One term that Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton often uses is ‘vision’ when referring to how he plans to use certain players on offense and defense. Two of the Broncos’ key free-agent acquisitions on defense will have impact roles this upcoming season.

Sean Payton outlines Denver Broncos ‘vision’ for Brandon Jones at safety

The first domino that fell for the Denver Broncos ahead of NFL free agency was the team’s shocking decision to release veteran All-Pro safety Justin Simmons, leaving plenty of questions about how the team planned to address the position going forward.

With Simmons’ departure, the opportunity has presented itself for new players to carry the torch. That’s where Brandon Jones and P.J. Locke will come in handy.

Jones was one of the Broncos’ first moves in free agency when the legal negotiating period opened up. His best work so far in his NFL career has been in the box or on the perimeter, where he’s been effective as a blitzer and run-stopper. This past season, he had a career-high in interceptions, snagging two of them.

While it’s impossible to replace the overall value and impact that Simmons had in the secondary for Denver, Jones, Locke, and Caden Sterns can contribute and have an impact in their own ways.

At the NFL’s Annual Meeting, Sean Payton outlined what his ‘vision’ was for Jones coming to Denver.

“We felt like we had a really good sample size relative to the snaps that we evaluated,” Payton said. “His role for us—we see him as a safety. There will be some flexibility with him, [S] P.J. [Locke III] and certainly the other guys competing in that room—[S] Caden [Sterns], who’s been injured. The flexibility of playing right and left maybe more so than designated as strong or free, that was important. [He’s] really athletic and a guy that—it was a little different approach this year, but a guy that was one of our targets.”

This makes sense under defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard and ultimately maximizes the Broncos’ opportunities in the secondary to play around with different personnel looks. If Jones, Locke, and Sterns can play both the left and right safety roles, Denver’s secondary can become more versatile.

“[S] Brandon Jones, I’ve always liked the player,” GM George Paton said. “I like the makeup. He can play high and low. He has good range. If you watch the [20]21 tape, [Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian] Flores used him as a blitzer. This guy is a really good blitzer. I think he had five sacks. I thought he was playing at an elite level before he tore the ACL in 2022. It was good to see him come back in Miami, but I like the range, I like the toughness, and I like his ability to blitz. I think it’s a good piece for [Defensive Coordinator] Vance [Joseph]. He’ll pair with [S P.J.] Locke, [S J.L.] Skinner and some of those other guys.”

Malcolm in the middle for Denver’s defense

The Denver Broncos entered free agency understanding their need to get better on the defensive line. While the team didn’t go out and splurge, adding former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Malcolm Roach was a very solid move that should provide them with instant value in 2024.

Roach has been durable for a large portion of his NFL career, appearing in 41 games in four seasons. His role with the Broncos will involve him being the likely starter at nose tackle.

[DT Malcolm] Roach is just physical and he’s violent at the point of attack,” George Paton said. “He can play multiple positions. He’s really going to help our run game. I talked about that at the Combine that we need to help our run game. I think he does that, and he’s got great makeup as well.”

Roach can play the 1-tech, 2i, and the 3-technique according to Payton and he’ll likely see a more increased role in Denver than he previously had with the Saints.

“[DT] Malcolm [Roach] made that team undrafted,” Payton said. “He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, and he’s a guy that gives you a little bit of position flex. He can play the nose and he can move over to play the three-technique. You see him playing across the front. I think that until this year—really the last part of the season—he’s been a healthy guy that can give you 35 to 40 snaps a game. He’s got great makeup, he’s smart and he’s tough.”

He won’t be an every-down defensive lineman, but the team’s hope is that he can have an impact against the run, especially in short yardage situations.

Even with Roach’s addition, the Broncos should still look into adding a defensive tackle in the NFL Draft to help boost the unit. Depth across the position group will be critical for Denver to be successful next season.

D.J. Jones and Zach Allen will be the projected starters at defensive end, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jamar Cain finds a way to move them around the defensive line if it allows them to capitalize on certain matchups.