Last season, the Broncos’ cornerback position was decimated by injuries, and they all came at different times. Champ Bailey came into the season with a foot injury, and the Broncos wound up at some point losing Chris Harris, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kayvon Webster, and Tony Carter.
Needless to say, a unit that looked like one of the best in the league going into the season turned into a real bummer of a situation. If the Broncos weren’t missing one guy, they were missing another and could have used whichever one was one the sidelines for whatever reason.
Now, John Elway and company have invested their two most precious assets — money and a 1st round draft pick — into the cornerback position to give the Broncos some much needed depth and youth at the position. Here’s a look at the Broncos’ top cornerbacks and some guys who will be competing for roster spots this year as well.
7th season, Kansas
All his baggage aside, the Broncos did their research on Talib, and despite having the opportunity to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back after his really strong 2013 campaign, the Broncos felt like they were getting a guy in Talib who was the best cornerback they faced all season last year. With Talib, the Broncos feel like they still have a true, #1 lockdown cornerback who can match up physically with any receiver. There are some red flags with Talib, and the Broncos suffered a slight scare this offseason when it was reported that Aqib was arrested, when it was in fact his brother. The Broncos also know that Talib has had his share of durability issues, but they still handed him a really nice sized contract that can be as short or as long as Talib wants. He seems to have grown up, and is ready to help the Broncos compete for a title.
4th season, Kansas
Since coming onto the Broncos’ roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Harris has developed into what many would say is the best slot cornerback in the entire NFL. Harris’ ability to lock down slot receivers is well-known to this point, but he’s been a playmaker wherever the Broncos have lined him up. In last year’s playoffs, he suffered a partially torn ACL but is apparently already back close to full health, and will be the Broncos’ #2 corner in the base defense as well as the lock-down nickel when they are in that package. Harris is entering a contract year, and figures to be one of a few big name Broncos in line for a sizable pay day.
Rookie, Ohio State
When the Broncos were sitting on the clock at pick #31 overall, and Bradley Roby was on the board, they felt like it was a no-brainer. While there were a number of players that fell to them at that selection, Roby’s top 15 potential was too much to ignore. The Broncos got an aggressive ball hawk who has gotten burned taking some risks, but when you watch him play, you see that ability and the goal is for him to simply get there on a consistent basis. Roby is expected to take over the #2 cornerback role when Chris Harris moves into the nickel spot.
2nd season, South Florida
As a rookie, Kayvon Webster wasn’t expected to do much. The Broncos drafted this relatively unknown kid out of USF that has nice measurables and athletic ability, as well as a decent college resume, but not a lot of pre-draft hype at all. John Elway proved us all wrong with this selection, finding a really nice young player in Webster who played very solid football last season until his thumb injury. This year for the Broncos, he’s expected to be the #4 corner and could develop a more significant role down the road. He is a physical, aggressive, hard-hitting corner who has a lot of nice ability. He should be a special teams ace as well.
5th season, Florida State
The fifth year former UDFA out of Florida State has been a key player for the Broncos in recent years. After being picked up by the Josh McDaniels regime, Carter bounced around the league a bit before he wound up back with the Broncos and starting some games. There was a point last year when Carter, filling in for the injured Champ Bailey, led the NFL in pass breakups. Then, inconsistency and injury took over and he was replaced in the lineup. Carter isn’t the biggest corner, but he’s got plenty of playoff experience and should provide nice depth if needed.
3rd season, Arizona State
Bolden was pushed to safety last year for the Broncos due to the state of the roster, but he could be moved back to cornerback this offseason after some pretty below average play at the safety spot. Bolden came into the NFL with some injuries he had to overcome, but the Broncos loved his size and athletic ability. He’s played in all 16 games over the last two years with one start, and has racked up 27 tackles. He’s also been an emergency kick returner for the Broncos. There are some who feel like Bolden is on his last chance with the Broncos this year, as in a make-or-break season. I think the best way for him to make it is as a dual-threat defensive back, but the Broncos also value special teams highly and he’s a key contributor there, similar to the way David Bruton hasn’t been able to develop into a starting safety but is a core player on STs.
Rookie, Georgia Tech
Young is a big cornerback prospect who has some nice ability and was once considered a really good up-and-coming prospect, but his draft stock fell after he didn’t live up to lofty expectations, but the Broncos don’t have a ton of guys at the cornerback position so Young will have a chance to compete for a spot in training camp.
4th season, South Florida
A former third round pick of the St. Louis Rams, Murphy has flashed potential in the NFL but that’s about it. He’s bounced around the league a bit and is getting another shot at it with the Broncos. He has excellent size and physicality, but he’s gotten burned one too many times. If he is to make the Broncos’ roster, he’s going to need a good showing in training camp.
Sullen is another hybrid defensive back with size and physical style of play that the Broncos are looking at this offseason in hopes to add some more depth to their defensive backfield.