Off-season Review & Grades: Denver Broncos

The off-season has begun to wind down into OTAs and minicamp. Most of the big moves have been made and now the conversation shifts more to roster bubble players and position battles. While that will be a story for another article, this one will review and grade the Broncos’ off-season month by month. Keep in mind that we are looking at the Major moves here.

January Off-season

Fangio is fired as HC

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January was a VERY active month for the Broncos. After losing to Kansas City in week 18, Head Coach Vic Fangio was fired. It was a welcome announcement for Broncos fans who had been calling for his head for a season up to that point. Fangio was a results-based coach, but often due to his own fault, or that of his own coaching staff (looking at you Pat Shurmur), Fangio never saw those results. A 19-30 record in three seasons is enough to fire a coach, given that many chances. Grade: A

Shurmur is fired as OC

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Another coach who many wanted fired the season before, Shurmur managed to take an immense amount of offensive talent at his disposal and waste it. With the likes of Drew Lock coming off of a great rookie year, many thought that Shurmur could develop Lock further. After a few weeks into the 2020 campaign, it was apparent that Rich Scangarello should have never been fired. Under Rich, Drew Lock had a 4-1 record, 64% Completion rate, 1020 Yards, and 7 touchdowns to only 3 picks. After Rich was fired, he sharply declined, posting an average completion rate of 58.8%, 3720 yards, 18 touchdowns, and an abysmal 17 interceptions over his next 19 games. (Stats via pfr.)

His offenses were offensive to the word “offense.” In 2020, his offense would land 28th in points and 23rd in yards, while 2021 saw slight improvements, going to 23rd in points for and 19th in yards. Hopefully, Hackett and Co. can flip this ship around. Grade: A

Nathaniel Hackett Hired as HC

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

I’ll keep this one short. Hackett is the new face, along with Wilson, as hope for prosperous years in Dove Valley. Hackett was instrumental in Aaron Rodgers winning Back-to-Back MVP awards and in leading Green Bay to be an offensive Juggernaut. If one has any questions about his ability to get the best from his quarterbacks, see 2017 Blake Bortles. Until we see this team on the field, however, I can’t really hand it a grade. Grade: Incomplete

February

Nothing major in February, but we’ll look at two coordinator hires.

Ejiro Evero Hired as DC

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Ed Donnatell left Denver for snowy pastures up in Minnesota, leaving the gap open for Ejiro Evero. Donnatell defenses in Denver only ranked outside of the top ten in major categories once, in 2020, but were otherwise solid to elite units. Ejiro Evero will look to keep that the case, but seeing the work he did in L.A. as a defensive assistant, Denver’s vaunted D should be in good hands. It remains to be seen, however, so the grade is incomplete.

Stukes Hired as STC

Photo Credit: Denver Broncos

Tom McMahon was a thorn in the side of not only the Broncos but their fanbase. Many thought his firing was long overdue. With the addition of Stukes, the hope is that his No-nonsense attitude will finally turn a terrible unit around. Grade: Anyone is better than Tom McMahon

March

Here’s where we hit the ground running. We’ll graze over the free agent signings.

Free Agency

  • OL Ben Braden
  • Re-signed LB Josey Jewell
  • Tendered OLB Malik Reed
  • Signed DT D.J. Reed
  • Signed TE Eric Tomlinson
  • Re-signed DE DeShawn Williams
  • Signed OL Tom Compton
  • Signed DE Randy Gregory
  • Signed QB Josh Johnson
  • Signed LB Alex Singleton
  • Signed S J.R. Reed
  • Signed CB K’Waun Williams
  • Signed Billy Turner

Overall, I liked the addition of Turner, K’waun Williams, Randy Gregory and D.J. Reed. I think they’re guys that will be good to come in, fill in those roster holes, and help this team compete. I think Singleton and Reed were signings to shore up special teams, while Compton and Ben Braden will likely be swing players and fill ins. Overall, decent free agent class with a headliner to boot. Grade: B

Traded for Russell Wilson

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This trade instantly boosted my optimism for this season to a high that I havent had for a season in years. Wilson is an instant boost no matter where he is, but him coming to the Mile High City gives me so much more confidence in this team than I had going into the year. No questions here. Grade: A+

April

Ah, draft season. Here are all the picks and how I felt about them.

