John Elway has done a great job keeping the roster stocked as the Denver Broncos General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations. While he certainly hasn’t batted 1.000, Elway has hit on far more free-agent signings and Draft picks than he’s missed.
The homegrown talent Elway has cultivated has served as the cornerstone to the 71 total wins the Broncos have tallied since 2011. But, in an ever-evolving league, the Broncos can’t keep everyone.
As in the cases of Kayvon Webster and Sylvester Williams, the Broncos couldn’t justify the investment to keep them around. Both were key cogs on the Super Bowl 50 Championship team but their respective roles, in the eyes of Elway, didn’t justify what the open market was willing to pay them.
However, there are some players the Broncos can’t afford to lose. We’ve seen Elway extend the contracts of former draft picks like Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, and Virgil Green, to say nothing of former undrafted guys who spent every pro year with the Broncos, like Chris Harris, Jr. and C.J. Anderson.
More than once, Elway has signed a value free agent who has gone on to out-play their contract. Guys like Darian Stewart, Brandon Marshall, and Emmanuel Sanders have earned two contracts with the Broncos, based on their excellent play and value to the team.
But who’s next on that list of homegrown guys, poised to earn a big contract extension in the not-too-distant future?
No center in the NFL graded out higher than Paradis last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Coming off the second-consecutive season of not missing a single snap, while starting each and every game, Paradis is on the verge of a big pay-day.
The Broncos just signed him to an Exclusive Rights Free Agent tender, which will pay him just $615,000 in 2017, and will control his rights for at least one more year. But if they want to keep the lynchpin to their offensive line happy, they’re going to have to pay him — soon.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1786802-state-of-the-broncos-offe… The only fly in the ointment for Matt Paradis is his current recovery from double-hip surgery. He played through excruciating pain and discomfort last year, and has since undergone surgery to repair both hips.
The Broncos expect him to be ready to go at some point in training camp, but there is no guarantee Paradis will return to form. While the Broncos have been able to get by with Paradis making relative peanuts, that honeymoon period will soon be over.
A 2014 sixth round pick of Denver’s, Paradis spent his rookie campaign on the practice squad, before winning the starting center job in the summer of 2015. He hasn’t looked back.
While Paradis has been recovering, second-year Connor McGovern has been taking the first-team reps at center, keeping the seat warm. Provided Paradis recovers well from his surgery, and takes to the power-blocking scheme, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos extend him in-season, to avoid the unstable ground of restricted free agency.
The Broncos took Roby in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft — and promptly inserted him between Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Three seasons later, it’s safe to say that Roby has more than held his own as the least of all evils for opposing quarterbacks to target.
Roby is entering his fourth season, but not a contract year. The Broncos exercised their fifth-year option on Roby, which keeps him under team control through 2018.
Because of the fifth-year option, there isn’t much urgency to extend Roby. The Broncos have a lot of cap dollars tied up in Talib and Harris, respectively, and will try to get by with Roby as much on the relative cheap as possible.
However, Roby makes this list because he is a homegrown player whom the Broncos have no intention of parting ways with. The time will come for the Broncos to bite the bullet and pay up with Roby. But it won’t be any time soon.
Like Paradis, Barrett is from Denver’s class of 2014 rookies, but he wasn’t a draft choice. The Broncos signed Barrett as a college free agent following the Draft.
He spent most of his rookie year on the practice squad, before really turning the corner in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense in 2015. In the two-point stance, Barrett was a different player, helping the Broncos to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Barrett has spent most of his career as Von Miller’s backup on the strong side. With the departure of DeMarcus Ware, Barrett, along with Shane Ray, should see a significant increase in playing time.
As it stands, Ray is the penciled in starter opposite of Miller, with Barrett serving as the third wave at rush linebacker. The Broncos just signed Barrett to an ERFA tender and will control him contractually for at least one more year beyond 2017.
Unfortunately, Barrett suffered a severe hip injury during a non-team workout and isn’t expected to be available to play until late in the preseason. If all goes well in his recovery, Barrett should be able to step back into his role on the defense and continue to help put pressure on the quarterback and spell Miller and Ray.
In the past, Barrett has created interest on the trade market around the league, but even when the Broncos were four-deep at rush linebacker, Elway was reluctant to move him. The Broncos value Barrett, and when he becomes a restricted free agent next year, he might receive enough interest around the league that other teams might be willing to give up a draft pick to sign him.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1779411-broncos-on-the-brink-shaq… But, in order for that to happen, Barrett needs to bounce back from this hip injury and have a statistically strong 2017 season. Meanwhile, it might behoove Elway later in the year, once the team has evaluated how well Barrett has recovered, to offer him a contract extension, rather than go through the traditional RFA process and risk getting into a bidding war.
I don’t see the Broncos going higher than a second round RFA tender with Barrett next year. If an outside team were willing to not only pay Barrett but offer the Broncos a second round pick, that would be quite the net gain for Elway, considering Barrett was an undrafted rookie.
That’s all assuming the Broncos don’t envision Barrett long-term with the team. Everything we’ve heard up to this point would indicate that they do value his skill-set and the depth he provides the defense.
That being said, Shaq Barrett deserves to get paid but Shane Ray will command a big contract extension in two years. How much money do you tie up at rush linebacker?
That’s why the Broncos, if indeed they value Barrett long term, should get a jump on an extension this fall, while the market for his services is relatively manageable.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.