We're now approaching more offseason activities in the NFL offseason as teams gear up for the 2023 campaign. Is it a surprise that these two former Denver Broncos players are still free agents? Not only are they still free agents, but both players play premium positions in the NFL, and both were at points in their tenure with Denver very solid contributors.
The two players in question are Dalton Risner, a left guard, and Ronald Darby, a cornerback. They're both under 30 years old and are still on the market. In fact, Bleacher Report ranked their best remaining free agents under 30 years old, and both Risner and Darby made the cut. Here's what they had to say about both players, who are still searching for their homes:
"Ronald Darby is another free agent still the right side of 30 who wouldn't be on this list were it not for the ACL tear he suffered last October.- Gary Davenport
A second-round pick of the Bills back in 2015, Darby is also one of the elder statesmen of this list—he'll celebrate his 30th birthday next January. To a large extent, he's made the most of that time in the NFL—over eight seasons with the Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders and Denver Broncos, Darby has started 88 games. He's never been to the Pro Bowl, but Darby was a starter for the Eagles team that won Super Bowl LII.
To be clear, Darby hasn't been a fringe starter, either. At his best, he was among one of the NFL's better players in coverage. Big plays have never been his thing (eight career interceptions), and durability has been an issue at times (he's played in all 16 games just one time), but in each of the past three seasons Darby has posted a passer rating against of less than 85. Before getting hurt last year, Darby was playing some of the best football of his career—in five games Darby allowed just 38.9 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed with a passer rating against under 70.
Darby isn't going to land the sort of contract the Broncos gave him back in 2021 (three years, $30 million), but if he can show his rehab is progressing well there are a number of teams who would benefit from a steadying veteran presence in the secondary."
"Offensive linemen are immensely valuable in free agency—even average tackles often clear well north of $10 million a season with regularity. Young linemen cash in that much more.- Gary Davenport
However, in mid-June Dalton Risner is still searching for a new team, which could be due to a few reasons.
The first is simple—money. Just because many other offensive linemen have cashed in big this spring doesn't mean that teams want to break the bank for the 27-year-old Risner. The former second-round pick isn't a terrible guard, but he isn't a great one, either. He has struggled as a run blocker to this point in his career—an issue for an interior lineman.
However, as Jon Heath wrote for Broncos Wire, just because Risner hasn't landed a new deal yet doesn't mean that teams aren't interested.
"Risner is drawing interest from seven teams, according to a report from KUSA-TV's Mike Klis," he said. "Drawing that much interest and not having a contract signed could likely be a sign of two things. First, teams probably aren't offering Risner the kind of contract he is seeking and second, teams might not necessarily have starting spots on the table."
Risner might not be a worldbeater, but he's a capable pass protector who started 62 games over four seasons in Denver.
Whether it's as depth, an injury replacement or a one-year, "prove it" guy, Risner is going to land on his feet.
But his fifth professional season is going to be a pivotal one."
It's truly a shame that Ronald Darby tore his ACL during the 2022 season because if he didn't, he still may be on the Broncos, but if not, he'd have surely signed on with a team at this point. Darby being injury prone over the course of his career has made him a gamble. Darby isn't going to intercept a ton of passes, but he's one of the best CBs in coverage when healthy.
Then, there's the case of Dalton Risner, who likely thought he was going to land quite the contract in free agency, and likely thought it was coming from the Denver Broncos. Not only did that not happen, but the Broncos gave a huge contract to Ben Powers instead, and months after the free agency period opened, Risner is still on the market.
Maybe it's because he's asking for too much money, or maybe that infamous shove of Brett Rypien on the sidelines has turned people off. Either way, Risner was a four-year starter for the Denver Broncos and may have to take a one-year "prove it" deal if he wants to play in the NFL in 2023.
Honestly, I could argue that Denver could and should re-sign both. Darby could be a nice insurance policy on the outside if Damarri Mathis and Riley Moss have a rough go at it at CB, and Risner could slide into a depth role for the Broncos.
Is it still a shock that both players are still free agents?