DENVER — Vic Fangio’s defense works. Turn on a Rams game last season. View the All-22 from the Chicago Bears in 2018.
The scheme can cause fits. It has not done that consistently in Denver. Takeaways are to Fangio’s defense what peanut butter is to jelly and tacos are to Tuesdays. In his first two seasons as head coach, the Broncos delivered 33 takeaways. They produced 36 in his final season in Chicago.
Why bring this up? Kyle Fuller officially became a free agent Saturday, and the Broncos, per a source, signed the veteran to a one-year, $9.5 million deal with nine million guaranteed.
“Let’s gooooo!!!!!!! Perfect example of rush and coverage,” Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris texted to Denver7.
“It’s up,” tweeted Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons.
Added receiver Tim Patrick, “Defense wins championships.”
Fangio can now better blend coverage with pressure after the Broncos added Ronald Darby and Fuller, freeing Denver to use Bryce Callahan in the slot. With Von Miller returning, the Broncos feature three strong pass rushers with Miller, Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, who led the Broncos with eight sacks last season. They also have players on the end who can create havoc in Harris and Dre’Mont Jones.
General manager George Paton made cornerback a priority after the Broncos struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness. The addition of Darby and Fuller also opens the Broncos to all options with the ninth overall pick in the draft. They could go linebacker — Penn State’s Micah Parsons might be available — or even quarterback. Paton plans to attend upcoming Pro Days for prospects Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, who works out with the Alabama players on Tuesday.
The Broncos pursuit of Fuller traced not only to his play, but his past. Fuller played three years for Fangio in Chicago. He delivered an All-Pro season in 2018, posting seven interceptions and 21 passes defensed. The two formed a relationship over golf as Fuller rebounded during his Bears career.
Facing budget choices and multiple roster needs, the Bears made Fuller a casualty, saving $11 million in salary cap space. Fuller was in the final season of a four-year contract and was in line for a $14 million salary this season.
The Broncos had room to maneuver after the Justin Simmons contract — which significantly lowers his base salary this season from $13.7 million — and Brandon McManus and Mike Purcells converting roster bonuses into signing bonuses to create cap space, per McManus.
Denver is not done. The Broncos continue to seek competition in the quarterback room. With the free agent market thinned out, they could pursue a trade for a veteran like Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew or Teddy Bridgewater, though the later would likely have to lower his salary to make a deal work.