Posted Wed Mar 6th by Ian Henson
Every since the Denver Broncos‘ defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio signed his name in ink to take his place amongst John Fox’s staff in Denver it was assumed that linebacker would be the strongest position on the defensive side of the ball. A quick glimpse at last season solidifies that thinking, the fact that a player as talented as D.J. Williams has become expendable in the opinion of a lot of the Denver loyal talking heads and fans alike is the etching in the granite.
Much has been said about Williams exodus from the Rocky Mountains, his contract and off the field issues likely being the primary reasons for him being ushered off the team. However, what if Williams does the unthinkable and agrees to restructure, settles his heels into the dirt and sets his cross hairs on one of the three linebacking positions that he has consistently rotated towards every off-season thus far in his career? What if his time in Denver isn’t done? What if fans are done with him, but he isn’t done with them? A big what if… I am aware. However, it is possible.
John Elway started the off-season by stating that the middle linebacker position was up for grabs and that the person who started in that position would be either third year linebacker Nate Irving or second year linebacker Steven Johnson. Johnson spent most of the season on the practice squad, but did suit for six games in the second half of the season, Irving wasn’t just a special teams ace, he wreacked havoc when filling in at linebacker.
Elway’s statement does leave a few question marks though, like what will come of Joe Mays who started last season at middle linebacker, before his injury and replacement by Keith Brooking?
Current Broncos Linebackers:
Von Miller, Nate Irving, Wesley Woodyard, D.J. Williams, Steven Johnson, Joe Mays & Danny Trevathan
Broncos Free Agents:
Keith Brooking (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Shaun Phillips (OLB 3-4), Connor Barwin (OLB 3-4), Calvin Pace (OLB 3-4), Daryl Smith (OLB 3-4), Rey Maualuga (MLB/SLB 4-3), Brian Urlacher (MLB 4-3), Dannell Ellerb (ILB 3-4) & Bart Scott (ILB 3-4)
As we mentioned and you well know, Williams is likely out and absent was Mays when Elway was naming potential starters for 2013. Both seem extremely expendable and it isn’t likely that the Broncos will keep Mays around for special teams duties. Mays season was ended on a special teams tackle in 2012. This still leaves Denver with a strong core of Von Miller at strong side, Irving or Johnson at middle and Wesley Woodyard at weak side.
Danny Trevathan (a seventh round pick, made possible when the Broncos sent Tim Tebow to the New York Jets) can fill in on either strong side or weak and has looked great whenever he has been given the opportunity to play. Keith Brooking will likely not be re-signed, due to his age and the fact that he can probably get a better opportunity elsewhere. The team seems very set on letting the middle linebacker position be Irving’s to lose.
The team will need at least one more linebacker if in fact both Williams and Mays are cut, there are two names that intrigue me on in the free agency pool– Bart Scott and Daryl Smith. Scott was supposedly part of a deal way back when Josh McDaniels was coaching the Broncos, the deal would have sent Brandon Marshall to the Jets in return for Scott and a draft pick. The deal obviously fell apart and Scott stayed with New York and Marshall with Denver for a bit longer. Scott will likely still be a bit injured when free agency starts and this could drop his price.
Smith is a player whom Del Rio drafted in Jacksonville, under Del Rio, Smith went on to become the Jacksonville Jaguars all time leading tackler. Now Smith would likely be a strong side linebacker in the 4-3 defense that Denver plays and he spent all but two games in 2012 on the injured reserved-designated to return list. So he is either fresh or spent given your mood that day.
One thing that has been a given in the Fox Era for the Broncos is that they will draft a linebacker, as they have in both drafts under the coach. That is likely where depth will come from and it may be addressed on day three. All-in-all, there isn’t much to see here, I would be surprised to see moves being made here in free agency outside of a Williams return/trade/cut and Mays being renegotiated or let go.
Did you miss a post? Here are the Denver Broncos 2013 Free Agency Previews that we have covered:
Now, what say you fans? Crazy to think that it is even possible to see Williams sporting the orange and blue in 2013? What would you do with Mays? How did you feel about Irving in 2012?