Posted Thu Mar 7th by Ian Henson
The discussion on defensive linemen couldn’t be more timely given the recent rumors of the Denver Broncos working with Elvis Dumervil to renegotiate his contract. Though whether this is legitimate or not has not been confirmed, from what I have gathered the Broncos would carry nearly $4-million in dead money on Dumervil for 2013 if he were cut. Dumervil is due $12-million this season and according to Albert Breer of NFL.com Dumervil has not been approached by the team regarding his contract. Which could mean that Denver will just flat out cut him.
Now, beyond that is another report that the Broncos are interested in signing former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney. Freeney is currently a free agent, Denver would need to wait until March 12th to sign him. However, if the team is interested they have been very quite about it (other than Peyton Manning telling him to come to Denver).
This is why I don’t know how accurate the renegotiation reports are for Dumervil, Freeney, who is 33 would likely get at least $7-million from the team that he signs with. Dumervil is 29 and is healthy (Freeney was hurt for most of 2012, notching a career low in sacks and tackles), the seven or eight million that the Broncos would need to give Freeney plus the dead money from Dumervil’s contract is basically what Denver is paying Dumervil as it stands… So there is that.
In the first pick they made in the 2012 Draft, the Broncos choose a defensive lineman– Derek Wolfe. Wolfe spent most of the season at defensive end. Under Josh McDaniels the team drafted Robert Ayers in the first round. Both of those players current situations could be used as justification for jettisoning or cutting Dumervil as well.
We’re here to talk about all of Denver’s defensive linemen though and aside from Dumervil, the biggest threat of the group may simply be untapped potential.
That and team currently only employs one pure defensive tackle.
Current Broncos Defensive Linemen:
Robert Ayers (DE), Jeremy Beal (DE), Elvis Dumervil (DE), Jason Hunter (DE), Derek Wolfe (DE), Malik Jackson (DL), Sealver Siliga (DT) & Ben Garland (DT)
Broncos Free Agents:
Justin Bannan (DT) (Unrestricted Free Agent), Kevin Vickerson (DT) (Unrestricted Free Agent), Mitch Unrein (DT) (Exclusive-Rights Free Agent) & Ty Warren (DT) (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Dwight Freeney (DE), Cliff Avril (DE), Paul Kruger (OLB), John Abraham (DE), Osi Umenyiora (DE), Connor Barwin (DE), Mike Devito (DE), Israel Idonije (DL), Kyle Vanden Bosch (DL), Richard Seymour (DL), Chris Canty (DL), Jason Jones (DL), Casey Hampton (DL), Terrance Knighton (DT), Desmond Bryant (DT), Sendrick Ellis (DT), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Sammie Lee Hill (DT), Ricky Jean-Francois (DT), Isaac Sopoaga (NT),
In 2012 the Broncos suited six or seven defensive linemen on game days and held at least eight or nine on their 53 man roster. Ty Warren who has been on Denver’s payroll since 2011 has yet to be healthy enough to play in a regular season game, won’t be re-signed and may be retiring at 34-years old. The futures of Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson are not certain, Bannan has indicated that he would like to return, Vickerson is certainly someone the team would like to have return, but at a price that is likely less than what he could get if allowed to test free agency.
Homegrown defensive tackle Mitch Unrein will not be allowed to test free agency and his exclusive-rights contract will keep him a Bronco unless the team cuts him. Which they won’t, he came on strong as an undrafted free agent and even contributed on offense. Sealver Silga spent most of the season on the practice squad and another homegrown Ben Garland spent the entire season on the practice squad. Garland is currently signed to a future contract and will be on the team in 2013, in some capacity. Silga is the only defensive tackle the Broncos currently have on their roster.
Now, we have already covered the Dumervil situation, so I will focus on Wolfe and Ayers. Ayers was a monster to close out 2011, if you will remember, grabbing three sacks in the final three games of the season (two in the playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers) and he is due a very modest million dollars in this his final season on his contract. Similar to Ayers in 2011, Wolfe closed out the 2012 regular season with three sacks in the final three weeks of regular season play. These two could almost justify letting Dumervil go in whichever way the Denver sees fit.
Jeremy Beal, a 2011 seventh round pick, spent 2011 on the practice squad and 2012 on injured reserve, so it is very difficult to judge his worth to the team. However, given the fact that he has not yet been cut looks to mean that he will continue on with the team. One member whom I have not mentioned yet is 2012 fifth round draft pick defensive lineman Malik Jackson, whom had a stellar 2012 preseason with two sacks and a forced fumble, could further tap the nail into Dumervil’s fate. Jackson looked good in his very limited appearances in the 2012 regular season.
Okay, okay, onto why you are all here– the other free agents. I have mentioned Freeney, but what of big name free agents like Cliff Avril, Paul Kruger, John Abraham and Osi Umenyiora? I don’t see Abraham coming to Denver and the amount of money that Avril will get could likely be more than the Broncos would like to spend. Kruger is one who may entice the team to at least kick the tires and find the money to sign him. He may prefer a 3-4 defense though, as he is a 3-4 outside linebacker. That leaves Umenyiora, I have a crush on the New York Giants defensive line every year and Umenyiora has been a consistent reason why. He would be cheaper than Freeney and if Freeney is interesting to the Broncos than Umenyiora has to be as well by proxy. Both are coming off injuries and poor 2012 showings. The Giants just so happened to have a poor showing in 2012 as a whole defensive line.
At the defensive tackle lineup Richard Seymour is going to have most Broncos fans salivating, but the Oakland Raiders have often been referred to as the New England Patriots farm team and it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to assume that they may make another run at him. Seymour has had two bad seasons in a row, but he is a strong locker room presence (at 34 let us hope so). He will likely get a salary around $5-million in 2013.
Cullen Jenkins is making the NFL rounds now as he is a current free agent and the lack of a visit to Denver kind of lets us know that he, you know, won’t sign with the Broncos.
You want a free agent defensive tackle that makes too much sense? Sammie Lee Hill, he has sat in the shadow of the Detroit Lions‘ Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, he considers himself a run stopper and has been stellar in situational football. He’s fresh and could take 60-75% of Denver’s defensive snaps. He will be cheap, but more importantly, he will be exactly what the Broncos need in a defensive tackle.
If you want a sexier name in free agency at defensive tackle, then look no further than Ricky Jean-Francois, he will be highly sought due to the fact that he can play every position on the defensive line. This makes him attractive to Denver, especially since they are rumored to be cutting expensive players to make room for less expensive players.