Denver Broncos free agent finding the grass isn't always greener

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers
Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The grass isn't always greener on the other side...Although that saying has proven itself to be true time and time again in many of our lives, I prefer it to be paired with this one: The grass isn't always greener on the other side...The grass is greener where you water it. It would be presumptuous, at best, to assume we know everything that's been going on behind the scenes with former Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner's free agency pursuit.

Up to this point, there has been barely even a rumor about where Risner might wind up playing in 2023, and that's bizarre considering he was expected to make a lot of money as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. projected Risner to earn an average of $9.5 million per season on a new contract. Multiple media outlets had Risner as one of the top 50 overall NFL Free Agents in this year's class, some even ranking him above Ben Powers, who the team signed on the first day of the legal negotiating period.

For those who have been following the saga, the writing seems to have been on the wall with Risner leaving the Broncos for quite some time. Anytime he spoke near the end of the season or after the season, he was talking about the Broncos using past-tense verbiage and it seemed very much like he and the team had already agreed to part ways this offseason. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, either. The NFL is a business and the business side of things goes both ways.

Risner was and is a tremendous asset to the state of Colorado for the great work he does in the community. He was the Broncos' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2022, and the media gave him the Darrent Williams Good Guy award at the end of the season as well. Risner has always been tremendous in his dealings with the press and he's certainly never lacked for fire or passion on the field.

So why is he still looking for a new NFL team? In a league that is starving for offensive linemen, and depth at every position, how is a young player who started almost every game over the last four years still looking for a new home? It could be that Risner's asking price was not initially met, and he's holding out for the best possible offer. It could be that he's not found the right mix of opportunity and financial offer just yet.

Could it be that Risner is still holding out hope for a return to the Broncos for one more season, even if he's no longer the starting left guard?

A lot of times, we see players depart in free agency only to find that the grass isn't greener on the other side. You look at some prominent free agents or Broncos players throughout recent history who left and went to new teams, and you're certainly going to see a mixed bag of results even if some of those players left with more zeroes in their bank accounts.

At this point in time, Risner hasn't signed with another team. His telegraphed departure from the Broncos, as of right now, really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Is it possible that Risner was not offered an extension before or during the season, and that caused him to begin preparing for a departure from Denver prematurely? Is it possible the Broncos caught that vibe from Risner and decided not to offer him anything at all to stay?

I don't think it's a stretch to say that many of the players who had hoped for the last four years or so to turn things around in Denver have grown sick of the losing environment they have been part of. These guys are competitors, and they are putting their bodies on the line at the highest level. When you're constantly losing on top of that, I don't fault any of them if they don't want to be part of that. Especially when you consider Risner's situation with constant reshuffling of offensive schemes and line coaches.

That's not to excuse any poor play or things that transpired in his time with the Broncos like going after Brett Rypien on the sideline of the Christmas Day debacle against the Rams in 2022. Even for a player like Risner, whose dream was to suit up for the Broncos, it's understandable that he would want a change of scenery.

But up to this point, Risner has not found that fit outside of Denver. I'm sure he still will. Until it's not an option, I wouldn't even close the door on a return to Denver for Risner, although it feels extremely unlikely. Perhaps he could increase his free agency value by coming back to the Broncos to play center for a season, a position he played (and played well) while at Kansas State.

At any rate, it appears as though Risner won't get anywhere near what some (myself included) thought that he would in this free agency cycle. The situation he's looking at seems and feels a lot like the one we saw with Shelby Harris a few years back, when the Broncos let him test the market and thought he might sign a deal north of $9 million per year, only to see him come back at a fraction of that price. Could that be the case for Risner? Sometimes for players, the best thing is not just to relocate for the sake of it, but to stick around where you're at even if you've got a tough pill to swallow.

It might be in Risner's best interest to change to a familiar position and come back to Denver under Sean Payton's regime.

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