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Published on 04/06/2012 at Fri Apr 06 14:27.
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Trevor Pryce (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Over the past decade, no position has been more troublesome for the Denver Broncos than defensive tackle.

Through the years the Broncos have tried to bring players to fill that void and have failed miserably at it. Free agents Gerard Warren, Sam Adams, Dewayne Robertson, and Jamal Williams have all been busts. Drafted players Marcus Thomas and Monsanto Pope have never been able to make an impact. Ty Warren was picked up and never even made it on the field last season.

Broncos fans need to ask the question: Where is the next Trevor Pryce?

Pryce was a first round pick of the Broncos in the 1997 draft. The team was coming off terrible playoff loss to Jacksonville where the Wild-Card Jaguars ran for 203 yards against a stunned Denver defense. The No. 1 seed Broncos were knocked out before you could blink.

Pryce, who started out at Michigan but transferred to Clemson, was picked with the 28th pick. On the 1997 Super Bowl winning team, Pryce played in eight games while starting in three. He had 16 tackles and two sacks while being Michael Dean Perry’s backup.

When Perry was let go, Pryce become the full-time starting DT for the Broncos and he made the most his starting opportunity next to Keith Traylor. The second-year player had 8.5 sacks and was a key cog in the defense the second Super Bowl winning team. Although the Broncos struggled in 1999, Pryce had 13 sacks. The Broncos made a return to the playoffs in 2000 and Pryce was again a beast with 12 sacks. All of this coming from the defensive tackle position.

After recording seven sacks in in 2001, the Broncos moved Pryce to defensive end to capitalize on his passing rushing abilities. He never reached double digit sacks again in Denver but was a starter on the 2005 team that made the AFC Championship Game. That proved to be his last game with the Broncos. Pryce played five season with the Ravens and one with the Jets after his Broncos career.

Pryce was small compared to today’s defensive tackles. He was 6-foot-5, which is tall, but weighed under 300 pounds. Most teams are now looking for tackles well over 300 pounds. All of the premier tackles in the league like Haloti Ngata, Ndamukong Suh, and Vince Wilfork all play over 300 pounds. The big run stuffer is what the NFL is looking for. The Broncos have tried that though. Williams was old and out of shape, Ty Warren may never be healthy, and Adams was a complete no-show. The team should go back to a Pryce-like player.

But is that player actually out there is this year’s draft? LSU’s Michael Brockers and Memphis’ Dontari Poe are both well over 300 pounds and fit the run stuffer persona. Two players that are on the Broncos’ radar are Jevel Worthy from Michigan State and Devon Still from Penn State. Both players are just at or around 300 pounds and could have a Pryce like impact.

Since 2001, the Broncos have been trying to recreate the production Pryce had at defensive tackle. His 42.5 sacks, his four Pro Bowls, and three All-Pro selections will be hard to replace. A player anywhere close to Pryce’s ability would benefit a lot of players on the defense.

Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will get the quarterback more. The linebackers would be free to roam and make more tackles. Al Wilson was the middle linebacker during a lot of Pryce’s tenure and fans know what kind of player he was. The secondary will become stronger as teams will be forced to pass more because the run will not work thus giving the defense an advantage of knowing what is coming.

That player could be out there in this year’s draft. Do the Broncos have the guts and moxie to draft a defensive tackle in the first round again? John Elway and John Fox have proved they are willing to take risks. They should draft a defensive tackle at 25 and hope it is 1997 all over again.

  • Speer

    We need size and weight, and that’s the one issue that will be a buzz kill for me.  Since we’re bringing back the orange crush lets go all out!!! I don’t want to waste all the Draft picks on DT’s but at least 2-3.

  • rcsodak

    I hope Reyes is there at #25. At that late in the 1st, a team needs to look more at a player’s ceiling….and his is sky high with untapped potential, imo. He might just remind del rio of another tall DT he once coached, in Jax….who didnt turn out too bad.

