One of the things that we often have talked about in Broncoland is the lack of an identity on defense. In particular, a lack of leadership. I understand that we will be bringing in some new faces to Dove Valley but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be new to the NFL.
The Broncos have some young players who showed promise or potential in their first, second or third year with Denver. Players like, Spencer Larson, Wesley Woodyard, Josh Barrett, Josh Bell, Elvis Dumervil should get the oportunity to prove themselves further. Players like Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder may develop more under new tutelage and a new scheme.
The thing that could help Denver immediately would be to find a veteran player to be the vocal leader of the defense. This is sometimes found in the draft, ala Al Wilson. He was a natural vocal leader in college and it was easy for him to convert that over to the NFL.
This post is strictly focused on a list of guys off the Free Agent wire that could possibly step in and and help the younger cast of Broncos do their jobs better. As a general rule, I have only picked players that I have heard of being an important leader to their team. Now some of these guys may be well past their prime but the knowledge they bring may be more valuable than the talent still left in the tank.
Ray Lewis - The ultimate leader from the MLB position. Lewis has been the QB of the fiery Ravens defense. Ray is a natural leader and would instantly ensure that everyone is in the right position
Zach Thomas - This MLB is getting a little long in the tooth but he is a pro's pro. He is always in the right position and brings stability to the defense. Thomas' most recent stint was in Dallas but everyone remembers he was the Dolphins heart and sole for many years.
Keith Brooking - For some time in Atlanta, during the down years, there was talk that Atlanta lacked leadership...How did Brooking respond? "It bothers me a little when people say we don't have leaders. I feel like I've been one for a long time. I've always tried to lead by example, and I don't mind being vocal."
Willie McGinnest - This guy really intrigues me. He has vast knowledge of the 3-4, has played for years in New England and perhaps that gives him an edge on what we are trying to accompish. Plus, he is a Champion who nows how to carry himself like one. Jarvis Moss would benefit from his knowledge.
Others to mention....Mike Peterson, Takeo Spikes, Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton
Brian Dawkins - A second round pick in 1996, Dawkins has started 166 games for the Eagles and has consistantly been the vocal leader of the birds. Recently Dawkins said he wants to return and Andy Reid has made similar comments. Brian Dawkins is the kind of Centerfield QB for the defense that Denver has been missing since Atwater and Dennis Smith.
Lawyer Milloy - Milloy is a player known for his big hits and heady play. He has started 188 games with stops in New England, Buffalo and lastly Atlanta. This is what the first line of his bio reads from the Atlantafalcons.com "Became an immediate leader on and off the field for the Falcons as he’s led the secondary in tackles for the past two seasons". Milloy didn't play at all really in 2008 so this bio may be outdated. Obtaining Milloy might be a stretch as I think his football days are about over.
Darren Sharper - Darren Sharper is a hard worker who takes great care of his body. He, like Bill Romanowski, has a hyperbaric chamber in his house that he uses to recover from injury. With 54 career interceptions, Sharper brings a ballhawking presence to the SS position.
Rodney Harrison - Harrison would be an intriguing addition to the Broncos defense first however one major thing has to happen. One, we need to know if he is going to play. This is from KFFL "Karen Guregian, of the Boston Herald, reports New England Patriots SS Rodney Harrison (quadriceps), who is an impending free agent, said he is not sure if he will play next season or retire. "I can't honestly say if I'm going to play or not right now. I'm up in the air. It's just right now, I'm focusing on running up and down the bases with my son. So once that's established, then I'll decide if I want to play or not," Harrison said. He is coming off a big injury and is long in the tooth but he definetly knows McDaniels and he could help translate to the players the coaches philosophy
Grady Jackson - Jackson is an ideal line stuffer with his large frame and size. Most recently with the Falcons, Jackson uses his 6-2 345 pound frame to act as an immovable object in the 3-4 NT. He is also heading toward the end of his career but may be worth a look.
Julius Peppers - He may not exactly be the "raah raah type" but Peppers is a cornerstone talent that other guys may learn from. He has recently reiterated his case to move to outside LB in a 3-4 as he believes this is where is his best suited. I say give him a try at LB and pay him like a LB. This SI Link on NFL Salaries by position showed that a couple years back DE was second to only Quarterbacks.
Others to mention...Darwin Walker, Orpheus Roye, La'Roi Glover (that's a stretch for many reasons)
As you can see, there are some older, seasoned players that could instill some leadership to the youth of the Broncos tattered defense. A few solid men, with wisdom, experience and maturity. It's an ingredient that has been sorely lacking in this defense since Al Wilson and John Lynch left.
As Faye Wattleton once said:
The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.