Denver Broncos free agency rumors: Defensive line help on the way

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HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 8: D.J. Reader #98 of the Houston Texans walks off the field before a game against the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium on December 8, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Broncos defeated the Texans 38-24. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos will be active on day one of the NFL's free agent negotiating window, and likely looking for help on the defensive line.

The Denver Broncos will be active on the first day that NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with player agents around the league.

Their first plan of attack?

The focus seems to be on improving the defensive line if you read all of the tea leaves around NFL and Broncos Twitter. We wrote about the Broncos' need to emphasize the defensive line early on in the offseason, and these thoughts hold true today.

The worst kept secret in the NFL right now seems to be the Denver Broncos' interest in Houston Texans defensive lineman DJ Reader, a really talented young player who has played all over Houston's defensive line over the past couple of seasons.

A former fifth-round pick out of Clemson, Reader is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-3, 347 pounds, and he's extremely athletic for his size.

The Broncos trust and believe in Vic Fangio and his system, but the combination of Fangio and defensive line coach Bill Kollar is a huge boost to any player the Broncos add to the defensive line.

Reader is likely to cost over $10 million per year on a new contract, so he would be one of the Broncos' biggest free agent signings.

It would be a shock if they didn't sign at least one defensive lineman in the first wave here.

In-house players likely gone

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has already been open about the fact that the door is all but closed on a return to the Broncos. As bad as it might hurt, it would not be a shocker to see him sign with a division rival.

Defensive linemen Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe are also both seeking eight figures annually.

And they will more than likely get it in this current free agency climate.

Safety Will Parks is rumored to have a robust market including his hometown Philadelphia Eagles, and it would almost be a complete shock if he didn't sign there or with a team like Arizona (Vance Joseph connection) or Cleveland (Joe Woods connection).

Mum is the word on center Connor McGovern, whose ability to play either guard or center is certainly attractive to prospective teams. Oddly enough, it feels like at this point, he may have the best shot of returning to the Broncos among any of the in-house free agents.

Melvin Gordon rumors still out there

If you thought the Broncos were not seriously interested in Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, think again.

Mike Klis reports that the Broncos may not get into a bidding war for Gordon, but they would be interested at the right price. Wouldn't we all?

The Broncos need some veterans on offense, but not necessarily just old, savvy guys. They need players who have proven themselves effective in the NFL, which is why rumors about players like Amari Cooper will not go away until those guys are off the market.

Chicago Bears reunion?

One name that keeps coming up in connection with the Broncos, for obvious (Vic Fangio) reasons is Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.

The Bears have Roquan Smith and they just signed a three-year deal with former Bronco Danny Trevathan, so Kwiatkoski will obviously hit the market.

Given the Broncos are currently operating with a very cost-effective group at linebacker, is replacing Todd Davis with Nick Kwiatkoski really a wave-one free agency move?

I'm not sure about that, yet it remains a possibility for obvious reasons.

Big names still available...

The Broncos may not simply throw big money at a bunch of players, but the possibility exists for this team to sign some really impactful players. In no particular order...

  • Arik Armstead, DL, 49ers
  • Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
  • Byron Jones, CB, Cowboys
  • Logan Ryan, CB, Titans
  • Jordan Phillips, DL, Bills

These are just a few of the big-name players still hitting the free agent market, not to mention some guy named Tom Brady, who has still not signed a deal with the New England Patriots.

Wide receivers available for trade

There are rumors that Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks could be available for trade.

Would the Broncos be interested in either? If they were interested in the possibility of Stefon Diggs (who also could be available), there could be some fascinating moves made at the WR position in the next few days.

It feels unlikely the Texans would trade Hopkins but with Bill O'Brien calling the shots, how could anything be counted out?

Next: Predicting landing spots for Broncos free agents

If the Broncos could get Cooks for their 5th-round compensatory pick, that might actually be an investment worth considering. He has a base salary of just $8 million this year and any of the remaining four years of his contract would be easy for the Broncos to get out of with no dead money.