  • Jon

    Nice read, cschmaedeke7.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    I disagree that Gerard Warren was a bust. I never really understood what happened there, but his on the field performance was solid (particularly considering everyone that came after him). For some reason, Jim Bates really did not like him and when Bates came in to try and install a new defense he utterly failed. That left the defensive side of the ball in pretty bad shape.

  • Anonymous

     I disagree with the “last great DT” tag being put on price.  Reggie Heyward was great while he was here

  • Nutt66

    Trevor is a defensive end….

  • Tgm5m

     was Hayward a DT?

    I miss Keith Traylor

  • Nikeguy916

    Bertrand Berry was the last good dt.

  • Cschmaedeke7

    Pryce started at DT before moving to DE later in his career

  • Anonymous

    Let me ease your mind. Reyes will be there. That is not an assumption or opinion or guesstimation. That is a cold hard undisputible FACT. TRUST ME. I took a time machine to the future, I know what happens Reyes will be available at #25………………………………. and at#26…

    You know who else drafts based on a players “projected ceiling” because they blindly believe in their self devised draft genius? The Raiders.

  • Mike Birtwistle

    Good read!

    Warren was good and should never have left, Bert Berry was good and should’ve got paid, and (with hindsight) the Browncos were servicable.  But none of them could hold a candle to Pryce’s production.  It shows how low the Broncos got when an above average season from Bunkley made him look unbeatable.

    I agree that Pryce was probably was the most talented DT for a long time.  If they could grab a player in this draft that came close to Pryce’s production then I’d be happy.

  • Joe1avs

    I think his name (the next Pryce) could be Jared Crick, Fletcher Cox or even Derek Wolfe.  Except Cox won’t be there when we pick and the other guys are probably reaches.  I like Kendall Reyes too but 25 will probably be early for him as well.  We certainly need a pocket collapsing DT and a big run stuffer to take on double teams for him.  

  • ronster

    Through most of Pryce’s time with us I thought he was overrated and overpaid.  Perhaps just not a good fit for us.  He seemed better wwith the Ravens.

  • Anonymous

    He made pro bowls, had to be double teamed at DT and every DE opposite of him had career years when he was at DE cause they had to chip him with a RB or block him with a TE…besides who doesn’t look better on a Ravens Defense?

  • Peytonsnextlombardi2012

    i always thought shanahan had issues with keeping tackles, pryce, traylor, berry seemed to do well then begone. 

    in that jacksonville game where the broncos were ‘run all over’ they had that game won.  in the third quarter they had a lead and Elway was getting the ball back and on a roll.  the defense got a three and out but on the ensuing jvile punt, Gerald Perry walked off the field and was called for twelve men on the field.  i always felt that was a game changing play.  with a fresh set of downs, jacksonville went to score and kept the game within reach, then they won.

  • Fishermannikian

    was Berry a dt?

  • Josh Temple

    Bert was mostly a DE as well.

  • Josh Temple

    I specifically remember Pryce being pivotal in wins over good Rams and Raiders teams of the early 2000s.  Denver would have paid him more if it wasn’t his back problems.

  • Tom9798

    Well, maybe this will be another heart-breaker . . . here was your next Pryce . . .
    ‘What obviously hurt us this week was the loss of Brodrick Bunkley to the Saints. Bunkley was ranked last year as the #1 DT against the run by’
    That was Monty on March 29th.
    The draft is like the food-fight in ‘Animal House.’  You can wish, pray, speculate until the cows come home.  You don’t have a clue.  Neither does espn or nfl dot.  The only difference is you don’t get paid to throw darts.
    I wanted Orakpo, and cheered when Green Bay passed him up; we took Moreno, and the Redskins took Orakpo.  Obviously, there is still some angst.
    It will be the same in this draft.  I want Brockers, Poe, Worthy, Stills at DT.
    The Broncos will draft a Running Back.  Mark my words.  Who care’s who?
    It’s gonna be another heart-breaker.

  • Tom9798

    I liked Okoye too . . . 24 yrs. old . . . playing in the NFL before he was old enough to drink . . .–nfl.html

    Let’s just keep talking   . . .