The Denver Broncos need to be wise about their approach to 2020 free agency. How will they look to attack the wide receiver position?
The Denver Broncos have a lot of needs to address in the 2020 offseason, and plenty of means to address those needs.
Not only do the Broncos expect to have 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but before the draft even gets going, they will have over $60 million to work with in cap space. That cap space number could grow substantially with a few expected (or unexpected) roster cuts.
One area of need for this team is obviously the wide receiver positions. In back-to-back years, the Broncos have traded away Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. They have certainly put their faith in young players on the roster including 2019 Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton, whose emergence in his second NFL season was astounding, but where will the Broncos go from here?
Are they trying to go strictly young at the wide receiver position, or do they want to have a mix of youth and veterans?
Ideally, you would have at least one savvy veteran player out there, but are the Broncos presently and ideally built to add an established player at receiver who could work well with Courtland Sutton?
Maybe, maybe not.
I don’t think anything is off the table at this point in regards to free agency, trades, or the NFL Draft. The Broncos never leave any stones unturned when it comes to roster construction, and while my personal preference at this point is to focus on the 2020 NFL Draft to fill the team’s need(s) at receiver, what if the Broncos don’t see it that way?
What if they feel they can properly address other needs in the draft and instead choose to use free agency assets on the wide receiver position?
It’s not impossible that they would choose to do that. We know that John Elway historically prefers to fill his team’s biggest needs in free agency, and there were rumblings last year that the Broncos had interest in free agent receiver John Brown, whose deep speed could have been actually perfect for what the Broncos needed at times in 2019.
Alas, Brown signed with the Bills and the Broncos didn’t spend big at receiver, but maybe they will look to the free agent class in 2020 to fill that void.
At this point, we don’t know what players are going to be cut, though we can speculate, and right now the free agent group of receivers is mostly older players or guys who will probably cost a lot more than their production is worth in my mind.
That’s the main reason my pitch would be to only go the ‘value’ route in free agency at receiver if the Broncos insist on targeting someone to sign.
The presumed untouchables
Considering the number of needs the Broncos have and the amount of money that would be required to sign some of these guys, there are a number of free agent receivers I think could be considered ‘untouchable’ as far as the Broncos are concerned, but who knows?
The main guy on this list is Bengals WR AJ Green, who has a valuation on an average salary per year basis of $9.1 million per Spotrac.com.
I happen to think that estimate is extremely low considering Green is 31 and he has an outstanding resume, and injuries could push his overall market value down, though I don’t think it will be that low.
If Green’s value is anywhere near $9 million per season, the Broncos should be in on him without question. Heck, if it’s anywhere near $12 million or less, I would be tempted as Green is still just 31 and one of the best receivers in the NFL when healthy.
That’s a hefty price to pay, but if Green can stay on the field, he’s a superstar.
If he wants the same type of money as the best receivers in the NFL? Forget about it. Untouchable.
Another presumed untouchable at this point is Cowboys WR Amari Cooper who should be the highest paid receiver on the open market when all is said and done. Cooper may not be on the top tier of receivers in the NFL right now, but he’s a very good 1a type of receiver who is only 26 this coming season.
I think he’s well out of range for the Broncos, again, unless they forsake other needs in free agency and look to the draft.
Of course after trading Emmanuel Sanders it doesn’t feel like he will come back, either. I’d put him on this list as well.
One of the top names that pops up when people talk about free agent receivers is Jets WR Robby Anderson. Anderson is a deep threat which is something the Broncos certainly need, but is he the only free agent player worth pursuing?
I could see Anderson getting valued in free agency the same way Tyrell Williams was viewed last year, and I can’t fathom the Broncos paying a guy like this like he’s a number one receiver.
For the money (expected to get at least $12 million per season), I think the Broncos could add a player who can maybe do the exact same things without committing so much of their cap space to one guy.
A couple of guys who make plenty of sense — Buccaneers WR Breshad Perriman, Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson, Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett, and Eagles WR Nelson Agholor.
All except Robinson among that group are bordering on first-round busts, but all have proven they can at least help an NFL offense and all are 27 or younger this season.
Robinson could be of particular interest as he has been playing in Andy Reid’s offense as a secondary option for Patrick Mahomes (eight touchdowns the last two seasons) and we know Pat Shurmur’s offense was bred from the Reid offense.
The key for the Broncos in free agency is going to be this — if you’re going to spend a lot of money, it should be on a proven veteran who is capable of eating up targets.
Although I could get on board with it, the idea of paying a ton of money to Robby Anderson does not excite me. Paying a bit of money to get AJ Green, however? Now that’s enticing.
We’ll see if a player like Sammy Watkins gets cut by the Chiefs — he would be a fascinating option — or perhaps other guys that we don’t know about right now get cut.
Without assuming any cuts, the best course of action in free agency for the Broncos is to either sign a veteran like AJ Green who has established himself or to simply look for a value signing like Demarcus Robinson, a player who has played in an offense that is at least somewhat similar to the one Pat Shurmur will install.
The alternative to every move the Broncos would make in 2020 free agency at wide receiver is the 2020 or 2021 NFL Draft, and both look unbelievable at receiver. Considering the alternative of the NFL Draft where you can get draft and develop guys for a fraction of the cost of free agent receivers, getting on board with a high-priced veteran receiver is going to be a tough sell.
The bottom line for the Broncos is this — think long and hard about signing any free agents at receiver when you could simply draft guys. Unless they are perfect for the offense or a great value (or both) there’s no reason to invest valuable free agent dollars here.