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Denver Broncos February Scouting Report
Charles Rives

Remember when the Denver Broncos were one of the most well-run organizations in the NFL? It seems like ages ago and things seem to just get worse and worse. The organization blaming Wilson for their failure is embarrassing. The Broncos will get a chance to clean up their mess, however long it takes. But it sticks in the craw of Broncos players!


2023 Season

In the final game of 2023, the Broncos needed to play for pride with a high priority of ending the losing streak to the Raiders. However, the error-prone team couldn’t get it done, losing 27-14. Payton failed to recognize the weaknesses of his offensive line and quarterback or the strengths of the Raiders defensive line.

Beating Denver in 2023, started with the run game. Denver’s defense struggled with gap security and fundamentals of executing the defensive play and finishing the play with good fundamentals. Poor fundamentals were also part of Denver’s pass coverage issues.

The offense was unable to function consistently throughout all four quarters of a game. That must change if things are going to be better in 2024. The 2023 Broncos started a long-term turnaround. But many players won’t be back in 2024 because of the many needs and limited cap and draft resources. Players who are unlikely to return at their current price: OT Garett Bolles; DL DJ Jones; WR Tim Patrick. A number of unrestricted free agents also will not return.


2023 Pro Bowlers: CB Patrick Surtain; S Justin Simmons; KR Marvin Mims, Jr; RG Quinn Meinerz, third alternate; and, FB Michael Burton, third alternate.


Sean Payton

The year off the sidelines seemed to affect Payton more than anyone anticipated. He was not as creative or innovative as many thought he would be. He seemed to play not to lose instead of playing to win. There were instances of poor play calling, poor clock management, and poor decision making throughout the season. Through

out the season, he failed to adjust the offense based on the opponent’s defensive play. Additionally, the Broncos were their own worse enemy, as the coaching staff failed to correct their penchant for self inflicted wounds.


2024 Season

In 2024, owner Greg Penner, must hold HC Sean Payton accountable for fixing the Broncos. Specifically, Payton needs to improve his decision making and play calling. Offensively, he needs to correct the spotty O-line play and the lack of receiver impact (except Sutton). Payton also needs to solve the third-down and red-zone efficiency problems. Defensively, he needs to fix the defenses’ fundamentals, their inability to stop the run, their pass coverage issues, and their turnover production.

The coaching staff did not perform well in 2023 as the team was error-prone and failed to execute properly. DC Vance Joseph needs to be replaced.


Russell Wilson

Benching Wilson seems to indicate that they will cut ties with Wilson. They will try to trade him first, but his contract and his no trade clause will make that difficult.

If the Broncos cut Wilson, they will need to use a post-June 1 designation to avoid an $85 million dead money charge along with $49.6M in cap space lost. Using the June 1 cut in March, 2024, Denver gets to spread the dead money over two seasons: 2024-$35.4M in dead money with no cap space gained or lost; 2025- $49.6M dead money with $5.8M in cap space cleared. A post-June 1 designation won’t require additional extreme moves, but the Broncos must still pay $39M in cash for 2024. That’s $39M in cash that won’t be available to improve the roster. Denver can handle this situation, but there’s no quick fix to it.



Moving on from Wilson (with $85-million in dead money), means the Broncos may cut costs at the quarterback spot to allow them to keep their roster in tact and under the salary cap. Drafting a rookie quarterback would provide four years of cost control because even first-round quarterback’s salaries are low compared to veteran quarterback starters. QB Jarrett Stidham is not the veteran backup quarterback Denver needs, leaving Payton to find two quarterbacks and particularly "his guy" in the draft. It will be interesting to see how Payton/Paton actually do address the quarterback room. Broncos country is holding its collective breaths to see if the Broncos can finally get it right!


Senior Bowl



This is a draft class rich in pass protectors and edge rushers and also has plenty of wide-receiver prospects.

Denver needs: explosive play making ability (TE); #2 cornerback; defensive front seven talent upgrade, especially one defensive lineman and one inside linebacker.

The Broncos will try to draft a quarterback in Payton’s image in the April NFL draft. Sean Payton comes from the Bill Parcells’ coaching tree. And, Parcells had specific things he wanted the quarterbacks he drafted to have: experience (win 23 of 30 games); be smart (college senior/graduate); and, accurate (2-1 TD-to-interception ratio and at least a 60% completion rate).

