After hiring head coach Sean Payton, the Denver Broncos are now turning their attention to the offseason. As soon as the clock hit triple zeros after Super Bowl LVII, preparation for the 2023 season began in earnest.
The Broncos have several positions they need to address before the beginning of training camp, either through free agency or the draft in April. Broncos Wire writers Jon Heath, Brandon Walker and Brad Washington take an in-depth look at 10 positions of need in 2023. Check out the latest Broncos Wire podcast for more insight on these positions of need.
Patrick Surtain was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his young career, in only his second season. Surtain has become one of the best in the NFL at being on an island and quarterbacks dared not throw his way. The biggest question mark comes from the others in the secondary. At various points in 2022, several corners missed time because of injury. Ronald Darby went on injured reserve in November, leading to starts for rookie Damari Mathis, and in the final game of the season, Ja’Quan McMillian started as well. This depth, or lack thereof at corner, was exposed by quarterbacks throughout the season. — Brandon Walker
The Broncos made a big splash with the trade for Russell Wilson in the 2022 offseason, but Wilson’s play left more to be desired, keeping the wide receiver play neutral. Jerry Jeudy and Cortland Sutton had productive seasons considering the circumstances: Jeudy finished with 972 yards and six touchdowns on 67 catches, while Sutton finished with 829 yards and two touchdowns on 64 catches. But perhaps a wide receiver who can strengthen the corps with yards after the catch to take the pressure off Wilson to feel the need to make plays down the field could help moving forward. — Brad Washington
Quinn Meinerz likely has one of the two starting guard spots locked down, but the other spot is up in the air going into 2023. Dalton Risner is coming off back-to-back underwhelming seasons and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Broncos let him walk in free agency, leaving guard as a key position of need. — Jon Heath
Another position that took a hit with injuries was inside linebacker. Jonas Griffith missed a few games with an elbow injury and finished the season on IR. However, in his place emerged Alex Singleton, who became one of the stars of the season as a sure tackler. Singleton had 163 tackles over the course of the season, which was a top-10 mark in the NFL. Singleton is a free agent going into 2023, and one of George Paton’s biggest priorities in 2022 was re-signing in-house players. If that trend holds true, re-signing him needs to be addressed almost as soon as the NFL calendar turns. This need can also be addressed in the draft, depending on how many picks they accrue during the offseason. — Brandon Walker
If the plan is to rebuild the Russell Wilson era of the Broncos, running back must be at the top of the list. The Broncos running back plan took a hit with the release of the underachieving Melvin Gordon during the 2022 season. However, Latavius Murray, who signed with the team in October following the injury of Javonte Williams, led the team in rushing with 703 yards in 12 games. In an ideal world, Murray could be the bell cow back for the 2023 NFL season. The problem? He turned 33 last month. If the plan is to keep Murray as at least the starting running back, it’s probably best for the Broncos to bolster their running back room through the draft, trade, or free agency. — Brad Washington
Dre’Mont Jones and DeShawn Williams are both scheduled to become free agents in March, and even if the Broncos re-sign both of them, Denver needs more depth on the defensive line. Mike Purcell will turn 32 this spring and the team’s under-contract-depth behind D.J. Jones is extremely thin. The Broncos should add competition at both defensive end and nose tackle this offseason. — Jon Heath
It is no secret amongst Broncos fans that the quarterback position has been an issue, but the backup position may be an intriguing question going into the offseason. Since 2020, Brett Rypien has been a constant name in the depth chart. Rypien has appeared in eight games at quarterback, starting three of those contests in three years. Before the 2022 season, Rypien was in a heated competition for backup with NFL journeyman Josh Johnson, where Rypien earned his spot on the roster. In 2022, Rypien went 53-of-88 for 483 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. When fans across the nation witnessed Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Chad Henne lead the longest drive in franchise playoff history (98 yards), one could wonder if asked to do the same thing, would Rypien be able to do it?
If Denver does not re-sign Rypien, do they draft a quarterback in the late rounds of the draft to develop under the veteran Wilson? These are questions the Broncos front office will have to answer come March. — Brandon Walker
Hiring Sean Payton will shift how the Broncos build their personnel, but addressing the right tackle spot might be pivotal moving forward. The Broncos offensive line suffered a rash of injuries, and Payton may look to free agency to shore up the offensive line. Denver may not reach the heights of Payton’s New Orleans Saints, and quarterback Russell Wilson may not have the capacity to return to his old Pro Bowl form. A commitment to the run/play action may benefit Wilson, and getting the right tackle correct will pay dividends for Wilson’s career. — Brad Washington
Lloyd Cushenberry went down with a groin injury mid-season and the Broncos opted to keep him on injured reserve even after he recovered from that injury, presumably a sign that Cushenberry is no lock to start in 2023. Graham Glasgow did a good job filling in last season, but Denver can save $11 million in salary cap space if they part ways with Glasgow this offseason. Unless they are confident in Luke Wattenberg, the Broncos should add a starting-caliber center this spring. — Jon Heath
The Denver Broncos had a punter competition in 2022 between Sam Martin and Corliss Waitman. Ultimately, the Broncos picked Waitman’s cheaper contract as opposed to a bigger cap hit from Martin. Unfortunately, Denver got what they paid for: a cheap punter. When the Broncos stalled and had to punt it away, Waitman couldn’t flip the field. Of punters who booted the ball at least 25 times, Waitman was tied for last with the longest punt (59 yards). Denver faces punters like the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tommy Townsend, who boomed kicks 60-plus yards, completely changing the starting field position. This is the kind of playmaker the Broncos need in 2023. — Brandon Walker