I read (Broncos president/CEO) Joe Ellis say that the GM position is considered one of the top destinations. But with the state of the ownership, who would really want this job? If the team does sell, the new owners might want their own people in place. So how would you go about selling the position at this juncture with a trial looming and siblings squabbling?
— Del, Lamar
I would have been surprised had Ellis not said the Broncos’ GM post was a premier opening. Judging by the candidates who have interviewed so far, Broncos fans should feel good about the type of talent who have expressed interest, particularly Minnesota’s George Paton, who has turned down several interview opportunities through the years.
Here would be my stump speech. The Broncos have some young talent on the roster. The entire building knows the defense must be addressed. Led by Ellis, any financial resource requested — be it adding employees or changing things in the building — will be approved. And if a new owner arrives, it may not be until the 2023 offseason so that’s two years to build a winner and show the new owner sweeping changes aren’t necessary.
A league source ranked the Broncos’ opening behind Jacksonville, Atlanta, Houston and Detroit. That got some attention, but think about it: The Jaguars have the No. 1 pick, Atlanta has stable ownership, Houston has Deshaun Watson (we think) and, well, I would put the Broncos ahead of the Lions. But this source’s main concern was ownership.
Ryan, let’s put the GM hat on you. Who do you take at No. 9 and who’s your starting quarterback?
— Danny, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Let’s go to commissioner Roger Goodell for the announcement: “With the ninth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Patrick Surtain, cornerback, Alabama.”
Surtain’s father, also named Patrick, played several years in the NFL as a cornerback so he has the pedigree and the talent. Surtain has started 38 consecutive games and was a first-team All-American in 2020. Listed at 6-foot-2, he has the size to go against the league’s physical receivers.
I’ll say Drew Lock will be the Broncos’ Week 1 quarterback.
In 11 games, the Broncos’ offense failed to score more than 21 points, which led to a 2-9 record. I know John Elway focused on building up the offense last offseason, but it didn’t seem like it made a big difference. Is getting Courtland Sutton back going to help that much? I don’t know if it will if Drew Lock keeps blowing simple passes.
— Karl, Fort Collins
How would you grade the Broncos’ 2020 draft class? Jerry Jeudy put up about the type of numbers I expected him to and Lloyd Cushenberry III seemed OK for a first-year center. What did you think?
— Ross, Seattle
Karl and Ross were on the same topic asking about the young offensive talent …
I’ll argue with you on the rookies not making much of a difference offensively. Cushenberry was the only player on offense to play every snap. Jeudy led the team with 23 “explosive” catches (gain of at least 16 yards). And KJ Hamler was a change-of-pace player who also scored two touchdowns in the win over Carolina.
In the regular season, teams that scored 25 points in a game went 187-72 so getting to that average needs to happen for the Broncos to be more competitive.
Yes, getting Sutton back will be critical. He would have had 100 catches in Pat Shurmur’s offense and been a key to the red zone plan.
As for a grade, I would give them a B.
Is it realistic that the Broncos are in the market for a new quarterback? Drew Lock is a work in progress, but at least we have an idea of what we have with him. Will the next general manager go after someone like Carson Wentz or Cam Newton or would he use their first-round pick on someone like Justin Fields?
— Ken Thompson, Colorado Springs
What kind of odds do you place on Drew Lock starting for the Broncos next year? He had a mix of good and bad moments, but man, did he struggle to maintain consistency in his play. Do you think the Broncos will go after someone like Mac Jones in the draft or try and get a trade for Carson Wentz or Jimmy Garoppolo to produce some QB competition?
— Mike, Denver
Ken and Mike both asked about quarterback options. It’s realistic the Broncos are looking at every spot on the depth chart to decide if an upgrade is necessary. Will the new general manager think an overhaul at quarterback is required? I doubt it. My guess is the new GM will focus on finding a No. 2 who can be a solid relief passer and take over for Lock if needed.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson was fired Monday, which could mean Wentz stays with the Eagles. I wouldn’t call about him. The same for Cam Newton. Did you see him try and throw the football this year? Yikes. Garoppolo is coming off an injury-plagued season. No thanks.
Fields, the Ohio State quarterback, won’t be on the board at No. 9 so the Broncos would have to give up several picks, including their 2022 first-rounder, to leap over other teams.
Jones, the Alabama quarterback, will be available late in the first round but I doubt that’s in-play.
How’s the team’s salary situation if we re-sign Justin Simmons? Do we have enough money to go after a quality cornerback (or two) in free agency?
— Mike, Denver
The industry website Over The Cap does a great job with the cap mechanics so I use them as a reference to answer your question, Mike.
