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Denver Broncos April Scouting Report
Charles Rives

After the worst trade in NFL history, Denver will release QB Russell Wilson and, over the next two seasons, will absorb the most dead money on one player in NFL history. The blame for the debacle falls on GM George Paton and the new ownership. It wasn’t seen as a bad trade when it was made, but became one when Paton and the previous trust/owner hired a first time head coach who was a disaster. The new ownership then hired the best coach available who runs a system that does not fit Wilson’s skill set. Although Wilson’s play improved, Denver did not win enough games to suit the new owners. And, the head coach preferred his system over a likely Hall of Fame quarterback that didn’t run his system the way he wanted. Now, the Broncos are once again without a quarterback and the the Broncos fans have been rewarded with a ticket price increase and a much needed rebuild.


Denver’s current quarterbacks are Jarrett Stidham (Payton likes his potential, but IMO, he’s not impressive ) and Ben Dinucci (knows scheme; enough skills to retain). Payton wants a quarterback to win from the pocket consistently, process well, get rid of the ball, and operate his proven system. Denver is seriously looking at all available free agent quarterbacks and any quarterback that could be potentially traded.


QB J.J. McCarthy doesn’t have a great arm, but has good throw anticipation, ball placement, timing and footwork. May not be there at pick 12.

QB Michael Penix, Jr. has an extensive injury history, but had clear medical reports at the combine to go with his last two injury free seasons and elite physical skills.

QB Drake Maye has the arm and athleticism to be an NFL quarterback.

QB Spencer Rattler has a strong arm for deep balls, although Penix was more consistent. Rattler is a day two prospect.

QB Michael Pratt has a well balanced skill set and accuracy on short/intermediate asses, but has difficulty throwing outside the numbers.

Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Maye remain the top three quarterbacks in the draft. The Broncos will have a second formal sit-down interview with Penix


The Broncos need to free up cap space to fill some needs (especially defense) now that Russell Wilson is gone. They should sign a few offensive starters (wide receiver, tight end and running back) as well as some defensive starters (almost any position). And, Denver needs to draft a quarterback in the draft.

The bottom line is that the Broncos need to fill some of their non-quarterback needs in order to help their new quarterback (no matter who he is).

Because of Russell Wilson's dead cap for the next two seasons, other players will be released or traded.

Free Agency

There are many free agents that could help the Broncos on both sides of the ball.

The Broncos have been disciplined while looking for great values. They have escued short cuts and quick fixes. They are focused on "winning from now on", not winning now. It’s an approach that should have been done along time ago.

Free Agents signed:

S Brandon Jones (3 years)

DL Malcolm Roach (2 years)

LB Cody Barton (1 year)

OT Matt Peart (1 year)

WR Josh Reynolds (2 years)

Re-signed free agents:

K Wil Lutz (2 years)

WR Tim Patrick (1 year)

S PJ Locke (2 years)

LB Jonas Griffith (1 year)

OL Quinn Bailey (1 year)

FB Michael Burton (1 year)

TE Adam Trautman (2 year)

WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey (1-year)

ILB Justin Strnad (1 year deal)

Free Agents Lost:

C Lloyd Cushenberry III

ILB Josey Jewell

DL Jonathan Harris

TE Chris Manhertz

Bronco needs after free agency:

Quarterback, cornerback, tight end

Offseason schedule

First day: April 15

OTA offseason workouts: may 21-23, may 28-30, June 3-6

Mandatory minicamp: June 11-13


The pressure is on the Broncos to make the most of their limited draft capital. Most of their 2020 and 2022 drafts have not paid off yet. Those players need to step up their game or the Broncos should cut them and move on to new players.

Neither Sean Payton nor George Patton have ever drafted a franchise quarterback. The prospect of them trading up for a quarterback is risky and scary. What they do at (or with) pick 12 will be crucial to the success of the draft and the team’s ability to move up the food chain. The early look at the quarterback class in the 2025 NFL Draft does not look as strong as this year’s quarterbacks, although all this year’s quarterbacks have questions surrounding them.

Perceptions of who are the top players in the draft will fluctuate right until the draft as will the individual team’s draft board. Every team’s draft will be determined by their needs, their draft boards and trade possibilities (theirs and other teams).

