Last off-season, freelance agents Shelby Harris and Ronald Darby were given a joint but still frustrating hand: a market to their liking did not materialize, and they signed one-year contracts to stay with the Broncos and Washington Join football team. respectively.
Harris, who made $ 3.25 million last season, agreed to a three-year $ 27 million deal to stay with the Broncos as a versatile defensive end. Darby, who earned $ 4 million in 2020, agreed to a three-year $ 30 million deal to become the Broncos planned No. 1 cornerback.
Just like that, hours into the negotiating window for free agents, the new general manager George Paton had addressed two key positions and made sure he did not step into the draft which was limited to having to choose someone in both positions.
Next, Paton and the Broncos will make option decisions for external linebacker Von Miller and security Kareem Jackson by Tuesday, limiting free agent calls to running back Phillip Lindsay, receiver Tim Patrick and internal linebacker Alexander Johnson by Wednesday .
If Miller and the Broncos split up, $ 13.875 million will be released to go into this year’s draft class and a long-term security contract for Justin Simmons.
If Miller sticks to its current cap ($ 22.125 million), Darby could be the Broncos’ only big money making free agent acquisition.
Darby, 27, was the Broncos’ top-rated free agent cornerback, according to a source. The Broncos consider him solely a full-back, which means that Bryce Callahan and / or Essang Bassey are tentatively penciled to cover the slot receiver.
« Good player, » one NFL manager said of Darby. “Goes well with the scheme. Good off coverage. Has quick feet. Very good ball skills. Just had some durability issues. “
With the ninth overall win in the April 29 draft, Paton doesn’t have to sit back and draw Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech or Patrick Surtain of Alabama with an understanding that he needs an immediate # 1 cornerback.
With Darby in the fold, Paton could try to trade down – making additional choices for round two or three – and Greg Newsome out of the Northwest late in the first round or a player like Eric Stokes out Consider Georgia in the second round.
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One plan for the Broncos could be to use Darby and the yet-to-be-determined rookie as cornerstones for the base package and to use Callahan exclusively as a nickel back, which would shorten his playing time but would help him finish well get.
Darby, selected by Buffalo in the second round, missed three games in his first two years. When traded to Philadelphia, he missed eight games (ankle), seven in 18 (knee) and five in 19 (hand / hip) in 2017.
His best season was 2017, when he had three interceptions as a starter on the Eagles’ Super Bowl winning team.
Darby signed a one-year contract to stay 19 with the Eagles (two interceptions) and opted for the aforementioned one-year deal with Washington, which came almost three weeks after the freelance agency began last year.
Darby played for former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in Washington. He started every game, hitting a career high of 1,002 snaps, and his 16 pass separations (no interceptions) were the fifth most in the NFL. According to the Pro Football Reference, the opponents had a rating of 81.0 when they targeted Darby (a touchdown).
Darby has a career total of 73 games (72 starts), 306 tackles, eight interceptions and 81 pass separations.
The task in rebuilding the cornerback space is finding ways to create more takeaways. The Broncos’ 10 interceptions in 2020 were in 23rd place and their 16 takeaways in fourth from bottom.
A.J. Bouye was taken over on the Jacksonville trade last March but struggled with injuries before ending the year on suspension and was cut last month. Callahan was arguably the Broncos’ best defensive player until he was closed with four games remaining. Bassey was on the line-up as an unoccupied rookie and tore up his ACL in Kansas City. And rookie Micheal Ojemudia led the defense with 15 missed tackles.
Harris was followed by other NFL teams when his agent Ryan Williams announced the Broncos deal on Twitter.
« Shelby sets the tone for our line of defense, » Paton said on the Broncos website. « As an annoying pass rusher and physical run defender, he’s tough to deal with up front. We’re happy to have Shelby back. »
In 11 games last year, Harris had 32 tackles in 441 snapshots. According to the Denver Post playing card, Harris had 13 quarterback stoppages (2 1/2 sacks) and 5 1/2 run « stuffs ». Where he’s one of the best in the league he can turn off / distract passes, at 20 in the past three years.
Harris was in the middle of a career year when he missed four games with COVID-19; He missed the season finale with a knee injury.
With Harris re-signing, the Broncos can have their first line of defense in the fold. Harris and Dre’Mont Jones will start on the defensive end and Mike Purcell on the nose tackle. Harris and Jones also give flexibility to coach Vic Fangio as they can act as interior pass rushers in third place.
Harris’ deal came shortly after the Jacksonville Jaguars signed defense attorney Roy Robertson-Harris and signed a three-year $ 24.4 million deal to leave the Chicago Bears. Robertson-Harris played for Fangio in 2017-18 and was likely on the Broncos’ radar if they hadn’t signed Harris again. Statistically, Harris is the superior player (67 games, 168 tackles, and 16 1/2 bags) compared to Robertson-Harris (52 games, 75 tackles, and 7 1/2 bags).
Harris was drafted from the state of Illinois by the Raiders in the seventh round in 2014, but appeared for the team in just eight games in two seasons, while being surrendered four times. Harris then had brief stints with the Jets and the Cowboys in 2016 but never made either roster.
Since arriving in Denver in January 2017 after being picked up from Dallas, Harris has buckled up the depth map to become a primary in charge. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2019 (49 tackles, six sacks and nine pass separations).
Harris is the first of the Broncos’ 10 free agents to re-sign with the team this off-season. Denver also tagged Simmons as a team with the Franchise Tag, and Security continues to seek to work out a long-term deal.
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