The Broncos will be drafting at pick number 12, putting them out of the range of the top three quarterbacks in the draft. The best player available should be in the Broncos sights at this pick. The Broncos have a lot of work to do and pick 12 positions them well to get a falling player or even to trade up for a player they want. For instance, Alabama OT JC Latham could start right away (trade up/fall) and the Broncos could gain $16M in cap space by cutting/trading aging LOT Garett Bolles. Immediate starters who could be available at 12: DL Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois; CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama; Edge Chop Robinson, Penn State; WR Keon Coleman, Florida State; IOL Troy Fautanu, Washington; DL Leonard Taylor III, Miami; IOL Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon; WR Rome Odunze, Was.; Edge Dallas Turner, Alabama. Neither Sean Payton or George Paton has ever used a pick in the top two rounds to draft a quarterback. However, they are adding a personnel eye Payton trusts, Cody Rager (Saints) as VP for Player Personnel and long-time Payton collaborator Pete Carmichael (Saints)as a senior offensive assistant. Payton and Carmichael are known for having good offenses and a Super Bowel win (2010).



Signed RB Tyler Badie, QB Ben DiNucci, WR Phillip Dorsett, DT Jordan Jackson, T Demontrey Jacobs, S Devon Key, LB Durell Nchami, OLB Ronnie Perkins, OL Will Sherman, WR David Sills, DB Tanner McCalister, NT Rashard Lawrence, DB Keidron Smith and CB Reese Taylor to future contracts.


Free Agency

Denver won’t be active in the first wave of free agency, but will be strategic and specific on what positions/players they try to sign. This strategy seems appropriate given the Broncos’ recent poor free agency results. Denver is set to let some of their own unrestricted free agents walk, in addition to some cuts, which means going with their young, cost controlled players.


Broncos Free Agents: Lloyd Cushenberry III, C (starter); Adam Trautman, TE (starter); Cam Fleming, OL; Michael Burton, FB (starter); Wil Lutz, K (starter); Quinn Bailey, OL (Restricted Free Agent); Josey Jewell, LB (starter); PJ Locke, S; Jonathan Harris, DL (starter); Mike Purcell, DL; Justin Strnad, LB; Fabian Moreau, CB (starter); K'Waun Williams, CB; Jonas Griffith, LB (Restricted Free Agent).


Denver 2024 Opponents

Home: Kansas City Chief; Los Angeles Chargers; Las Vegas Raiders; Atlanta Falcons; Carolina Panthers; Cleveland Browns; Pittsburgh Steelers; Indianapolis Colts.

Away: Kansas City Chiefs; Los Angeles Chargers; Las Vegas Raiders; Baltimore Ravens; Cincinnati Bengals; New Orleans Saints; Tampa Bay Buccaneers; New York Jets; Seattle Seahawks.


Orangeman’s Take

The Broncos need to get a young quarterback if they want to get back to winning. But they also have many other needs on both sides of the ball. Picking at 12 will give them a shot at a top player who falls in the draft or a better chance to trade up. The Broncos will have to do all their needed roster improvements with a $35.4 million hole in their roster unless owner Greg Penner stands up to Payton and keeps Russell Wilson---- which Penner shows no sign of doing. However, Wilson will have to renegotiate certain aspects of his contract if he wishes to return to the Broncos.

It will be an off-season of movement in Denver. The Broncos hierarchy is facing a number of difficult decisions in the critical 2024 offseason, if the Broncos are to win more than eight games, as owner Greg Penner expects.

First and foremost, they need an ironclad plan for their quarterback room. Can they win more than eight games without Russell Wilson, using journeymen quarterbacks? Second, what players should they release? Third, who, if anyone, should they trade to get cap space and draft picks? Fourth, should they bring back any of their own free agents? Fifth, should they extend any long term veterans with only one year left on their contracts? Sixth, which players are part of the team’s long term plans? Seventh, should they be active in the second wave of free agency or look for free agents on the street? Eighth, what is the team’s plan for the draft (see first above)?

In order for Denver to get back on track (in spite of dead money), they need to go young and get a talented young quarterback (Sam Darnold?) on a prove it contract similar to Baker Mayfield’s. However, the bottom line in my opinion, is that the Broncos need to stand pat at 12 and take the best quarterback available, find a building block piece, or trade back for more draft capital and look to 2025 to find their guy at quarterback.



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