The Denver Broncos are not too far removed from their last Super Bowl victory. They claimed Super Bowl 50 in the 2015 season on the back of a brilliant defense and the smarts of Peyton Manning. It was their eighth trip to the Super Bowl and third victory in franchise history. Since then though, the Broncos have gone downhill in a hurry. Peyton Manning retired immediately after that Super Bowl 50 win. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips left in 2017 and with his departure the defensive might dried up.
John Elway, hero quarterback of the Broncos first two Super Bowl wins, became general manager for the team in 2011 and was instrumental in bringing Manning to Denver, but since then he's struggled to make consistently smart decisions. He is already on his fourth head coach, with the hiring of Vance Joseph in 2017 being a key reason why Wade Phillips left. Joseph lasted just two years and now Vic Fangio has come in to try and steady the ship.
Part of the problem for the Broncos has been their inability to replace Peyton Manning at quarterback. After the misery of Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian they invested in free agent Case Keenum in 2018. That has barely worked, leaving the Broncos with their future very much up in the air.
In Madden 19 you have a chance to fix the Broncos roster and get them back into the playoffs. In Franchise Mode the Broncos start with a 78 overall rating. That’s not great, and it's made up of a 79 rated offense and an 83 rated defense. That defensive score is solid, but the offense is very poor. Everything aspect of the roster needs to be assessed and potentially overhauled in Denver. So what can you do? Well, let’s start with the Broncos salary cap situation.
Denver Broncos Salary Cap
The Broncos start Franchise Mode with 66 players on the roster and $42.7 million. That’s a very healthy place to start a rebuilding project. There are 28 players on the roster that can be cut without incurring any cap penalty. While you don’t need to cut anyone for financial reasons, you will open up another $3-5 million in cap space just by cutting down to the 53-man regular season roster.
This is a strong foundation to begin the rebuilding process. It gives you the flexibility to snap up talent in free agency, make a splashy trade, or re-sign key impending free agents to retain the strength of your roster.
Denver Broncos Impending Free Agents
The Broncos have 34 players that start Franchise Mode in the final year of their contract. That’s a lot of players, but most can be allowed to walk away without a worry and replaced very simply and without much cost. However, there are a few players on their last year that are key parts of the team and will either need to be re-signed or replaced at a cost, be it in draft picks or cap space.
The top priority here is starting center Matt Paradis. At 28 years old and 88 OVR, Paradis is a very good center in Madden 19 and well worth retaining. The Broncos offensive line is ok but needs investment and Paradis is the best part of it, so letting him walk in free agency would be extremely counterproductive.
There are a lot of defensive players entering the final year of their contract too. Cornerback Bradley Roby is the #2 cornerback on the Broncos roster, normally it wouldn’t be vital to retain a #2 corner, but the #3, #4, & #5 corners are all impending free agents too. Roby is just 26 so has some good years ahead of him and at 80 OVR he will be a solid #2 to start on and can be a good #3 if you make a move to improve the position. You should probably retain one of the other corners too as it is hard to completely overhaul a position group in one offseason.
Next up is outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. The Broncos effectively drafted Barrett’s replacement in 2018 when they took Bradley Chubb early in the first round, however you need to have backup pass rushers that can play and Barrett is still a useful player. If you can secure his signature at a reasonable price, you should do it.
Other key impending free agents: Shelby Harris (DT), Jared Veldheer (RT), Tramaine Brock Sr (CB), Shane Ray (OLB)
Denver Broncos Roster Needs
The Broncos biggest need is at quarterback, and until that is solved it will be very difficult to take this team back to the playoffs. In 2018 they signed free agent Case Keenum to a 2-year deal as a stopgap signal caller, but he is 30 years old and has a lowly 76 OVR. You should invest your scouting points into every quarterback prospect in an attempt to find the best one, and then be ready to trade up on draft day if necessary.
With the top draft assets being pushed into the quarterback position, it will be important to fill in the rest of the roster with sensible free agent signings. This is why it is key to re-sign players like Roby & Barrett who can play vital roles within the team while not lowering the talent level on the field too dramatically.
Beyond the quarterback position the Broncos could use upgrades along the offensive line. The right side in particular is weak, so another guard and tackle would be good. These players are often available in the middle rounds of the draft, making them fairly easy to find. What is harder to find are more options at the wide receiver and tight end positions. The Broncos are pretty thin there so uncovering an extra option for your new passer would be good.
Defensively the Broncos are pretty strong, but the interior of their defense could use some fresh faces. The only 2 defensive tackles on the roster will hit free agency after season 1, and the middle linebacker options are far from great. Picking up improvements there will help your run defense but also be useful against the pass. You should be controlling a linebacker on most defensive plays, so having a good athlete that you can run around the field with will help you make more plays and get more stops.
Upgrades in the secondary and a serious investment at wide receiver may well have to wait until season 2, unless you are unlucky enough to have a season 1 draft class that has very limited quarterback prospects. If this is the case, then trading back in the first round to pick up more draft picks next year or simply more mid-round picks would be wise. If you aren’t going to spend your season 1 first-round pick on a quarterback, then finding another offensive tackle or cornerback would be the best route to go.
The Broncos are a tough team to rebuild simply because they don’t have a quarterback to construct a roster around, but they do have a lot of talent dotted around. Von Miller is an excellent edge defender, Emmanuel Sanders can make big plays at wide receiver and rookie running back Phillip Lindsay is a good player too. The Broncos have a solid history of competing at the top of the AFC, and if you can find a quarterback, then you can get them back into the playoffs and competing for a fourth Super Bowl.