The hope for the Broncos is that a top ranked player will "fall" to them or a favorable trade will come to them at the 12th pick. They have already mortgaged their future with the Wilson and Payton trades. Will they further mortgage it to move up in the draft for a top quarterback with a 26% chance at success (#1pick 46%)?

Like it or not, Denver is in full rebuild mode. Rebuilding takes money, draft capital, elite scouting, time and patience. Look for a youth movement and a great opportunity for hungry players.

Eight draft picks: Day 1 Round one, 12 Day 2 Round three, 76 Day 3 Round four, 121 Round five, 136 Round five, 145 Round five, 147 Round six, 203 Round six, 207


Named pass-rush specialist Jamar Cain as new defensive line coach. Released QB Russell Wilson. Cut S Justin Simmons. Re-signed ERFA Michael Bandy. Restructured OT Mike McGlinchey’s contract ($11 million in salary cap space). Released TE Chris Manhertz. Reworked WR Tim Patrick’s contract for one-year. Traded Jerry Jeudy to Cleveland. Restructured contract with Zach Allen. Restructured contract with Ben Powers.

Pick 12 Denver skill position Prospects: QB JJ McCarthy; WR Troy Franklin; WR Bryan Thomas, Jr.; WR Xavier Worthy; WR Adonai Mitchel; TE Brock Bowers.

Orangeman’s Take

Payton got his way, cutting Wilson, and now must prove he can win with his new quarterback. However, because of the Broncos moves before he was hired, Payton has vast power and enough excuses to be unaccountable for any Broncos failures for several seasons.

The Broncos need way more than a few players to be consistent contenders and there is every chance Payton will not succeed as he is solely responsible for turning "his team" around. However, Payton’s strengths fit the emerging NFL mold of offense: efficient "dink and dunk" offenses to counter the two deep high safety defenses that limit KC type offenses/explosive plays.

Look for the Payton/Denver offense to: get the ball out quick, throw short and on time, and limit negative plays (efficiency). The quarterback should have a good completion rate, throwing in 2.6 seconds (6 air-yards, 9.8 completion-yards), and limited sacks. (84% of the time there is a sack, a team fails to score on that drive).

It appears that Denver is leaning towards drafting an offensive player (quarterback, offensive lineman, or offensive weapon) with its first round pick (12th) or to trade down.

Payton had multiple consecutive non-wining seasons and roster builds in New Orleans. He has now started the process in Denver. Taking the big hit ($53M) on Wilson’s contract this year (total dead money $67M) will give him more cap space for 2025. He will have about $120M in cap space, with a large portion likely to go to re-signing CB Patrick Surtain and G Quinn Meinerz. 2024’s cap hit will enable him benefit from extra cap space in 2025. However, it also means he’s counting on some players to take a step forward (experience/health) in 2024 .

For the 2025 season, the Broncos will have only 27 players under contract, which means they will have fewer financial liabilities. A trade of CB Patrick Surtain during the 2024 season would take pressure off regarding the cap. 2025 UFA quarterbacks include Jared Goff and Trevor Lawrence. Dak Prescott and Jordon Love are in void years. URF reclamation projects include Sam Darnold and Tua Tagovailoa. Depending on what happens with Justin Fields this year, he could be an unrestricted free agent in 2025.

Fantasy Outlook

The Broncos appear willing to start QB Jarrett Stidham at quarterback in 2024. He is capable of having good games, but someone I don’t want to draft for fantasy. Payton has won games with quarterbacks less talented than Stidham, but not a great deal. Stidham will lower the value of all the Denver skill players. I suspect that the Broncos think they can get one or two quarterbacks in the draft that they like, but they will ride the bench most of the season. RB Javonte Williams is a fantasy running back three. WR Courtland Sutton is a wide receiver four and WR Marvin Mims, Jr. Is a wide receiver is a fifth receiver. I would avoid all Denver’s tight end unless TE Greg Dulcich is healthy, but then only as a backup with upside. PK Wil Lutz is a back up unless Denver’s offense is really good. The Denver defense is a backup until it proves other wise.


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