DENVER -- The Broncos hired coach Vic Fangio to improve a defense that lost its way, if not edge, since Super Bowl 50. His scheme will help, allowing for more creativity through zone coverages and disguised blitzes. However, Fangio needs players. Five days after landing hybrid safety Kareem Jackson, the Broncos continued bolstering their secondary, landing cornerback Bryce Callahan. They followed the move by re-signing veteran defensive lineman Zach Kerr to a two-year contract on Saturday morning.
Callahan visited UCHealth Center on Friday, and talks quickly accelerated. The Broncos landed Callahan on a three-year, $21-million deal with $10 million guaranteed. Callahan played for Fangio in Chicago, producing a career season in 2018.
"The Broncos were always my top pick because of coach Fangio. I am comfortable in the system," said Callahan on Saturday, who explained that rehab from a foot injury is going well. "I don't have to learn a new system. I can just get in and go."
He appeared in 13 games, starting 10, while posting a personal-best 45 tackles with two interceptions and two sacks. He is considered a strong slot corner, averaging 32 snaps per game in that role a year ago while allowing one touchdown. He will be tested. Asked if was ready to face the star receivers in the AFC West, including Oakland's Antonio Brown, he blurted, "Hell yeah."
Callahan's arrival should free Fangio to use Broncos star Chris Harris Jr. more liberally. Harris is an expert in the slot, blanketing the middle of the field. His desire is to roam more on the edges to create more game-changing plays. In Fangio's read-and-react zone defenses, this appears more possible with the presence of Callahan and Jackson. Jackson is a hybrid safety and corner, who brings a physical presence. Fangio demands good tacklers -- "If your secondary can’t tackle, you are not going to have a run defense. It’s important for the secondary to tackle and coach Vic makes that known," Callahan said. Harris, Callahan and Jackson all bring those credentials. Callahan also boasts impressive blitzing skills.
With this trio, the Broncos look to have their best secondary since Super Bowl 50 with Harris, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. With Harris, Jackson, Callahan and Justin Simmons, is this the sequel?
"I have been seeing a lot about the No Fly Zone 2.0 on social media," Callahan said. "I feel like we can make our own thing."
Kerr has morphed into a reliable, rotational defensive lineman over the past two years with Denver. He netted a career-high 33 tackles with 1.5 sacks last season.
Callahan, meanwhile, has battled injuries throughout his career, which likely softened his free agent market. He entered the NFL as a college free agent in 2015 from Rice University. He said former Rice teammate and one-time Bronco Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor raved about his time in Denver, helping making it an easy decision.
Callahan owns 122 career tackles. The one issue to watch is whether Callahan's presence would preclude Harris from receiving a well-deserved contract extension. As Denver7 first reported, the Broncos met with Harris' agent at the combine to begin creating dialogue for a deal. The Broncos and Harris have mutual interest in an extension, but Denver is waiting until after the draft to circle back.
"Once we get through the draft, we’ll see where we are budget-wise," general manager John Elway said on Friday. "Obviously Chris has been a good football player for us for a long time. ... It’s something that we’d like to look at."