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2018 Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview : Denver Broncos

Free agency has a major impact on fantasy football. We’re a long way from the 2018 league year, but for dynasty team owners — especially those who’ve missed the playoffs — it’s never too early to start thinking about how player values could change.

I’m going to take a look at the Denver Broncos fantasy-relevant free agents. I will also look at some players who may not be long for the team. After a look at the free agents and possible cut candidates, I’ll circle back and do some more player or position-specific analysis.

Free Agent information and cap numbers are courtesy of OverTheCap.

The Broncos are currently projected to have $29,023,245 in cap space in 2018, with the league’s new cap set at $178 million.

Free Agents

Player Position Type Current Average Per Year
Virgil Green TE UFA $2,800,000
Jamaal Charles RB UFA $2,500,000
Cody Latimer WR UFA $927,163
Brock Osweiler QB UFA $775,000
Bennie Fowler WR RFA $615,000
Jordan Taylor WR ERFA $540,000

Cut Candidates

Player Position Dead Money Cap Savings
Trevor Siemian QB $13,196 $705,000
Emmanuel Sanders WR $5,375,000 $5,562,500
C.J. Anderson RB $0 $4,500,000
Aqib Talib CB $1,000,000 $11,000,000

With several auxiliary WRs reaching free agency, it’s likely that both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders continue to dominate the target share. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Jordan Taylor accounted 64 targets in 2016 and 107 targets in 2017.1 It’s possible that the Broncos will bring back Taylor as an ERFA, but he is currently recovering from hip surgery and will miss the entire offseason program.

With Jamaal Charles’ contract rolling off the books, it’s less likely that the Broncos cut C.J. Anderson. Devontae Booker has not performed well when utilized as a workhorse RB, and he may not be the premium prospect we once thought.

Virgil Green is a better real-life asset than a fantasy one. He offers nothing as a pass-catcher and is best deployed as a blocking TE. With Jake Butt waiting in the wings, it’s likely that the Broncos let Green walk this offseason.

Brock Osweiler has been an abject disaster under center and shouldn’t be back, even as a backup QB. Additionally, Trevor Siemian can be cut for a minimal hit to the cap and should land as a backup on another NFL team. Paxton Lynch has not proven to be an NFL caliber QB, and it’s likely that he and Chad Kelly are relegated to backup duty. The Broncos are expected to sign a QB in free agency or draft one with their pick at fifth overall.

The Broncos are expected to place Talib on the trading block. However, Denver may be forced to release Talib. There’s enough smoke here to assume that Talib is no longer a Bronco next season.

Team Needs

QB, TE

Perhaps because of a lack of playmaking ability, Denver tight ends haven’t figured much in the offense in recent years. There’s an opportunity there and Butt seems likely to get a chance to earn it, but it’s not clear what value the position will have. Denver also has a handful of other tight ends (Jeff Heuerman for example) and could bring in a cheap veteran to replace Green. There’s not much of an angle here except in the deepest of dynasty leagues.

Given the current state of the team, it’s possible that John Elway eschews drafting a QB in the first round. The Broncos should be expected to sign a veteran QB, such as Kirk Cousins, provided they can finesse the cap space.

Summary

After Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos have been lost at QB. Siemian was never supposed to be the long-term answer under center, and first-round pick Lynch has failed to pan out. The Broncos are reportedly interested in drafting Baker Mayfield if he falls to them. Mayfield should have no trouble beating out Lynch or Kelly for the starter’s role.

Drew Brees has already stated that he’s not testing the free agent market, and the Saints should extend him before the new league year in March. Additionally, the San Francisco 49ers are working on extending Jimmy Garoppolo and are prepared to give him top-15 QB money. With Brees and Garoppolo ostensibly signing extensions with their current teams, Cousins is far and away the best QB on the free agent market. Consider the upcoming class of 2018 free agents from OTC:

2018 QB FA Class

However, Cousins could be too expensive for the Broncos. Denver needs to convince multiple veteran players to restructure their existing contracts in order to make a run at Cousins.

Assuming that the Broncos can’t sign Cousins, the team could look at any of the Minnesota free agent QBs. Case KeenumSam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are all set to hit free agency. Of the three, Keenum would likely be the preferred option given his stretch of competent play. Both Bradford and Bridgewater carry injury concerns, but I could see Denver signing one of the two assuming the team’s medical staff gives the all clear. The Broncos WRs have shown solid fantasy floors with poor QBs, so I wouldn’t worry too much about a Bradford, Keenum, or Bridgewater signing. A Cousins signing, however, would arguably enhance the ceilings for Sanders and Thomas.

Although I’ve listed Sanders as a possible cut candidate, he should remain and potentially flourish. Sanders’ poor performance can be attributed to an ankle injury he suffered in Week 6. Despite a six-week recovery period, but he returned to action Week 9 against the Eagles. This was his first season in Denver where he failed to crack 1,000 yards receiving. Sanders has accounted for greater than 20 percent of the available target share in Denver from 2014-2016 and should bounce back.

Emmanuel Sanders Career

Demaryius Thomas is still the WR1 in Denver. Inconsistent QB play capped his upside, but Thomas still caught 83 balls for 949 yards and scored five TDs. There were rumors that the Broncos were shopping Thomas at the trade deadline, but they’re unlikely to move him now. Over the last three years, he’s accounted for at least 25 percent of the target share in Denver, and he should continue to receive the bulk of the targets. Thomas is one of Denver’s leading red zone threats and has seen greater than 15 red zone targets over each of the last three years.

Demaryius Thomas Career

Carlos Henderson may hold some intrigue for those of you in deep dynasty leagues. He was a solid prospect but needs an injury ahead of him to see significant opportunity.2

2017 was the first time in his career where Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards. He had a hot finish, rushing for 307 yards over his final three games. In addition to being productive at rushing the ball, he accounted for seven percent of the target share in Denver. Although Anderson was one of the least efficient starters in the NFL, he’s a functional three-down workhorse when healthy. Unless the Broncos decide to cut him, Anderson will be the starting RB in 2018.

Booker is likely going to remain as the change of pace back next season, perhaps in a committee with De’Angelo Henderson. Both Booker and Henderson hold appeal as high-value handcuffs to Anderson and should see extended run if Anderson were to miss playing time.

  1. The increased usage in 2017 is likely the result of the injury sustained by Sanders.  (back)
  2. Henderson was recently arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana in Louisiana and is at risk of being suspended.  (back)

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