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2023 Denver Broncos Offseason Preview

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Finally out from under the oppressive thumb of Pete Carroll and his archaic offense, the 2022 season was supposed to see Russell Wilson unleashed upon the rest of the league. Paired with Nathaniel Hackett, who helped restore Aaron Rodgers to his MVP-caliber self, how could things go wrong? What the Broncos got was only the bad parts of Wilson’s game from Seattle and a head coach who seemed out of his depth from Week 1. Wilson set career lows in every passing metric available. The Broncos’ offense ranked no lower than sixth in offsides, false starts, delay of games, and offensive holding penalties. Hackett was fired during the season and the Broncos now have to pick up the pieces, starting with fixing Wilson.

Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 16.9 (32nd)
  • EPA per play: -0.08 (27th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: -0.05 (25th)
  • Passing yards per game: 211.3 (19th)
  • Rush EPA per play: -0.12 (28th)
  • Rush yards per game: 113.8 (21st)

The Broncos didn’t have many strengths on offense but were littered with weaknesses. They ranked last in the league in third-down conversion rate and were slightly below average on fourth-down. This shouldn’t have been surprisingly based on how they played the early downs. Denver ranked 18th in early down pass rate in close situations (within 80 percent win probability) under Hackett. Wilson didn’t do much to help Hackett either. After being the king of completing difficult throws in Seattle, Wilson finished the 2022 season with a negative pass rate over expected. He even mistakenly used audibles from his time in Seattle, forgetting the language of his current playbook at times. The Broncos suffered a number of injuries to their skill-position players before and during the season, but there was no saving this trainwreck of a team.

Key Defensive Stats

  • Points per game: 21.1 (14th)
  • EPA per play: -0.04 (9th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: -0.03 (5th)
  • Passing yards per game: 210.2 (12th)
  • Rush EPA per play: -0.06 (20th)
  • Rush yards per game: 109.8 (10th)

As has been the case for years now, Denver’s defense wasn’t the issue. They were solid by most traditional stats and advanced metrics liked them even more. Their elite secondary was spearheaded by Pat Surtain. In his second year, Surtain made the leap from good to elite. He allowed more than 100 yards in coverage once and held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 84 when targeted. Justin Simmons appeared in a dozen games and earned six interceptions while also forcing three fumbles. Denver’s only weakness was their pass-rush. They ranked 26th in pressure rate and 24th in sacks per game.

2023 Offseason

Notes

Cap Space

$9.4 million

Draft Picks (Top-150)

68th, 69th, 109th, and 142nd

Notable Free Agents

S Kareem Jackson, DE Dre’Mont Jones, LG Dalton Risner, DE DeShawn Williams, LB Alex Singleton, OT Cameron Fleming, OT Billy Turner, and OT Calvin Anderson

Cut Candidates

RB Chase Edmonds ($5.9 million in savings), RG Graham Glasgow ($11 million), and CB Ronald Darby ($9.6 million)

The Broncos acquired a first-round pick by trading Bradley Chubb to Miami but moved that selection to land a new head coach. Denver also got Chase Edmonds back in the Chubb trade. He did not play much for the Broncos and is a lock to be cut.

Team Needs

Offensive Tackle

The Broncos primarily used four different tackles in 2022. Three of them are free agents and Garrett Boles is working his way back from a season-ending leg injury.

Outside Linebacker

Denver ranked 26th in pressure rate and Randy Gregory, their big-ticket free agent, missed most of the season with a knee issue. They need more firepower at this position and insurance for Gregory’s health.

Defensive End

Dre’Mont Jones, who led Denver in sacks, is an impending free agent, as is DeShawn Williams. Williams notched 4.5 sacks. Both are candidates to be re-signed. Denver has the option of placing the franchise tag on Jones as well.

Coaching Changes

Shortly after the Denver franchise was purchased by the Walton (read: Walmart) family, reports indicated they wanted to make a splash with their first head coaching hire. That put the Bat-Signal up for Sean Payton. At the end of a winding road of negotiations, the Broncos hired Payton after trading a first-round pick to New Orleans to get his rights. The synergy that existed between Drew Brees and Payton is the exact opposite of what Wilson and Hackett had. If the Broncos can capture some of that magic with Payton, Wilson will turn things around in 2023. Denver has yet to name an offensive or defensive coordinator.

Outlook

The Broncos have talent at most positions. If you give Wilson credit for his previous success in Seattle, they even have the potential for elite quarterback play. Their issues in Wilson’s first season in Denver came down to his inability to execute what was asked of him and the ineptitude of the coaching staff. That issue has seemingly been addressed by acquiring Payton. Light on money and draft picks over the next few years, the Broncos are betting the house on this setup being a winning combination.