Five Biggest Free Agency Moves: Denver Broncos
With free agency now into its fifth week as April’s Draft draws closer, it’s time to start reviewing which teams filled some needs and who got weaker. Here are the five biggest free agency moves for each team so far.
The reigning champions took a step back last season. A reshuffled quarterback situation, offensive line woes and a slight decline on defense limited them to a 9–7 campaign. Gary Kubiak made the surprise decision to step away from coaching, so general manager John Elway hired former Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to steer the Broncos back to the Super Bowl. Here are Denver’s five biggest free agency moves:
1 — Signing Ronald Leary
The Broncos needed upgrades all over the offensive line, and Leary was a great pickup. The former Cowboys guard signed a four year, $35 million deal with Denver and can slot in at the left interior spot. Leary was essentially a place-holder for the younger La’El Collins in Dallas last season, starting 12 of his 13 games. But Leary is still young at 27 and was the league’s best backup guard last season. The former undrafted free agent can improve Denver’s running game as well as being an effective pass protector.
2 — Signing Menelik Watson
To further upgrade their offensive line Denver signed British-born right tackle Menelik Watson to a three year, $18.3 million deal. The former Raider has been a backup for much of his career in Oakland, with five starts from ten games last season. He has struggled with injuries, but won the starting job in the 2015 off-season before an Achilles tear effectively ended his year. Watson will be an upgrade over Donald Stephenson at right tackle.
3 — Signing Domata Peko
The Broncos declined to pick up the fifth year option on defensive tackle Sylvester Williams ahead of last season and saw him leave for Tennessee in free agency. After losing Malik Jackson to Jacksonville last year, Denver now has needs up front. Domata Peko joins from Cincinnati on a two year, $7.5 million deal. The 12 year veteran will fill the void until the Broncos find a young tackle in the Draft, but he hasn’t missed a game since 2009 and batted down three passes last year.
4 — Signing Kasim Edebali
Vance Joseph is a defensive-minded coach inheriting Denver’s top five unit, but depth always needs to be addressed, especially after DeMarcus Ware’s retirement. Edebali joins on a one year deal after three seasons with the Saints. The German-born former undrafted free agent had mainly been a rotational player in New Orleans, finishing with one sack and a pass breakup after one start last season. Edebali has never missed a game, and the Broncos will see whether he is ready for a larger role.
5 — Signing Zach Kerr
Zach Kerr adds depth to the defensive tackle spot on a two year, $3.25 million deal. The former undrafted free agent was a rotational player in Indianapolis with 2.5 sacks last season. At 26, Kerr is an evaluation project for the Broncos, giving them a young player to pair with fellow free agent addition Domata Peko while they see what Kerr can do in a larger role. Kerr started four games for the Colts last season.