The Denver Broncos took care of their biggest offseason priority, hiring Nathaniel Hackett away from the Green Bay Packers to be their next head coach.
After three seasons of struggles under Vic Fangio, Denver opted to go with an offensive-minded head coach in the highly-respected Hackett.
The hope here is that this changes the fortunes for a team that has not earned a playoff spot since Peyton Manning’s final season back in 2015. Bringing in a coach with multiple years of experience calling plays on offense is a nice start.
Below, we look at three moves the Broncos must make this offseason after hiring Hackett to return to relevance around the NFL.
Related: Top 2022 NFL free agents
Denver Broncos give Javonte Williams three-down role at running back
This would include Denver simply opting to let former Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon leave in free agency and relying on someone else to back Williams up. It makes too much sense for Denver now that the team has hired Hackett.
Hackett’s experience as an offensive coordinator dating back to his days with the Buffalo Bills includes relying on some big-name backs who excelled in his system. This includes C.J. Spiller, Leonard Fournette and Aaron Jones. Williams could be the next in line.
- Javonte Williams stats (rookie): 203 attempts, 903 yards, 4.4 average, 43 receptions, 316 yards, 7 TD
Being able to tally north of 1,200 yards while splitting time as a rookie is no small thing. It was the lack of consistent touches that held the North Carolina product back some. In the 17 regular-season games in which he appeared, Williams put up single-digit rush attempts six times. Regardless of who plays quarterback in Denver next season, this must change.
Denver Broncos pony up the cash for an inside linebacker
Denver’s defense was among the best in the NFL a season ago, finishing No. 3 in points allowed and eighth in total yards. Statistically, it as better than the unit that helped these Broncos win the Super Bowl following the 2015 season. However, there was one major Achilles’ heel. That was inside linebacker. This was evidenced by the fact that Denver pulled off a mid-season trade for Kenny Young.
An upgrade here is a necessity. The good news? There’s some pretty solid starter-caliber options out there on the free-agent market. New England Patriots Pro Bowler Dont’a Hightower comes to mind, as does Jarrad Davis and Jayon Brown. Either way, this should be a focal point.
Denver Broncos pull off blockbuster Aaron Rodgers trade
To take a term from James Carville, “it’s the quarterback position, stupid.” This has been no more prevalent around the NFL than in Denver since Manning called it quits. We’re talking about some atrocious quarterback play in the six seasons since.
- 2016: 59.5% completion, 3,914 yards, 20 TD, 11 INT, 83.9 rating
- 2017: 59% completion, 3,668 yards, 19 TD, 22 INT, 73.0 rating
- 2018: 62.4% completion, 3,930 yards, 19 TD, 15 INT, 82.1 rating
- 2019: 62% completion, 3,401 yards, 16 TD, 10 INT, 84.1 rating
- 2020: 57% completion, 3,673 yards, 21 TD, 13 INT, 72.5 rating
- 2021: 65% completion, 3,856 yards, 20 TD, 9 INT, 91.7 rating
While Teddy Bridgewater provided some stability under center this past season, there’s absolutely no reason to believe he’s a franchise guy moving forward. Bridgewater’s likely asking price in free agency is also going to be pretty absurd given his body of work.
Enter into the equation reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Obviously, his relationship with Nathaniel Hackett will be a major talking point here over the next couple weeks. We also know that Rodgers has not committed to returning to the Packers after yet another premature exit in the NFL Playoffs. Having already been linked to Denver since before the Hackett hiring, this pairing makes the most sense.
Each of Rodgers’ single-season performances since he took over for Brett Favre as the Packers’ starting quarterback back in 2008 would be better than anything we’ve seen from the Broncos over the half-decade. It leads us to believe that general manager George Paton should do everything possible to pull off a blockbuster trade. After all, he saw what Rodgers brings to the table first-hand during his run with the Minnesota Vikings.
As for how a trade might look, first-round picks the next two years, multiple mid-round selections and a couple young players might move the needle. Purely hypothetical here, but star tight end Noah Fant and someone like right guard Quinn Meinerz might move the needle for Green Bay.