BRONCOS

State of the Broncos: The 2021 Free Agent of the Year

Jan 14, 2022, 6:59 AM
(Graphic by Johnny Hart/Bonneville Denver)...
State of the Broncos

The Broncos finished the 2021 season with a 7-10 record. It was the team’s fifth-straight losing season. It also marked the sixth-consecutive year in which the franchise failed to make the playoffs.

As a result, Vic Fangio was shown the door. The head coach was 19-30 during his three seasons in Denver. And more change is sure to come.

But that doesn’t mean all was lost. There were still some bright spots during the 2021 campaign.

During the first week of the “State of the Broncos” series, it’s time to highlight some of the good things. It’s a chance to take a look at the positives that a new head coach can build upon.

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FREE AGENT OF THE YEAR

George Paton has gotten a lot of credit for his first season in Denver. The Broncos general manager had a strong draft, made some shrewd moves and generally set the franchise up well for the future.

But in one area, Paton really struggled in 2021. When it came to his free-agent class, there weren’t a lot of hits.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Broncos spent plenty of money on free agents, trying to fill holes on their roster with temporary solutions. But not many of them panned out.

Ronald Darby was probably the team’s biggest prize, signing a three-year, $30-million deal in the offseason. But he was just okay during his first year in Denver.

The cornerback has a history of injuries, something that plagued him in 2021, as well. In just 11 games, Darby failed to have an interceptions, but did post six passes defensed.

That’s a similar stat line to the one put up by Kyle Fuller. The cornerback was signed to a one-year deal, hoping to rekindle the magic he had playing in Vic Fangio’s defense in Chicago. It didn’t happen.

In 16 games, Fuller also failed to record an interception. He did have four passes defensed and 51 tackles, however.

Injuries also plagued Mike Boone, a change-of-pace running back signed from the Vikings. He appeared in just eight games, rushing four times for 35 yards and having two catches for 22 yards.

He did show flashes, however, particularly during training camp. If Melvin Gordon leaves this offseason via free agency, look for Boone to be an option as the backup to Javonte Williams.

One pleasant surprise was Eric Saubert. The tight end was brought in from Jacksonville to mainly be a blocker. But he did haul in eight passes during the season, including a touchdown. He got in the end zone more than Jerry Jeudy in 2021.

The most-reliable of the bunch was Bobby Massie. He was signed after Ja’Wuan James ruptured his achilles tendon, one of two veterans brought in to compete for the right tackle job. When healthy, it was Massie’s during the season.

On the year, he started 13 games and played well. Given how the Broncos have struggled to fill that position in recent years, simply having a steady option for most Sundays was a huge step in the right direction.

In 2021, the best free agent on the Broncos roster was Bobby Massie.

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FINAL VOTING

1. Bobby Massie
2. Ronald Darby
3. Eric Saubert
4. Kyle Fuller
5. Mike Boone

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State of the Broncos: The 2021 Free Agent of the Year