John Elway has made three big moves so far this off-season as he seeks to transform the Denver Broncos back into a playoff team.
AJ Bouye arrived from Jacksonville via trade, Graham Glasgow signed a four-year deal in free agency, and then on Wednesday Elway traded a seventh-round pick for DL Jurrell Casey.
They have all replaced players who featured heavily for the Broncos in recent years, with Chris Harris Jr, Ronald Leary, Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe all departing.
So, have the moves that Elway has made so far moved the Broncos closer to being a play-off team?
Of course, Wolfe and Harris are both still on the market, so one of those two still could be brought back, with Wolfe the most likely.
The first move the Broncos made this offseason was flipping the fourth-round pick received for Emmanuel Sanders for AJ Bouye, and from that moment on it seemed Chris Harris’ time in Denver was coming to an end.
It would be fair to say both Bouye and Harris had down-years in 2019, with PFF ratings of 58.4 and 69.9 respectively.
And their overall production was relatively similar, recording one interception each, Bouye with seven pass break-ups vs Harris’ five, and Bouye allowing four touchdowns vs Harris’ six.
Bouye and Harris allowed passer ratings of 118.5 and 128 respectively, and catch rates of 67% and 64.6%. Both seem less than impressive when compared to standout free agent Byron Jones, who allowed just a 47.8% catch rate and 90.1 passer rating.
However, what the Broncos do have in Bouye is someone who is two-years younger than Harris and who was a second-team All-Pro just two years ago, and let’s be honest, he has been playing on a pretty bad Jacksonville team for the last couple of years.
Ultimately, whilst both players had similar levels of productivity last season, the Broncos got younger and now have, we can only assume, a guy who really wants to be here. Plus, with a healthy Bryce Callahan and De’Vante Bausby, the secondary should see further improvement on last season.
The first move that Elway made once the legal tampering period opened was to shore up a previously injury-riddled right-side of the offensive line by acquiring Graham Glasgow on a four-year, $44 million deal.
The Broncos right-side missed 17 games combined last season, whilst Leary also played just 6 games in 2018. Glasgow, who is expected to play right guard, but can play centre, has missed just one game in the last three seasons.
In 2019 he achieved a 74.1 PFF rating and gave up just three penalties, compared to Ronald Leary who had a rating of just 58.4, and committed eight penalties in his 12 games played.
Elway moved quickly to upgrade Drew Lock’s protection, and he has certainly done that in the acquisition of Glasgow, whilst also providing flexibility when it comes to the centre position.
And then came the big move, as Jurrell Casey was acquired for just a seventh-round pick from the Tennessee Titans. The Broncos take on his $11.8 million salary with the move, but with plenty of cap space and a need on the defensive line, it appears to be a home run trade.
Casey has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last five years, is one of only 10 NFL players with 5+ sacks in each of the last seven years, and has missed just five games in his nine-year career.
The departing Shelby Harris may have recorded one more sack than Casey in 2019, however Casey had more QB knockdowns (4 vs 0) and more QB pressures (21 vs 11).
Casey also played high-level defence when the lights shone brightest in the postseason, with 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hits and one forced fumble in his three play-off showings.
With Purcell back at NT, and Dre’Mont Jones in contention to start, Casey adds an elite, veteran presence on the defensive line, and along with Glasgow means the Broncos have strengthened significantly in the trenches so far this offseason.
So, has John Elway taken the Broncos closer to being a playoff contender with these three moves? In a word, yes.