Denver Broncos: Plan to compete from here on out… is right on track

The Denver Broncos had a plan to compete for Super Bowl’s and it is right on track.

The Denver Broncos had a plan to compete for Super Bowls soon, but not in 2020. The hope for Broncos Country was that the team would push for a playoff spot, but with youth on the team championship aspirations had to wait.

As I wrote months ago, the Denver Broncos are hitting a critical window.

That window is just opening. Any argument against is flat out wrong.

So, with a 1-3 team staring down the barrel of a potential 1-5 start (potential losses to New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs), the team may start to lay out their plans for 2021 early.

I believe the team’s plan doesn’t change with the outcome of the next few week’s contests.

What many fail to realize, John Elway’s plan was always set for a window to compete in the next few years. In today’s microwave society, we want results fast. Fans must remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

The Broncos can look to compete for division, conference, and NFL championships in 2021.

Now, this does not mean the Broncos should pack it in after a rough start. How they play will determine a lot about who is in the plans moving forward.

As the team did in 2019, this team expects to get better as the 2020 season progresses. The players that improve as the season goes on can etch their spot in the team’s plans as they look to make a splash moving forward.

The Broncos brass; Elway and head coach Vic Fangio have a course set to create a Super Bowl-caliber franchise and we will start to see it play it out now.

So, what is the Broncos plan for the rest of 2020 towards 2021 and beyond?

Let’s take a look at what I would do to set this team up for success for years to come.

Plan: Evaluating 2020

The first piece of the plan for Elway and Co. is to evaluate the team’s core. Recent draft picks such as Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Michael Ojemudia, and Lloyd Cushenberry are all in the Broncos plans moving forward.

I believe Drew Lock is the plan for the next two seasons at a minimum. The Broncos have failed to build around a young quarterback since Jay Culter was drafted in 2006.

The team built around their young quarterback this past draft and it seems poised to continue that trend in 2021. That plan can change, so the biggest evaluation is whether Lock is worth that investment if a talented passer is available in the 2021 draft.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, and  North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance are all top prospects that may be too good to pass up if Lock hasn’t convinced the team’s decision-makers.

So, what can Lock do to show he’s the guy?

Simple, progress each week and continue to build his physical and mental skill set.

Lock has shown the aptitude to learn from his mistakes and not make them again. Someone with that capability will maintain it throughout their professional career regardless of their career.

I believe Lock can, and most likely will be the answer for the Broncos in 2021 and beyond. If that is the case, the team most likely will win enough games this season to push themselves out of the running for a top tier quarterback talent in the upcoming draft.

Next, the team must evaluate players who are complementary pieces and or players with big salary cap hits with minimal dead money in 2021.

Per Over the Cap, the Broncos currently sit at over $31 million in cap space. Cutting veterans like Von Miller, Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey, the Broncos could have an additional $52 million to spend.

Additionally, Justin Simmons’ future with the team must be decided this offseason and will have a cascading impact on the team’s spending.

The team must determine how to approach these players in the offseason; who is extended, who remains on their current deal, and who needs to go.

The team has seen the issues the pass rush has had without Von Miller. The team could draft a young pass rusher, or use their funds to find a younger pass rusher in free agency.

To be frank, there is not an elite pass rusher available in 2021’s free-agent class; so the Broncos need to redo Miller’s contract for 2021. Bringing him back on a deal averaging $15-16 million per year with $30 million guaranteed might do it.

Kareem Jackson’s 2020 has not been as impactful as his 2019, and the Broncos may look to get younger at the safety position in 2021. That could change if Simmons is not retained, but in my scenario, the team does work out a deal for the All-Pro safety in the offseason.

A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey had a great camp but have yet to impact the team much due to injuries. Bouye may provide a spark when he returns in the upcoming weeks. In my scenario, Bouye remains on a one-year deal with guarantees, but a lower cap number closer to $11 million for 2021. Casey most likely will be cut for cap savings.

Plan: Needs in 2021

Going into the season, the Broncos had concerns at linebacker, cornerback, and offensive tackle. The surprising play of the young secondary members has shown this group is trending up and plan to be a strength moving forward.

Alexander Johnson has continued to play well, and Josey Jewell has shown some bright spots. The desire to have a true 3-down linebacker still remains a priority as neither Johnson nor Jewell are outstanding covering tight ends and running backs over the middle.

Ja’Wuan James opting out of 2020, moved his cap hit to 2021 which ensures he will be lining up at right tackle for this team for at least one more season.

The surprise of the 2020 season has been the strong play of Garett Bolles. He has been the best offensive player for the team, by far.

His consistent and steady play shows that the team’s faith in him was warranted. I assume he will get a deal aligned with Buffalo Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins new deal with an average of $14-15 million per season with guarantees reaching about $30 million.

Linebacker is another tough position to address in the 2021 free-agent class with minimal day-one starters available. Jets linebacker Avery Williamson could be an option for the team and would be worth a look.

The 2021 draft has a lot of talent at linebacker including Alabama’s Dylan Moses, Penn State’s Micah Parsons, and North Carolina’s Chaz Surratt. Any of these players would be a welcome addition to the Broncos defense.

The defensive line will be another area the team will need to address. DeMarcus Walker and Dre’Mont Jones have been hurt early on. The team must decide if Jones is ready to step up and if Walker has a place on the team. Shelby Harris’ play probably has pushed his price tag outside the Broncos’ budget.

Future outlook

Contrary to some, the Broncos remain in a good position to win soon and from now on. Even if Lock does not show he can be the guy, the Broncos continue to find and develop talent throughout the roster with minimal holes to fill.

If Lock does show more signs of being the answer, the Broncos will have plenty of options to strengthen their roster in 2021 to push for a playoff spot.

The Broncos should attack their defensive line assuming they’ll lose Casey and Harris while also seeking to beef up their linebacking corps and adding another safety to pair with Simmons.

From there, the team should continue to build depth at pash-rusher and offensive tackle.

The plan to compete has been set in place, and it is right on schedule.