Nik Bonitto

(credit: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Nik was quoted as an “Undersized edge defender who plays in a slant-based scheme that makes evaluating his three-down value more difficult. Evaluating the pass-rush talent, on the other hand, is quite easy. He’s a wildly athletic rusher who blends get-off, stride length and flexibility into one alarming package for tackles trying to slow him down. Rush counters come instinctively and his ability to seamlessly transition his attack from outside to inside makes him a projectable rusher against athletic tackles as a pro. Teams will want him to get bigger, stronger and more assertive against the run as a 3-4 outside linebacker or he could be relegated to DPR (designated pass rusher) status.” (NFL.com)

Bonitto has a very high upside, with great bend, athleticism, and good technique. I do believe, as was said above, that Denver will want him to get bigger during the Off-season and into the season, but I believe that he has a bright future. Grade: B+

Greg Dulcich

Credit: Denver Broncos

Greg was quoted as a “Move tight end with some vertical talent who can’t be expected to add much as an in-line blocker. Dulcich is a long-legged, duck-footed runner who is faster than he looks, averaging 17.6 yards per catch for his career. He can improve as a route-runner but might have three-level potential as a pass-catcher. He’s urgent and determined, adding extra yardage after the catch. He has a decent catch radius and tracks it well, but lacks desired body control for tougher catch adjustments down the field.” (NFL.com)

Dulcich, coming in at 6’4″ 243, will be an absolute problem for defenses if he can translate to the next level. He steadily improved during his time with the Bruins, and while I expect him to develop slower, considering the TE Development cycle is usually a slower one, I expect Dulcich to make an impact from day 1. Grade: B

Damarri Mathis

University of Pittsburgh/Pitt Panthers

Mathis was quoted as “Mathis plays with good anticipation and ball skills but lacks the top-end speed and coverage tools needed to play pure press-man coverage. While he’s played Cover 3 with some modest success in college, he lacks the traits and poise to do so in the pros. He offers short and intermediate zone-cover talent as a cornerback or dime safety on the next level. His ability to help support the run from the slot could factor in his favor.” (NFL.com)

Mathis could have been drafted to play special teams with his skillset. I think he’ll make a solid backup, and he may even surprise some people. For now, it’s a C.

The Rest

  • Eyioma Uwazurike: He’s an intriguing prospect with high upside, but could use some work on lateral movement, center of gravity, and his upfield burst. Scouting report is here. Grade: B-
  • Delarrin Turner-Yell: He’s a solid safety prospect that could develop into a starter, but he needs to work on open field tackling and just staying healthy. There’s potential there, but with Sterns on the roster and the likely heir to K-Jack, he’ll likely find playing time on special teams. Scouting report is here. Grade: C-
  • Montrell Washington: 5’8″ and 176 pounds may turn some teams off, but he is fast. His tendancy to take balls into the body may concern some that he has average hands however. Look for him to push K.J. Hamler this off-season. No scouting report. Grade: C+
  • Luke Wattenberg: A prospect that NFL scouts might slip into an undrafted spot, Wattenberg is a versatile O-lineman. He was a four year starter at both Center and Guard, however, his setup, balance and anchor need work. Scouting report is here. Grade: D+
  • Matt Henningsen: Explosive and violent get-off with a solid bull rush. Needs to work more finesse and skill into his technique. Scouting report is here. Grade: C-
  • Faion Hicks: Good ball skills and physicality in coverage. Needs to get better in zone. Him being undersized could hurt him. Better in the slot most likely, and needs to be more aggressive in run support. Solid pick. Grade: C+

May

May was mostly signing the draft picks and any UDFAs that they saw intriguing. Nothing much here.

Overall Off-season

Overall, Denver had a very solid off-season. The addition of Russell Wilson was enough to land a good grade, but the pieces that were added around him also bolster this roster. Reminds me of when Denver snagged Manning in the 2012 off-season. I think a grade of B+ overall fits nicely.

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