4. Signing injury-prone (or bad) free agents has crippled the Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have not signed all bad players in free agency since George Paton came aboard, but they have signed injury-prone players. Let’s start first with the injury-prone players.
Ronald Darby, CB
One of the biggest moves of George Paton’s first offseason with the Broncos was adding cornerback Ronald Darby on a three-year deal worth $30 million. That’s pretty decent value for the cornerback position but it’s also a lot of money, and while Darby has been solid when he plays, he missed six games in 2021 and he will have missed 12 games in 2022 after landing on IR with a knee injury. That’s a three-year investment for 16 games from Darby and it’s doubtful he’ll be back with the team barring a restructured deal in 2023.
Kyle Fuller, CB
This was just a bad signing in hindsight, perhaps an oversight by the scouting department, but the Broncos couldn’t rely on Fuller at all in 2021. He was one of the worst cornerbacks in the league at a one-year, $9 million price tag.
Randy Gregory, EDGE
This one has been a killer so far. The Broncos opted to trade Von Miller in 2021, which wasn’t a terrible move and resulted in Miller winning a Super Bowl. Miller was open to returning to Denver in 2022 but the Broncos instead opted for Randy Gregory, who is a couple of years younger than Miller but whose availability throughout the course of his career has been sporadic, to say the least.
Whether it’s injuries or suspensions keeping him off the field, fans were not thrilled about the team giving Gregory a five-year deal worth $70 million to steal him away from the Dallas Cowboys. The Gregory signing was perhaps a big part of the reason the Broncos traded away Bradley Chubb. Because they invested their money in Gregory, they opted not to invest in Chubb, who was sent to the Miami Dolphins.
Melvin Gordon, RB
Let’s not even get started on this one. Re-signing Gordon and passing on drafting literally any running back in the 2022 class was one of the biggest errors of the last handful of years for the Broncos. Gordon has cost the team a variety of wins over the last two years, and we’ll leave it at that. He shouldn’t have been re-signed.
K’Waun Williams, CB
The Broncos signed Williams to a multi-year deal in the 2022 offseason and that wasn’t a terrible move on its own, but the fact that the Broncos signed Williams to a multi-year deal and decided not to try and also re-sign Bryce Callahan as insurance and depth was completely ridiculous. Callahan has played well this year for the Chargers and while Williams has played well for Denver, he’s also hurt right now.
Kareem Jackson, S
The Broncos have lacked a dynamic presence next to Justin Simmons at the safety position. You can’t fault the team too much for re-signing Kareem Jackson at a reasonable price. The secondary has been mostly good. But Jackson hasn’t really done much noteworthy this season. He has three passes defensed, no interceptions, no forced fumbles, and no tackles for loss.
The right tackle position
The Broncos signed veteran Billy Turner while he was still injured and he hasn’t been able to give the team anything in 2022 consistently due to his health situation. The Broncos re-signed Calvin Anderson thinking he could possibly start at right tackle or be a swing guy and he’s now starting in place of the injured Garett Bolles at left tackle, while Cam Fleming returned as the emergency option to start at right tackle. What more needs to be said here? This position was a revolving door before Paton arrived and he has yet to properly address it.
You could get into a number of other areas here, such as not attacking the void left by Noah Fant with a very deep crop of free agent tight ends, not upgrading the offensive line, or not bringing in a capable backup quarterback for Russell Wilson.
Free agency hasn’t been all bad, either. Re-signing Josey Jewell looks like a good move, adding Alex Singleton looks like a steal, and DJ Jones has been available, at the very least. Unfortunately, there are just way too many misses here.