Free agency is finally underway, and kudos to the members at MHR for a very lively and fun discussion earlier this morning. What a treat to be part of, and I'm glad I stayed up later than normal to join in the conversation.
Despite what was said by some on the open thread, the Broncos got their hands dirty almost immediately, and have already signed RB J.J. Arrington. Not only that, they are scheduled to bring in three players for visits today in OL Rex Hadnot, OL Tony Pashos, and DL Justin Bannan.
With a lot of speculation that Denver would try and get bigger this offseason, this early list really reflects that as Hadnot, Pashos, and Bannan weigh in at an average of about 320 pounds. Bannan is the smallest, listed at 314 pounds and standing at 6'3".
The Broncos, while fitting needs on the offensive and defensive lines, are also really helping out talent rich teams like Baltimore. The scheduled visit for Bannan is coupled with a reported desire to bring in his fellow run stuffing partner in crime Dwan Edwards, another Baltimore defensive lineman the Broncos are interested in.
If the Broncos make those two signings, they will help out the Ravens who likely would be interested in adding some free agents themselves. Under the current rules (complicated as they are), the Ravens are not allowed to sign a player until one of their UFA's is signed away to another team, unless the desired player has been cut by their team.
By pursuing Bannan and Edwards, the Broncos are not only filling out needs, but are doing some sort of good deed for the Ravens. In the anticipation of Denver courting Bannan throughout the day, let's take a look at the nine year veteran...More after the jump
Justin Bannan was drafted in 2002 by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round out of Colorado. Bannan was born April 18, 1979 way out west in Sacramento, CA.
In four years with the Bills, Bannan played in 54 games recording 78 tackles and 2.5 sacks in limited playing time. Bannan was an attractive prospect for the Bills because of his versatility, and he also played offensive line for Buffalo.
Following a fairly quiet four years with the Bills, Bannan signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens, who have valued him very highly over the last four years.
From the Ravens' official site:
Big, strong lineman and relentless competitor who had an outstanding 2008 season
Played a total of 8 different positions and earned All-America honors as a senior at Bella Vista (Fair Oaks, CA) HS
Bannan has had a very solid four years with the Ravens, providing very productive reserve work. As a starter in 2008, Bannan stepped in for an injured Kelly Gregg, and had the best season of his career. Since joining the Ravens, he has increased his career totals to 202 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, and an interception.
ESPN.com's Scout's Inc. gives Bannan a grade of 72, which is more than respectable considering he was a backup last year, and had this to say about him:
Bannan saw a major increase in playing time in 2008, as Kelly Gregg was unavailable due to injury. Bannan did not disappoint and took a step forward from where he was before the season. He is very tough, works hard over every snap and shows good play strength. Bannan plays low and can handle the double-team, but he isn't particularly explosive upfield and is a limited pursuit player and pass-rusher.
Clearly the Broncos could be getting a very tough, versatile player who brings a run stopping specialist in the prime of his career to the defensive line needy Broncos.
The Baltimore Ravens' official website has great information on Bannan if you wish to further research him, including a game-by-game breakdown of his performances.
According to ESPN.com, Bannan has also forced two fumbles in his career, which was not previously mentioned.
Bannan would likely start for the Broncos next year, and could be one of two former Ravens to join Denver's squad by the end of the week as Dwan Edwards is also being courted by Denver.