023. One-score games should be a coin flip, and teams that succeed a lot or fail a lot in those scenarios tend to regress to the mean the following year. So, let's say the Broncos end up closer to .500 in one-score games. Last year, that would've given the Broncos two or three more wins. With a veteran coach like Payton, it seems likely the Broncos may actually have an advantage in late-game scenarios, which could boost the Broncos over .500 in these sorts of situations. That's before you consider the impact Payton should have on Russell Wilson and the rest of the offense. After the hype of last offseason, I'm hesitant to make grand projections, especially with seven games against 2022 playoff teams on the slate. I want to see the team in action before I declare they're going to win 11 or 12 games. Payton had the right approach when he said fans should expect a different culture and for the team to win. How many wins? Let's wait a little bit longer before those projections.
Do you see Russ improving next year or no? - @num1broncofan18
No question. In the final two weeks of the season, he looked like the Russell Wilson that everybody expected when he arrived in Denver. He used his legs, made big plays with his arm and went punch for punch with the Chiefs and Chargers. It was an indication that with the right offense and the right mindset, Wilson can still be highly successful. There were moments like that throughout the season — I think back to road games against the Raiders and Chargers and a late drive against the 49ers — but the end of the season was the most consistent example. When you have those flashes and you enter an offensive guru like Payton into the mix, you've got a great chance to be successful. Payton is going to find a way to get the most out of Wilson and the entire offense, and I'd be surprised if we're not saying in a few months that the 2022 season seemed like an aberration in terms of Wilson's performance.
What is Sean Payton's strategy for helping the offense have a bounce back season? - @bdjohnson1986
Play to their strengths. It sounds simple, but I'm not sure the Broncos' offense did that in 2022. As Payton said in his introductory press conference, he plans to evaluate the strengths of Wilson and the rest of the offense and build an offense around what this team does best. The good news? He's had success with a variety of different philosophies. During Drew Brees' early years in New Orleans, the Saints threw it more than any team in the NFL. Later, the Saints transitioned to a more balanced offense and still found strong results. I might be most impressed by Payton's performance in 2021, when he had four different quarterbacks start games and still went 9-8 with a top 20 scoring offense. In Denver, I'd be excited about what a player like Jeudy could do in a Payton-led offense. We'll have to see what the specifics look like come August.
Favorite player when you were growing up? - @Pokemon075803
Only one option when you grow up a Tennessee Volunteers fan, right? Peyton Manning was incredible to watch, and he got me hooked on this game. Was surreal, to say the least, when I ended up in Denver more than a decade later and had the chance to interview someone who I'd grown up watching.