The Denver Broncos have major decisions to make leading up to the free agent signing period in 2021. A number of in-house players including Von Miller, Justin Simmons, and Shelby Harris have contract situations worth monitoring.
At this particular point in time, it feels likely that at least Simmons will be back with the Denver Broncos in 2021 (and beyond, hopefully) but there are many questions that still need answering.
Because of the importance of other decisions that need to be made, a number of the Denver Broncos’ more unheralded in-house free agents have been overlooked. In fact, a few home-grown talents could have very strong cases for sticking around in Denver, if even just for another year.
With restrictions still anticipated this coming offseason (similar to last year), players re-signing for another season and betting on themselves for 2022 free agency could be a league-wide theme in 2021.
Which unheralded players for the Denver Broncos have strong cases for sticking around?
1. DeMarcus Walker, DL (age: 26, 27 in September)
The Denver Broncos used a second-round selection on Walker in the 2017 NFL Draft. Walker excelled at Florida State as an interior pass rusher but injuries at the outside linebacker position in 2017 prompted the Vance Joseph-led coaching staff to move Walker to outside linebacker in his rookie year.
That turned out to be a horrendous mistake and anyone/everyone who signed off on it should be ashamed.
Walker did his best work at Florida State from the interior defensive line where his quickness and tenacity led to a ton of production behind the line of scrimmage.
In 23 games under Vic Fangio, the difference for Walker has been downright staggering.
Walker under Vance Joseph (2017-18; 13 games)
- 11 total tackles
- 2.0 sacks
- 6 QB hits
- 2 TFL
Walker under Vic Fangio (2019-20; 23 games)
- 40 total tackles
- 8.5 sacks
- 10 QB hits
- 8 TFL
As a rotational player, Walker has been productive in Vic Fangio’s defense. He was a second-round pick in 2017, so expectations were obviously higher than just rotational production, but at this point, he’s proven his value as part of the unit.
If the price is right, the Denver Broncos should consider re-signing him.
2. Will Parks, safety (age: 26, 27 in July)
From 2016-19, Will Parks was a core special teams player and key piece of the defensive backfield with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos opted not to re-sign Parks after the 2019 season and he signed a one-year contract with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Injury limited him to just six games with the Eagles, who waived him late in 2020.
The Broncos had the highest waiver priority and were able to land Parks, who ended up playing 147 snaps in four games, more than the 114 snaps over six games he played with the Eagles.
Parks’ impact on special teams and as a versatile defensive back should undoubtedly land him a job with just about any NFL team, but the fact that this Denver staff liked him enough to bring him back last season coupled with the fact that George Paton’s Vikings also put in a waiver claim for him indicates he should have a fairly decent chance of returning to the Broncos for a sixth season.
3. Elijah Wilkinson, OL (age: 26)
After playing the 2020 season on a restricted free agent tender, the ever-flexible Elijah Wilkinson is finally slated for unrestricted free agency.
Based on the past couple of seasons, you would think that Wilkinson has a pretty good chance of playing significant snaps for Denver.
He’s played almost 1800 snaps since the 2018 season and has basically been a full-time starter on the Broncos’ offensive line over that timeframe. Although he has taken plenty of lumps against speed rushers as a right tackle, Wilkinson has proven himself to be a capable run blocker at the NFL level and the Denver Broncos were the team that originally unearthed him as a rookie free agent out of Massachusetts.
Injuries could be a factor here as Wilkinson had surgery last offseason and was placed on IR for a period of time in 2020.
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He has swing guard/tackle value.