DENVER — The Broncos arrived Monday with needs, but spent the first seven hours of free agency with their credit card tucked into their wallet.
There is an argument for prudence. However, the Broncos also require talent, so balancing patience with urgency is a maddening exercise, especially for fans watching it play out like tumbleweeds blowing across a desert highway.
The negotiating window for agents to discuss contracts with pending free agents opened at 10 a.m. It is otherwise known as legal tampering. It runs until 2 p.m. Wednesday when deals agreed on in principle can become official. A blizzard of moves defined the curtain drop, but not for the Broncos.
Monday morphed into not who was coming to Denver, but who might be leaving. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills expressed interest in center Matt Paradis. The Jets were making a push to land the ironman, who played in nearly 4,000 consecutive snaps before fracturing his fibula on Nov. 4. Paradis spent Monday in New York because that is where his agent is based. Paradis will be jogging in two weeks and remains ahead of schedule in his recovery as his departure becomes more likely. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, whom the team plans to release, lists the Chargers, Cardinals, Jets, Ravens and Bengals among his suitors.
The Broncos made a bold move a month ago, landing quarterback Joe Flacco. He is expected to be introduced to the media later in the week. The Broncos were aggressive in free agency last year, agreeing on a two-year deal with Case Keenum for $26 million guaranteed. They were dating, not married. The Broncos moved on, trading Keenum to Washington in a move that will save $3 million in salary cap space, while Denver receives a sixth-round pick in 2020, and sends the Redskins a seventh-round pick in the same draft.
Why Flacco and not someone like Nick Foles? Clarity emerged Monday. The Jacksonville Jaguars, bidding against themselves, agreed to a four-year, $88-million deal with the free agent Foles, including $50.125 million guaranteed. Flacco will make $18 million this season with no guarantees after this year. Is Flacco better? He has not been of late. But if he's serviceable, he would represent one third the cost as Denver attempts to address other needs.
The Broncos began the free agent period by kicking the tires on defensive end Malik Jackson. He was always unlikely to return because of the presence of Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris. According to reports, Jackson received a three-year, $30-million deal from Philadelphia. It became a theme, though in fairness, the Broncos' interest in some players was tepid. Others they had interest in or were potential fits who signed elsewhere included: Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James (Detroit) and slot receiver Adam Humphries (Tennessee).
But there's still time. At 5 p.m., safety Adrian Amos, cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Pierre Desire and receiver Golden Tate remained on the board at positions of need for the Broncos.
Options exercised on Harris Jr., Sanders
The Broncos picked up cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s $1 million option on his contract. This was never in doubt. It was an option on his $7.9 million salary this season. What matters now is getting Harris a new deal. He has earned it. The Broncos met with his agent at the NFL Combine, with both sides expressing mutual interest in a deal. However, the Broncos are not expected to circle back until free agency and possibly the draft play out.
In addition, the Broncos exercised a $1.5 million option on receiver Emmanuel Sanders' $10.5 million salary this season as general manager John Elway said the team would do several days ago. The remainder of Sanders' deal is not guaranteed for injury. This move buys the Broncos time to see how Sanders recovers from Achilles surgery. He's healing ahead of schedule. They need a healthy Sanders to boost Denver's decaffeinated offense.
Harris to sign tender
It was expected, but Denver Broncos Shelby Harris will sign his tendered contract, he told Denver7. Harris blossomed into a key player on the defensive line last season. The Broncos placed a second-round tender on him, making it much harder for any team to sign him away.