Denver Broncos free agency: If the Broncos are unable to afford bringing back defensive end Malik Jackson, is Nick Fairley a viable alternative in free agency?
The Denver Broncos would hate to see Malik Jackson in free agency, but lucky for them, this is a really solid looking class of players both on the free agent market as well as in the 2016 NFL Draft. Replacements are out there, though I don’t know if anyone is going to be able to come in and provide exactly what Malik Jackson does.
At last report, the Broncos were working in ‘earnest’ to re-sign Malik Jackson, but that could just be talk at this point. Nobody really knows. As we discussed on an article earlier Wednesday here on Predominantly Orange, the question of whether or not Jackson comes back to Denver is going to be based on an average salary per year of around $11-15 million per season, and that’s where the two sides could really differ.
The Broncos were able to re-sign Derek Wolfe for under $10 million per season, but won’t likely be so lucky with Jackson. Wolfe’s intent all along was to stay in Denver. The same motivation isn’t necessarily there for Jackson, though he’s been public about his desire to remain a member of the Broncos…
…if the price is right.
That price is going to be steep, and it could be far too steep for the Broncos in free agency. I could see them offering to pay $11 million per season for Jackson, but that might be the ceiling and they’d have to get creative with guaranteed money and signing bonuses to avoid conflicts on the salary cap.
Jackson is an elite defensive lineman in this league, and teams are going to be lined up to get him. Reaching a $15 million per season number isn’t entirely out of the question, though it’d be ridiculous since J.J. Watt is making about $16 million per season.
So what are the Broncos’ options. Well, that finally brings us to the subject of this article — Nick Fairley.
The Broncos were open about their interest in Fairley back at the outset of the 2011 NFL Draft. I was among those who thought he would be an okay pick if they decided to go that direction at the no. 2 overall pick, but hindsight shows that was pure ignorance on my part.
The Broncos chose Von Miller instead.
I think at this point in his career, Fairley is fresh off of a season with the St. Louis Rams where he played in a rotation with Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald on one of the league’s most ferocious defensive fronts. He would simply be going from a rotational player to a starter in Denver, and he would likely cost half of what Malik Jackson is going to cost.
I’m not saying you dump the idea of re-signing Jackson to get Fairley, but the former National Champion at Auburn has been a very good player when healthy, which is another big question mark here that could lower his price.
At the right pay grade, Fairley could be a low-key great option for the Broncos in free agency should Malik Jackson decide to bolt for big money.