Sitting on almost $40m in cap space, and with a laundry list of needs this off-season, it seemed almost inevitable that John Elway would strike early when the legal tampering period for the NFL free agency opened up on Monday. Strike he did, doling out hefty contracts to cornerback Kareem Jackson and offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Anyone who has been following the Broncos can attest to the OL and defensive secondary, particularly CB, being significant areas of need making these key signings for Denver.
James, only 26 years old, was a 2014 1st round pick for the Dolphins who has flashed as a top tier right tackle in the NFL. The reported 4 yr./$51m contract that Elway gave him is a new league record for right tackles. The investment shows that the team is serious about fixing an offensive line that has been an Achilles heel to this team for years. James talent pops on tape, but his inability to stay healthy brings some concern to this deal. The former Dolphins draft pick has missed 15 games over his first five seasons in the NFL which isn’t ideal, but with a thin market for offensive tackles, it was imperative that Denver move quickly. From a pure talent standpoint, this is a B+ move, but from the size of the contract combined with the health risks, the signing checks in closer to a B- with a potential to be an A+ or an F.
With Bradley Roby out the door, finding another starting caliber CB to pair with Chris Harris and potentially Isaac Yiadom was essential. Jackson checks in a little on the older side at 30, but he’s coming off his best season of his career and his versatility is a huge asset. The 3 yrs./$33m deal is most certainly starter money, the question is where? The current plan involves Harris playing outside more and Jackson’s abilities as an excellent nickel coverage back will help make that happen. The former Texans DB can lineup outside in zone coverage and started multiple games at safety as well making him the cornerback version of Tyrann Mathieu. This is a B+ signing bringing a highly productive DB into the fold and addressing a top area of need for the Broncos.
Elway is likely not done yet when it comes to the secondary and offensive line. The Broncos lost 4 contributing members of the 2018 OL group including starting center Matt Paradis who is expected to command a record contract as a free agent. According to Mike Klis, talks to bring Paradis back to Denver as still ongoing.
The Broncos also restarted talks with their own C Matt Paradis, per sources. #9sports
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 12, 2019
On the defensive side, the Broncos literally ran out of DB’s in 2018 and new HC Vic Fangio is on record saying “you can never have enough” of them. Expect more work on these two groups as free agency and the draft progress.