On Thursday, the Denver Broncos made their first move of free agency before it even officially opened—signing offensive guard Ronald Leary to a four-year $36 million contract. At 2:00pm MST the signing became official.
After that, however, there was no other official news out of the UCHealth Training Center on day one of NFL free agency. What looked to be a fast start on the day—with the potential signing of Calais Campbell—turned out to be relatively quiet, but that doesn’t mean the rest of free agency will hold the same path for the Broncos.
Here are the players and storylines that will keep the Broncos brass busy and Broncos Country buzzing on day two of free agency.
Until Tony Romo is on either the Broncos, Houston Texans or another team—which is unlikely—tracking Romo will be the No. 1 story in the country, and certainly in Denver. After multiple reports came out Wednesday that Romo would be released on Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys changed their stance.
Instead of releasing the 36-year-old quarterback, Jerry Jones decided to keep Romo in hopes of trading him. As of Friday morning, reports indicated that Denver would not trade for Romo, however, just how the Cowboys changed their mind to not release Romo, the Broncos could have a change of heart as well.
Also on Thursday, the Texans traded Brock Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns in a move to free up salary cap space. While the additional cap space can be used on any player, it puts the Texans in an even better position to pursue Romo, whether in a trade or in free agency.
A move on Romo could happen at any moment, or the Cowboys could wait months to make a move with him.
Although Romo is the number one story in Denver, finding an offensive tackle is the number one priority in upgrading the team. After upgrading the guard position on day one, Denver’s focus turns to tackle.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, tackles were the popular commodity on day one and what was already a weak tackle group became even slimmer. Starting tackles Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Russell Okung, Andrew Whitworth and Ricky Wagner were all signed to large contracts.
Tackles that are still available include Kelvin Beachum, Ryan Clady, Menelik Watson and Mike Remmers—none of which are considered top free agent tackles. Another name to keep in mind is guard D.J. Fluker. He’s played tackle in the past and worked with Mike McCoy in San Diego last season.
The players on the Broncos roster that have played tackle before are Donald Stephenson, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield—none of which have established themselves as quality NFL tackles.
It wasn’t that general manager John Elway didn’t try to lure in a defensive lineman or two, it’s that he didn’t succeed. After failing to make a last minute push to sign Campbell—he eventually signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars—Elway also lost out on 320-pound run stuffer Chris Baker to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, unlike the offensive tackle group, the defensive tackle group in free agency is very deep—leaving plenty of talent available. Still currently on the market that could draw Elway’s attention are nose/defensive tackles Dontari Poe, Bennie Logan, Johnathan Hankins and their own Sylvester Williams.
Available at defensive end for Denver’s 3-4 scheme is Lawrence Guy and Jared Odrick.
After new defensive coordinator Joe Woods admitted that the team missed Malik Jackson last season after he left for Jacksonville in free agency, it was clear that the Broncos were going to go after a defensive end in free agency.
Now that they missed out on their top three choices—including Earl Mitchell earlier in the offseason—it will be interesting to see if they wait until the draft to address this need.
Regardless, whether it’s at defensive end or tackle, Denver will look to continue to build it’s defensive line, potentially starting on day two of free agency.