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The Fangio 4 Corners: Broncos roster features NFL's highest-paid secondary

Cornerbacks Surtain II, Darby, Fuller and Callahan will make $40 million this year and safeties Simmons and Jackson will make $22 million. No other team is close.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There will be a tweak or four in the next 24 hours but for the most part, the Broncos have established the 53 players they want.

Now for the roster’s No. 1 goal: Stop Patrick Mahomes and the other high-flying opponents inside their AFC West Division.

Following the 2 p.m. setting of 53-man rosters around the league, the Broncos were left with by far the NFL’s highest-paid secondary  -- a whopping 36.5 percent greater than the second-place New York Giants, who also happen to be Denver’s season-opening opponent on Sept. 12 in New Jersey.

NFL 2021 highest, lowest secondary cash payrolls (Per Spotrac)

Rk, Team .... DB payroll ............... % Overall cash payroll 

1. Broncos … $69.13 million ........ 36.2

2. NYG …….. $50.65 million ........ 22.8

3. WAS ….…. $50.43 million ........ 23.8

4. MIA …….... $49.57 million ........ 23.1

5. BAL ……... $45.34 million ........ 21.8

28. ARI …..... $22.27 million ........ 11.2

29. LV …....... $20.67 million ....... 10.7

30. ATL ….… $16.75 million ........ 10.2

31. DET ….... $15.07 million ......... 7.5

32. TAM …... $13.29 million .......... 5.2

> Video above: Mike Klis 1-on-1 with Broncos first-round draft pick Patrick Surtain II.

It’s not a fluke. Mahomes, especially is worth coverage reinforcements. He quarterbacks the Kansas City Chiefs, who have beat the Broncos 11 consecutive games dating back to 2015. But the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert and Las Vegas Raiders’ Derek Carr aren’t shabby passers, either.

“Just look at the division we play in,’’ Broncos general manager George Paton said in his roster-setting press conference Tuesday. “Kansas City, Vegas and the Chargers, you need corners, you need safeties. It’s a pressure-and-cover league. I don’t think you can have enough. And I like our group. It will help our front. When you can cover longer it helps Von, it helps Chubb, it helps all those guys.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos cornerback Ronald Darby (21) takes part in drills during a mandatory minicamp at the NFL team's training headquarters Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“There was a thought process into that.”

The Broncos are paying out an NFL-most $40 million to four cornerbacks – Pat Surtain II ($13.27 million), Ronald Darby ($10 million), Kyle Fuller ($9.5 million) and Bryce Callahan ($7.18 million) – and another $22 million to their two starting safeties – Justin Simmons ($17 million) and Kareem Jackson ($5 million).

Call this a correction to the final six weeks of the 2020 season when the Broncos lost starting corners A.J. Bouye (injury/suspension) and Callahan (foot injury) and No. 3 nickel Essang Bassey (ACL) and had to pluck guys off practice squads and the street to cover NFL passing games.

“He went through the same thing in Minnesota we went through last year,’’ Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said of Paton, who was the Vikings’ assistant GM the previous 14 years. “We both have our scars from that.”

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