Just for starters, the Broncos can create more than $25 million by cutting cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive end Jurrell Casey. That would allow them to re-sign or tag Simmons and keep safety Kareem Jackson at his number of $12.88 million.
The top free agent cornerbacks, based on regular season playing time, are Cleveland’s Terrance Mitchell, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, Washington’s Ronald Darby and the Los Angeles Rams’ Troy Hill.
Translation: The best way to address cornerback will be in the draft.
Ryan, when a player is forced to sit out games due to a league suspension, is there salary credited back to the salary cap?
— Bill Neel, Georgetown, Texas
Yes, Bill. This year, when cornerback A.J. Bouye was suspended for the final four games, the final quarter of his salary was taken off the Broncos’ cap. The same when right tackle Ja’Wuan James opted out of the season before training camp — his $10 million cap charge was tolled ahead to 2021.
Why should Broncos’ brass expect anyone to spend a dime watching this team next year if Vic Fangio is going to be coaching them? Whether it was the 70-yard field goal, calling timeout for Las Vegas when they didn’t have the right personnel on the field for fourth-and-goal or not bothering to get a few more yards with nine seconds remaining in the final game, if Fangio hasn’t shown the ability to learn from his mistakes, why would you expect his players to? This is why other teams don’t hire first-time coaches in their 60s.
— Steve, Forks, Wash.
Fangio started the season with a timeout fiasco (not using them soon enough as Tennessee drove for the game-winning score) and ended the season with a timeout fiasco (calling a timeout before Las Vegas’ two-point conversion try when the Raiders were scrambling to get the right personnel on the field.).
In between though, I didn’t see a big issue with how Fangio managed the game in terms of timeouts and replay challenges. That said, two hiccups is enough for the Broncos to have a discussion about who should be well-versed in time management and has Fangio’s ear.
Ryan, it may be a little early for this, but is there any indication one way or the other that the NFL will continue some of the special altered rules next year? Specifically, the more flexible use of injured reserve and the practice squad. Thanks again.
— Fred Waiss, Prairie du Chien, Wis.
Too early for an official answer, Fred, but it’s a good topic to bring up because it seemed to help teams out in 2020. The practice squad was expanded to 16 players — that’s not a big ask since the practice squad was already expanding from 10 to 12 players in ’20 even before the pandemic.
What the NFL does with the injured reserve rule will be interesting. In ’20, teams could activate unlimited players after they sat out three weeks; previously, they could activate only two players and not until they had been out eight weeks.
The rule I hope they keep is the ability to call up practice squad players to the game-day roster and then return them to the practice squad twice without being subject to waivers. The Broncos took advantage of that with safety Alijah Holder and inside linebacker Josh Watson.
Here’s hoping there is a vaccination system in place so the NFL doesn’t need to keep its COVID-19/reserve list in 2021.
With no owner in place, are the Broncos limited at what they can do when it comes to signing big-name free agents or doing big contract extensions? Also, do the Broncos cut Gordon and re-sign Philip Lindsay?
— Victor, Alameda, Calif.
The Broncos’ football business is not impacted by the lack of an owner, as evident by their free-agent/trade activities and re-signing their players over the years.
Cutting Gordon/re-signing Lindsay didn’t appear to be on the table two weeks ago, but the bet is off now that a new general manager is on the way. He may think Gordon, who is likely to start ’21 with a three-game suspension (DUI arrest), is too expensive and create $4 million of cap space by cutting him. Some of that money, but not much, could then be allocated to Lindsay.
If the Broncos cut Gordon, they shouldn’t bank on a Lindsay/Royce Freeman tandem. They would have to draft a running back.
Would it be possible to revisit Drew Lock’s stats and see what they would look like had Jerry Jeudy caught those five dropped passes against the Chargers?
— Tim Monroe, Kingston, Idaho
Tim, you made me dig into my stat books just when I thought I had put them in the bookshelf for a few weeks.
In the Week 16 loss to the Chargers, Lock was 24-of-47 passing for 264 yards.
Jeudy’s five drops came five, six, eight, 12 and 45 yards downfield.
If all Jeudy did was catch the passes and gained no yards post-catch, Lock would have been 29-of-47 for 340 yards.
Ryan, who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl? Any dark-horses in your mind?
— Mark, Portland, Ore.
Mark sent this question in last week before the six wild card round games. Had I been able to address it then, I would have listed the Los Angeles Rams. Well, they’re still alive after winning at Seattle and now they go to top-seeded Green Bay. It was an interesting weekend with the Rams, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cleveland winning road games. Of those, I think Tampa Bay has the best chance to reach the Super Bowl — and play at its home stadium. Yes, the Buccaneers lost twice to New Orleans during the regular season, but Playoff Time is Tommy (Brady) Time.
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