Broncos Mailbag: Why was inside linebacker Todd Davis released so close to season opener? – The Denver Post

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season.

You can pose a Broncos- or NFL-related question for the Broncos Mailbag here. Follow Ryan for more daily updates on Twitter.

I know it’s early, but I’m wondering what positions and players you see the Broncos drafting or signing in free agency after this season. I’m thinking inside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle. Your thoughts?

— William Christiansen, Orem, Utah

William, can we wait until Week 1 to be played or the Super Bowl Parade to be completed before looking ahead to 2021? But I’ll play along and break down the three positions you referred to.

Offensive tackle: I’m putting this at the top of the list. Left tackle Garett Bolles and right tackle Elijah Wilkinson are both free agents next March and who knows what general manager John Elway wants to do with Ja’Wuan James, who has a huge contract and opted out of this season.

Inside linebacker: Alexander Johnson has a chance to be a building block type of player and the Broncos really liked the work being put in by rookie Justin Strnad before his left wrist injury.

Cornerback: Michael Ojemudia is a rookie and he’ll get a chance this year to show he can be a starter moving forward. Starters A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan are under contract for 2021, but will be playing this year for the right of sticking around for next year.

The Broncos will be good, maybe better on defense with the front seven, but the offense — line, quarterback and play-calling — are question marks. What is your candid assessment of those three keys?

— Vance Valerio, Omaha, Neb.

Ol’ Vance doesn’t have high hopes for new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, does he? I’ll give Shurmur the benefit of doubt about his play-calling because we haven’t seen him author a game plan with the Broncos’ personnel.

Kind of the same on Drew Lock. Broncos fans should feel better today about their quarterback compared to this time last year with Joe Flacco. The key thing is that Lock is more adept at getting out of trouble to extend the play … which he may need to do.

I totally agree with the offensive line being a concern until proven otherwise. Can Garett Bolles build on the last half of 2019? Can Elijah Wilkinson be the answer at right tackle? Is Lloyd Cushenberry ready to start at center? Can Graham Glasgow (ankle) be ready for next week? My lean is they should be a pretty good run-blocking group right away, but it may take time for them to figure out the pass protection plan.

Ryan, explain to me why the Broncos cut inside linebacker Todd Davis. He’s a strong defender, especially against the run. I want to like Josey Jewell, but the kid doesn’t quite have the chops to fill all the holes that are now left behind unless there’s someone else who’s ready to step in to take that role that I’m missing here.

— Carter, Denver

I thought the move for the Broncos with Davis would have been cutting him (like they did) and then bringing him back after Week 1 so they could pay him on a game-to-game basis. But they made the clean break from last year’s leading tackler.

I’ll challenge you on Davis being solid against the run. If the Broncos felt that he was still physical and willing to meet the fullback head-on and then make the play, he would be starting against Tennessee.

Was it about the money? Not completely because it’s not like the Broncos were cap-crunched. But they did create $4.5 million of space they can roll over to 2021, money that will be helpful if the cap stays flat.

As for Jewell, he’s a two-down linebacker. He’ll get his teammates lined up in the right spot and is a sure tackler. Look out for newcomer Mark Barron to fill the cover linebacker role and replacing Jewell on sub-package plays.

Can you tell me what the Broncos have done to improve against elite tight ends? Outside of a stronger pass rush, I don’t see much. How do we stop Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle?

— Matt Rogers, Fort Collins

The good news for the Broncos is they don’t have to face the league’s best tight end (Kittle) in the regular season. They’ve got Gronk coming in with Tampa Bay (Week 3) and the usual two match-ups against Kelce (Kansas City).

The Broncos drafted inside linebacker Justin Strnad in the fourth round because he showed good coverage ability on tape. He was in-line to fill that role against tight ends. But since he’s out for the season, Mark Barron was signed and he knows how to use his safety background to account for tight ends and running backs.

So, who’s our No. 3 cornerback? I thought it would have been Isaac Yiadom, but he’s gone. De’Vante Bausby is on the practice squad. Is it someone on the roster or do you see a chance at Denver still picking up a veteran in free agency?

— Devon, Westminster

It will be rookie Michael Ojemudia when he gets back up to speed after missing most of training camp with a quad injury. Yiadom had his shot and was traded to the New York Giants. Bausby had his chance and was released and signed to the practice squad.

Ojemudia was impressing the Broncos with his coverage ability and knowledge of the defense when he was injured. If Ojemudia is brought along slowly, Davontae Harris is the top candidate to be the third corner.

If Ojemudia is in the game, it will allow coach Vic Fangio to use Bryce Callahan over the slot receiver, the spot where he is the most effective.

Is this the final shot for defensive end DeMarcus Walker? He showed some promise last year after being allowed to play at his natural position for once. Do you think he’ll be re-signed after the season?

— Morgan, Austin, Texas

Everything about the Broncos’ defensive end position is on the table.

Walker, Shelby Harris and Mike Purcell are free agents next March. Jurrell Casey has no guaranteed money remaining on the last two years of his contract.

Dre’Mont Jones and McTelvin Agim will be in the third and second year, respectively, of their rookie deals.

Some of it may depend on Walker. In March 2019, Shaq Barrett wanted an opportunity to compete for a starting spot so he signed with Tampa Bay and that worked out great (he led the league in sacks). If Walker plays well this year as a reserve, there could be a team that figures he’s worth signing for a competition.

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season.

You can pose a Broncos- or NFL-related question for the Broncos Mailbag here. Follow Ryan for more daily updates on Twitter.

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