ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It's that time of year.
Spring is around the corner, and the Broncos' Twitter mentions will soon be full of "Sign [Player A]!!" and "Draft [Player B]!!"
Through free agency and the draft, the Broncos will have a chance to add to their roster. But before Denver starts signing impactful free agents or drafting talented prospects, it's worth taking a look at where the team stands.
As Sean Payton begins his first offseason as head coach, here's a rundown of the team that he and General Manager George Paton will guide into the 2023 season.
The Broncos will enter Year 2 of the Russell Wilson era hoping to get a level of play from the veteran quarterback that more closely resembles what the team saw from him in the final two weeks of 2022. The rest of the quarterback room could look different behind Wilson, as Brett Rypien is poised to become a restricted free agent. The Broncos could extend a tender to Rypien if they want him to return, but it's also possible that the team will bring in a new option. The crop of free-agent quarterbacks is quite strong, and Payton has ties to several players who previously served as reserve quarterbacks for the Saints. The Broncos could also choose to draft and develop a young prospect, though their lack of draft capital may make that avenue less appealing. In some fashion, though, the Broncos will add to their quarterback room this offseason.
Denver also has decisions to make at the running back position, where starter Javonte Williams is working back from a knee injury. Depending on Williams' status, the Broncos' focus may need to change. If Williams seems set to return with no limitations, the Broncos may look to add a complementary piece. However, if Williams needs more time to rehab, the team may need to add a 1B option. Mike Boone, Marlon Mack and Latavius Murray are all set to become unrestricted free agents, but Williams, Chase Edmonds and Tyler Badie are among those remain under contract. Perhaps Murray's history with Payton could lead to his return, but the Broncos will need to reshape this room over the coming months.
The Broncos still have strong depth at wide receiver, as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler all remain under contract. Patrick and Hamler are poised to return from injury, and the Broncos also have a proven veteran in Kendall Hinton. Brandon Johnson and Jalen Virgil showed flashes in their rookie campaigns, and 2022 fifth-round pick Montrell Washington also has intriguing talent. Freddie Swain and Victor Bolden are also on the Broncos' roster and could compete for snaps. Perhaps the biggest question facing the Broncos is whether they will pick up Jeudy's fifth-year option, which must be exercised by May 1.
The Broncos' most promising player in the tight end room is likely Greg Dulcich, who finished his rookie season with 33 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games. He's joined in the tight end room by Albert Okwuegbunam, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Both Eric Saubert and Eric Tomlinson are poised to be unrestricted free agents, which means the Broncos could be in need of tight ends who excel at blocking. During Payton's tenure with the Saints, Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook were among the tight ends who thrived for New Orleans. It's possible Payton will want to add another dynamic player to the Broncos' tight end group.
Denver has seen plenty of change along the offensive line in recent years, and the 2023 offseason figures to be no different. Starting left guard Dalton Risner and tackles Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming are all set to be unrestricted free agents, as is offensive lineman Tom Compton. Should Risner leave Denver in free agency, the Broncos would need to find both a starting left guard and starting right tackle. Garett Bolles is set to return from injury at left tackle, while Quinn Meinerz will enter the third season of his career. Lloyd Cushenberry III and Graham Glasgow — who split time at center in 2022 — also remain under contract. Luke Wattenberg, a 2022 Day 3 draft pick, joins Will Sherman, Christian DiLauro, Isaiah Prince and Hunter Thedford and Parker Ferguson as other linemen under contract.
With Dre'Mont Jones and DeShawn Williams poised to become free agents, the Broncos will have to decide if they're confident in their young players or if they need to add to their first line of defense. Eyioma Uwazurike and Matt Henningsen saw varying degrees of playing time in 2022, and they join a unit that featured a strong free-agent addition last year in D.J. Jones. Mike Purcell, who did not miss a game last season, returns as a strong rotational player with starting experience. Jonathan Harris, Elijah Garcia and Jordan Jackson could also compete as the Broncos begin their offseason program in the coming months. If Denver wants to add more talent to the group, free agency and the draft are both feasible options. Should Dre'Mont Jones leave Denver, the Broncos will need to find a way to replace his interior pass-rushing production.
Will the Bash Bros return in 2023? On the heels of his most productive season, Josey Jewell seems poised to return to lead the Broncos' inside linebacking corps — but the other starter remains uncertain. Alex Singleton, after leading the team in tackles, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jonas Griffith, meanwhile, is an exclusive rights free agent, which means he is only able to negotiate with the Broncos if the team chooses to tender him. The Broncos' moves at this position group may begin in a few weeks with a decision on whether to bring Singleton back to Denver.
The Broncos have plenty of potential at outside linebacker, as Randy Gregory is a proven force and Nik Bonitto has a second-round pedigree. Baron Browning also showed flashes of his rushing ability. Denver's quest will be to keep its pass rushers healthy and productive, as the unit struggled at times following the departure of Bradley Chubb ahead of the trade deadline. Their moves, too, will be interesting to watch. Their crop of young players — which also includes Jonathon Cooper, among others — remains under contract, save for Jonathan Kongbo, who is an exclusive rights free agent. Will the Broncos press forward with the existing group? Or will Paton and Payton aim to make a splash in the draft or free agency? One player to watch: Christopher Allen, who had six sacks for Alabama in 2020 before breaking his foot and missing the 2021 and 2022 seasons. If he can make an impact, it would feel like a free-agent addition for Denver.
The Broncos have an All-Pro cornerback in Pat Surtain II, and 2022 fourth-round pick Damarri Mathis proved more than capable as he filled in following Ronald Darby's season-ending injury. The Broncos will need to decide at some point who will start opposite Surtain, but they are seemingly in a good spot at the position. K'Waun Williams remains with the team after a strong debut season in Denver, and the team also has some young talent. Darius Phillips is set to become an unrestricted free agent, while Essang Bassey is a restricted free agent. If Denver adds to this group, it may be for depth, given the quality of its starters.
Justin Simmons is on the heels of the most productive season of his career — despite missing five games — but the Broncos' work will be opposite the All-Pro safety. Veteran Kareem Jackson is again an unrestricted free agent, and P.J. Locke is an RFA. Caden Sterns missed most of the season with an injury, but he figures to be among the players who could compete for a starting job. Dellarin Turner-Yell appeared in 14 games as a rookie as a special teams contributor and could earn more snaps in Year 2.
After an uneven debut season, punter Corliss Waitman is set to be an exclusive rights free agent. Kicker Brandon McManus remains under contract, while long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer will be a restricted free agent. Denver will feature a new special teams coordinator in 2022, but it remains to be seen whether that will signal changes for the specialists.