Broncos Release $30 Million Starter Before Free Agency: Report

Ronald Darby

Getty Former Denver Broncos CB Ronald Darby celebrates in New York.

The Denver Broncos are moving on from a key defensive starter in their secondary just less than a week away from the free agency period opening.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Broncos are releasing cornerback Ronald Darby who would’ve had a $12.7 million cap hit for the 2023 season.

Darby signed a three-year deal worth $30 million back in March of 2021 with $19.5 million in guarantees. The former second-round pick didn’t have any guaranteed money left on his deal and was scheduled to make $10 million in 2023.

During his two years in Denver, Darby dealt with his share of injuries, by suffering a shoulder and hamstring injury in 2021 causing him to miss six games.

Last season, Darby suffered a torn ACL in a Week 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on a Thursday night showdown.

The former Super Bowl champion played in just 16 games for the Broncos and didn’t record a single interception, but knocked down nine passes.

Denver’s Plan in the Secondary

After the release of Darby, the Broncos will have to go out and find another cornerback to play opposite of All-Pro Patrick Surtain ll.

Denver has K’Waun Williams playing in the slot and many consider as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the game. In 14 games last season, Williams had seven pass deflections and an interception that sealed the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

Williams didn’t give up a single touchdown in 2022 and has only given up one over the past three seasons.

The Broncos do a cornerback on the rise that showed some promise last year and that was rookie Damarri Mathis.

The former fourth-round pick appeared in 16 games last season and started in 11 games after Darby went down with his season ending knee injury.

In his first season, Mathis knocked down seven passes and only gave up one touchdown. With opposing quarterbacks not trying to throw against Surtain on the other side, they decided to target the rookie and they did so by completing 69.1 percent of their passes.

Opposing quarterbacks also had a passer rating of 90.2 against Mathis.

Showing flashes, but also getting beat, the Broncos might have to give Mathis another year to develop and improve his game in a new defensive system this season.

Options at CB For the Broncos

Byron Murphy: The Arizona Cardinals did not place the franchise tag on Murphy allowing him to test his market in free agency.

Murphy played under Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph for the past four seasons and has played well over the past two seasons.

In 2021, Murphy knocked down a career high 12 passes and intercepted four passes. Last season, Murphy played in just nine games after dealing with injuries and gave up a career low 9.4 yards per completion.

James Bradberry: After having a big year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022, Bradberry recorded three interceptions and 17 pass breakups. He also allowed just 40 receptions on 87 targets with opposing quarterbacks having a passer rating of 54.2

According to, Bradberry’s market value is expected to be $15.1 million per season

Jamel Dean: Arguably the top defensive player entering free agency, Dean will enter the season at the age of 26. In each of his first three seasons, Dean had double-digit pass breakups and had eight last season.

Dean will likely receive top dollar on the open market.