Broncos: Who’s left on the defensive line after Jurrell Casey release?

Denver Broncos DL Dre'Mont Jones (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos DL Dre'Mont Jones (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos have made another salary-cap cut ahead of the 2021 free agent signing period, letting go of 2020 trade acquisition Jurrell Casey.

Casey was acquired by the Broncos in 2020 for a seventh-round pick, and with three years left on his contract, it seemed like the team had gotten themselves a great bargain. Unfortunately, Casey only ended up playing in three games before a biceps injury prematurely ended his season.

With two years remaining on his contract and no guarantees tied to the Broncos, the team decided to let him go and save just under $11.9 million against the 2021 salary cap. At a minimum, that means the Broncos are now going to have $43 million (roughly) in cap space if the cap is officially set at a floor of $180 million.

Broncos kicker Brandon McManus has said he expects the salary cap in 2021 to settle around $188 million, which means the Broncos could be looking at over $50 million in available space.

That means ultimate flexibility with player movement.

Although they would definitely have flexibility with their player movement, the large amount of cap space would also mean that the Denver Broncos have plenty of holes on the roster. Notably, they are losing quite a few players on the defensive line.

What does the defensive line rotation look like after the Jurrell Casey release?

Broncos 2021 free agents (defensive line)

  • Jurrell Casey (released)
  • Shelby Harris (UFA)
  • DeMarcus Walker (UFA)
  • Sylvester Williams (UFA)
  • Kyle Peko (released)
  • Jonathan Harris (ERFA)

Broncos DL under contract for 2021

  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Mike Purcell
  • McTelvin Agim
  • DeShawn Williams
  • Isaiah Mack
  • Deyon Sizer (futures)

Dre’Mont Jones proved in the 2020 season that he is a budding star as an interior defensive lineman. The former third-round pick out of Ohio State took a big leap forward in year two of his Broncos career, racking up 41 total tackles, 11 QB hits, seven tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and two batted passes in just 13 games.

Mike Purcell received a contract extension from the Broncos before suffering a season-ending injury. He will presumably be back for the 2021 season but how much of the offseason will he miss?

McTelvin Agim was a late third-round pick by the Broncos in the 2020 NFL Draft and the team will obviously be expecting him to at least take the place of DeMarcus Walker in the rotation for 2021.

DeShawn Williams played the most significant snaps of his professional career in 2020 and actually made some big plays. He proved he’s worthy of a roster spot moving forward if he can maintain his productivity.

Isaiah Mack is a new guy who signed one of the first free agent contracts of the George Paton era in Denver. He has spent time with the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots and has appeared in 21 career games. He could be just an offseason body, but he’s a name to monitor, for sure.

Ultimately, the Broncos probably need to add at least a handful of players for the defensive line between free agency, the 2021 NFL Draft, and undrafted free agency for camp bodies. Among the players listed above, only Jones, Purcell, and Agim feel like absolute locks for the roster this coming season.

The Broncos will keep six or seven guys up front and they need to make sure that they have legitimate experience up there in addition to young players they can develop. Re-signing Shelby Harris becomes more important now that Casey is gone, but the price has to be right.

There are a variety of free agent defensive linemen that could be interesting and we’ll get more into those guys in the coming weeks.