BRONCOS

Three Broncos most likely to get big contract extensions

Jun 28, 2024, 11:30 AM | Updated: 11:53 am

Quinn Meinerz faces a pivot point of his career this season. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, and he’s at the brink of league-wide acclaim for his work at right guard after being a Pro Bowl alternate last year.

Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition represent honors that could push Meinerz’s next contract into the stratosphere. But the truth is, he may already be at that pricey level. Nevertheless, a high cost doesn’t mean the Broncos aren’t keen to have him back. And the burly, intelligent guard could well be where the team’s laundry list of contractual work begins.

Still, there’s a long list to start. Twenty-six Broncos could be unrestricted free agents next year. That’s not a typo. Now, that being said, some of the 26 are on short-term contracts. That list includes 12 players added or re-signed this offseason: inside linebacker Cody Barton, defensive lineman Angelo Blackson, fullback Michael Burton, wide receivers Phillip Dorsett and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, center Sam Mustipher, offensive tackle Matt Peart, inside linebackers Andre Smith and Justin Strnad, guard Calvin Throckmorton, cornerback Levi Wallace and quarterback Zach Wilson.

Some could be back, yes, but when considering massive long-term contracts, it’s more about the holdovers. And the list of Broncos most likely to get massive new deals starts with one of their two third-round picks in 2021.

1. RG QUINN MEINERZ

Familiarity should aid Quinn Meinerz, as for the first time in his career, he doesn’t have to learn a new blocking scheme.

“It’s been great to come back and have the same staff, same coaches, same familiar faces,” Meinerz said during minicamp. “It’s been really awesome to have the same language, the same kind of plays, the same type of blocks I’m expected to do, where I can spend the offseason before this process starts knowing what’s expected of me and what the system actually is. So, it’s been great.”

This could help Meinerz rocket to a breakout season. And given Sean Payton’s long history of Pro Bowl interior offensive linemen, it seems likely he’ll push for league honors. That could make him pricey in an environment that has seen the value of guards soar in the last 24 months. Since March 2023, three guards received contracts with guarantees above $60 million. And the contracts given by the Eagles to Landon Dickerson, the Panthers to Robert Hunt and the Falcons to Chris Lindstrom mean that four guards now have deals of $20 million in average annual value.

Meinerz could be No. 5, and his price tag should only rise. The sooner the Broncos get his long-term deal done, the better.

2. CB PAT SURTAIN II

So, why not have the Broncos’ only recent All-Pro at No. 1? Simply put, it’s because of the absence of urgency. With Surtain already given the fifth-year option, they have a longer runway with Surtain, whose point of emphasis this year will be as much around growing as a defensive leader as it will be around his play, which the Broncos expect to rebound after some rough moments down the stretch last year, particularly in the Week 16 loss to New England.

3. EDGE RUSHER BARON BROWNING

There’s a race among the Broncos’ edge rushers to emerge from a room that is talented, but lacks anyone who’s posted at least 10 sacks in a season. Browning, if he can stay healthy, could play his way into a deal that confers alpha status in the room, but he’ll have to hold off Jonathon Cooper and Nik Bonitto, the team’s two leading sackers in 2023. A breakout season by Bonitto could change the calculus here, as the 2022 second-round pick has two years remaining on his rookie deal, while both Browning and Cooper are in contract years.

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