It must be a rush to go on an $84 million shopping spree as casually as John Elway and the Broncos did on Monday.
Let’s see here ... I’ll have one of those top-of-the-line defensive backs for $33 million from the Houston Texans, and since we still have some change in the glove compartment and several rolls of quarters hidden underneath the mattress at home, let’s also throw in $51 million for this high-profile offensive tackle out of Miami.
I don’t know if landing two of the biggest names on the NFL’s list of free agents was actually that easy, but the Broncos were the first team to dive in on what is traditionally the opening day for making such moves. Typical of Elway, they dove into the deep end without so much as a hint of hesitation.
Monday marked the first day that teams were allowed to contact free agents from other teams without being hindered by tampering restrictions. The first half of the highly anticipated day was surprisingly quiet. Then two thunderous shots rang out, both from Dove Valley.
Per multiple reports, the Broncos agreed to sign former Houston Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson to a three-year, $33 million contract that includes $23 million fully guaranteed. A quick glance at Jackson’s production last year leaves little question as to why the Broncos were so quick to snatch him off the shelf.
In 2018, the 31-year-old Alabama product turned in a level of production unheard of since the turn of the century. Comfortable and proficient playing cornerback or safety, Jackson compiled 87 combined tackles, 17 passes defended, five tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one sack, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ number 14 cornerback among 112 qualifiers.
That works for me. How about you, Broncos fans? Jackson also accomplished this feat without allowing a single touchdown in coverage. Really? Who does that?
Originally drafted with the 20th-overall pick in 2010, Jackson stepped in during his rookie season with the Texans and became the starter at right cornerback. He improved with each season to become one of the league’s premiere defensive players. New head coach and defensive guru Nick Fangio will likely have a field day finding ways to utilize Jackson’s versatile skill sets toward the benefit of the Broncos.
The second shot fired from Dove Valley was even more impressive – and more expensive. Addressing what has been an elephant in the room for the past four years, Elway and company spent an additional $51 million to bolster the offensive line.
Just like that, with a single swipe of the pen, the Broncos made former Miami Dolphin Ja’Wuan James the highest paid right tackle in the NFL.
Somewhere, new quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Phillip Lindsay are high fiving like a pair of seven-year-olds who just won lifetime passes to the local swimming pool. Offensive line moves of this magnitude can literally extend the careers of quarterbacks and running backs by years, not to mention drastically increasing their production levels along the way.
James, a 6-6, 320-pounder with surprising mobility, was the 19th pick in the 2014 draft and played five years for the Dolphins. The University of Tennessee product finished last year with a 70.8 grade as the No. 34 offensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus. James has also answered questions regarding durability, starting 15 games last season for Miami.
Welcome to Denver, Mr. James. Just follow the red carpet and your limousine will be waiting.
So let’s recap. Two first round picks added to the roster. Both proven commodities in the NFL. Both sides of the ball substantially upgraded. All in one day.