As we approach the end of February, the Broncos have finalized their coaching staff and will soon look to the 2022 NFL Combine.
In Denver, all eyes are still on the moves the Broncos will make with a good amount of cap space and five draft picks in the top 100 picks in this year’s draft.
In this edition of “Ask Aric,” I address questions about where the Broncos need to improve, how Denver’s defense could change, how quickly to expect success, and more.
To submit a question for an upcoming edition of Ask Aric, click here.
What’s the most important problem for the Broncos to get back on their winning path? – Deanna P.
Deanna, I’m looking at a few different areas. On offense, the Broncos need to play better and more consistently at quarterback. They have built a strong core of youngsters around this position, but without improved play at this position it will be difficult to compete consistently. On defense, Denver needs to find a way to create more turnovers and get critical saves. As Justin Simmons told me before the Super Bowl, there were several games last year that could have tipped in Denver’s favor had the team made one last stop. Under defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the Broncos must make critical plays. Finally, consistency is a big piece for the Broncos. As general manager George Paton mentioned at the end of the season, the Broncos’ turnover as head coach made lasting success quite difficult to achieve. Under Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos must build a system and culture that can span years to come.
Why not make an offer to Jacksonville for [Trevor] Lawrence? – Jason R.
Should the Broncos target Trey Lance? – @Listen303
These two questions were part of a trend of people asking whether the Broncos should go after a young quarterback they might be able to acquire for less draft capital than it would take to acquire a veteran player. A few points here. First, there have been no reports suggesting any of the top young quarterbacks are available at any price. Second, even if they were, there is no guarantee that the price would be lower than it would be for a veteran. The young players may be unproven, but they’re on their rookie contracts – a big plus in team building – and have a lot of potential. A team that picked a quarterback with the first overall pick — a player who’s been talked about as a generational-type talent — or a team that traded to acquire their quarterback probably won’t be willing to trade that player, no matter the cost.
Which top rushers could the Broncos target in free agency and the draft? – @ctcoffmaTV
Von Miller and Chandler Jones are both among Pro Football Focus’ top five players expected to be available when free agency begins, and Jadeveon Clowney, Emmanuel Ogbah and Melvin Ingram III are also among the top options in this year’s class. . In the draft, Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely be left out of the roster before the Broncos select at No. 9. Michigan’s David Ojabo and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II are expected to be available, however, and could be options for Denver. .
Do you expect Evero to keep Fangio’s general scheme? If so, what are our main needs to look at in the draft to consolidate it, and if not, what will they look at in the draft to accommodate something different? – @ess0h
Evero’s comments at his introductory press conference suggested the Broncos would use a system similar to the past three years and keep their base defense 3-4 in place. There will be some tweaks though, and I’m mostly interested in the Broncos’ pass rush. Evero mentioned the need to assign the quarterback no matter how many rushers it takes. Of course, if you can go home with just four rushers, that makes it easier for the rest of the defense. Between that comment from Evero and Paton’s comment in the Senior Bowl about adding an edge rusher, that would seem like a goal for Denver in free agency or the draft.
Given the nature of having a brand new coaching staff, do you think, in your opinion, we can expect production right away or will it take a while? – @BrandonWalk
Brandon, that’s a good question. Typically, you’d expect an offense to take longer to gel than a defense, but I’m interested to see if that’s the case for the Broncos. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett has experience in the game and has helped guide some of the league’s best offenses over the past few years, which gives me hope the offense can click quickly. Of course, much of that will depend on who is under center. Defense will be more interesting to watch as Evero calls NFL-level plays for the first time. The system will be familiar, which should give the Broncos an edge, but I’m curious how quickly Evero and the Broncos can find a pace of play that puts them in a position to succeed.
Which position (other than QB) do you think is a priority for the Broncos? – @TheTrueJake58
We mentioned outside linebacker earlier in this mailbag, but there are a few other spots I’ll be watching. Right tackle, inside linebacker, cornerback and running back all interest me. To learn more about those positions, it’s worth reading what Paton had to say about those positions (excluding cornerback) when I spoke to him at the Senior Bowl. Notes: Paton said he believes this draft class is strongest along the offensive and defensive line.
Who are you drafting at #9? — @AsherMorris23
When the offseason started, I guessed the Broncos wouldn’t pick their projected No. 9 spot. I’ll stick with that projection here, and if the Broncos still hold their first-round pick, I’ll say they trade again. Maybe there’s a way to get a pass-rusher and an upside right tackle in the first two rounds while retaining – or adding to – their 2023 capital project.
Which players on their rookie deals will face the biggest season next year to determine if they get long-term deals? – Petitballer
The Broncos’ 2019 draft class players are about to enter the final year of their rookie contracts, which means Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, Drew Lock and Dre’Mont Jones could be free agents after the 2022 season. The Broncos, of course, have the option of picking Noah Fant’s fifth-year option, which would keep him under contract through the 2023 season. Paton said in late January that the coaching staff should dive deeper into the list before conversations about staffing decisions begin. The Broncos waited until after the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to pick fifth-year option Bradley Chubb, so it could be a while before Fant’s future becomes clear. Chubb, entering the final year of his rookie contract, is also a player to watch as the Broncos must decide whether to extend the former fifth overall pick. I think he, Fant and Dre’Mont Jones — who posted 5.5 sacks in the second half of last season — are the most intriguing players heading toward the end of their rookie contracts.
Who Gets the Franchise Tag? -Kenny S.
Kenny, it’s not impossible for the Broncos to use the franchise tag this year on one of their impending free agents, but I’d be surprised if that happened. Courtland Sutton may have been a candidate, but the Broncos were smart to strike a deal with him during the season. After franchising Justin Simmons for the past two years, it looks like it will be quiet for the Broncos on that front in 2022.