Ever since Peyton Manning announced his retirement following Super Bowl 50, it looked as though the Denver Broncos were a lost franchise. But a full four years later, they're on the verge of becoming an absolute force in the AFC. They appear to have their quarterback of the future, a stacked offense, and an always impressive defense.
If the Broncos want to become contenders for years to come, they need to avoid having these guys hit free agency. Here are three that general manager John Elway must prioritize in the next couple of years.
3. WR Courtland Sutton
Once Demaryius Thomas began showing signs of regression, the Broncos had their contingency plan in 2018 second-round pick Courtland Sutton. The former SMU Mustang's play was tremendous enough that the team felt comfortable trading both Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. But he truly shined this past season. In 16 games, Sutton caught 72 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns on 124 targets, resulting in a Pro Bowl nomination. Sutton is set to hit the open market in 2022, and if he solidifies his spot as one of the better deep threats in the game, don't be surprised to see the Broncos finalize a contract extension before the end of the 2020 season.
2. LB Von Miller
Usually when a player enters his 30s, NFL teams usually avoid re-signing him to a lucrative deal. But linebacker Von Miller is the exception. Ever since being selected with the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Miller has become one of the league's most feared pass rushers. In his nine years, he posted double-digit sacks in all but two seasons. Miller only posted eight sacks last season, but that can be attributed to the Broncos defensive line losing Bradley Chubb to a torn ACL. Look, Miller is a once in a generation talent. The Broncos would be foolish to let him walk. Miller has a club option for next season, and will hit the open market in 2022. We'd bet money that the two sides will reach a mutual agreement on a new deal before Miller becomes an unrestricted free agent.
1. S Justin Simmons
Isn't this obvious? The Broncos prioritized placing the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons instead of re-signing cornerback Chris Harris Jr., and for good reason. Simmons is one of the league's great young safeties and a true ballhawk in the defensive backfield. This past season, Simmons surrendered just 28 receptions for 288 yards and one touchdown on 53 targets while recording four interceptions. Simmons was destined to receive a huge contract if he were to hit free agency this year, but he was franchise-tagged. The Broncos have until July 15 to finalize an extension with the former 2016 third-round pick. What are you waiting for, John? Give Simmons the lucrative deal he's earned!