ENGLEWOOD — On Monday when the doors to free agency swung open, the Broncos zeroed in on one player. The identity, kept closely guarded in the previous weeks, was the first step in many to helping Denver crawl off the mat and back into the AFC West cagematch. With the signing of cornerback Kareem Jackson, the Broncos attempted to sharpen a defense that has dulled since the Super Bowl 50 victory. Jackson brings an appetite for contact. His eagerness to tackle and hybrid ability as a safety make him an intriguing pairing with Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
"I kind of pride myself on being physical, kind of imposing my will on the receivers or running backs if I get the chance. I’ve always been like that. I think those things throughout the course of a game can kind of change the game. It can spark your team or it can cause turnovers or things like that. Obviously those things can definitely work in our favor. Throughout my career, I’ve just always been that type of guy -- kind of get down in the line and be physical and tackle," Jackson said Friday at his introductory press conference. "That's what Broncos fans should expect from me."
He need not waste time convincing Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay. He lit up Lindsay like the Las Vegas strip with a vicious hit on Nov. 4. Lindsay, defined by toughness, popped up but not without recalibrating his senses. The pair met in the food room at the UCHealth Center on Monday. Jackson didn't apologize. But don't worry, they are all good.
"There's mutual respect there. I love how he plays the game, too," Jackson said.
Coach Vic Fangio admitted he is not sure how he will employ Jackson. There will be games when he's closer to the line of scrimmage and others where he's roaming, reading and reacting.
"I think teams not knowing where I am going to line up will work to our advantage," Jackson said.
While the Broncos want physicality from Jackson, they seek stability from Ja'Wuan James. They made him the highest-paid right tackle in NFL history because they believe at 26 he can become a longterm solution for a position that has seen 11 starters over the past five seasons.
"With Ja'Wuan, what were doing zone scheme-wise offensively, it's a great fit for Ja'Wuan," general manager John Elway said.
James knows the position has been a revolving door. He also embraces the idea of playing with expectations and helping the Broncos rebound.
"We are going to be physical, and run the football. I talked to (offensive line coach) Mike Munchak for an hour and he has me riled up and ready to go," James said. "I never really truly imagined (being the highest-paid at his position), but it's all a blessing honestly. Just credit to the work and everything that goes to it. People talk about pressure and things like that; I feel like I'm a guy who competes for myself all of the time. I think as long as I'm holding myself to the highest standard, I will be fine. I'm excited to get to work here. That is the biggest thing. I'm excited to get to work and win some ball games."
Barrett to Bucs, Heuerman back
For Joe Flacco to reach his potential -- and Elway insists that Flacco is in his prime -- he needs a healthy tight end. The Broncos have options, but no answers. As of yet. They added another body to the mix on Friday, re-signing Jeff Heuerman to a two-year deal that maxes out at $9 million. Heuerman finally showed flashes of his potential last year, catching 31 passes for 281 yards. He caught a career-high 10 passes against Houston. However, Heuerman's season ended after 11 games because of three broken ribs. He missed his rookie season with a torn ACL and dealt with nagging hamstring injuries in subsequent seasons.
Shaquil Barrett, the former CSU star, loved his time in Denver, but wanted a bigger role. As such, Barrett signed with Tampa Bay on Friday, agreeing to a one-year deal for $5 million.
"It's a 3-4 defense and a chance to compete for a starting job," Barrett told Denver7.
I confirmed that former Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan will make a free agent visit to the Broncos. It makes sense in this way: Jackson is hybrid corner/safety. Fangio wants three solid corners. Callahan could solve that. And he knows Fangio's defense, having played for him in Chicago. I like idea of Callahan joining the Broncos. I would hope it wouldn't be at expense of Chris Harris Jr., who deserves an extension. Having a secondary of Callahan, Jackson and Harris Jr. would be The No Fly Zone II. I don't like any scenario without Harris getting extended. Here’s what John Elway said today about Harris' potential extension: “We’ll talk about that later once we get through everything. Once we get through the draft, we’ll see where we are, we’ll see where we are budget-wise. Obviously Chris has been a good football player for us for a long time. We’ll have to see where that goes. It’s something that we’d like to look at.”