In reading some of the most recurring debates on MHR recently, I have come to form some of my own opinions on several players on the Broncos' roster. Everyone has had a compelling case to support one idea over another, but in the process of looking at both sides of each debate, I have drawn some of my own conclusions.
The Tebow vs Orton debate has become frequent recently, and for many valid reasons remains one of the biggest concerns going into the offseason. This morning's news at The New York Times indicates that there is a new discussion on pushing the March 4 CBA deadline further out. The uncertainty of the starting QB position will linger for some time and the debate will only follow along, as the fans will need closure on who the Broncos' starting QB will be next season.
What should the Broncos do with Orton?
I believe the team will keep Orton on the roster as long as there is no new CBA in place. This is stating the obvious, but I mean it in the context of whether the Broncos intend to trade him at all, and my opinion is yes. Just as many have wisely suggested that he is trade bait until a new agreement is in place, I believe he will be a goner, once that does finally take place.
Once there is a new agreement between the owners and players' union, they ought to trade him. If it gets done before the draft, then trade him for a 2nd round pick, if possible. Settle for no less than a 3rd and a 4th, however. If the agreement is not in place 'till long after the draft, the better choice at that point is to use him in a trade for another player, one who will fill a position of need.
Teams that need a good QB are the Vikings, Dolphins, 49-ers, and Cardinals, to name a few. As an example, I think 49-ers HC Jim Harbaugh is being very shrewd in not closing the door on his incumbent QB, Alex Smith. As indicated in a MercuryNews article recently, he's been very short when discussing the current starter, while the GM has been more candid, stating that they'll pursue all avenues, including free agency. Could this be an opportunity for an Orton trade, once FA begins?
Prior to the draft, if I may be so optimistic, I don't see San Fran giving up their #45 pick for Orton, but I do see them using their 3rd (#76) and their 4th (#107) picks to acquire Orton as more of a short term stop-gap. Harbaugh stated he likes accuracy from his QB first and foremost, and as long as Orton stays healthy, he will have that from Kyle. It would be to no one's surprise, if Harbaugh would in the long-run, intend to draft Andrew Luck the following year, making Orton his backup, but whether that will actually occur is up to a lot of factors beyond his control. And from our perspective, there is no question that the Broncos would benefit from such a trade, assuming the CBA is in place prior to the draft, which would provide them some much needed ammunition.
Obviously, I feel comfortable with Tebow and believe that the team has been posturing to keep Orton's value at a high level. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the FO is praying that the new CBA will get worked out before the draft, so that Orton could be traded for much-needed picks.
The general opinion among most fans is that he is excellent in space, but disappears when a blocker is assigned to him - and I agree with this entirely. Sadly, I think offenses love to gameplan by sending a lineman, FB, or TE right at DJ, and asking the RB to follow that block. When DJ's blocked out of a play, it can mean an additional 5 yards rushing, if not more for that offense.
What should the Broncos do with DJ?
I believe that in a 4-3, he is a more natural 'Will' LB and should benefit from sound scheming. Xanders stated at the combine yesterday that John Fox and Dennis Allen are currently working on developing a defensive playbook for the Broncos, and penciling in DJ at the weakside position is likely.
The Broncos are thin at LB, just as they are thin in a few other positions on defense. After wrestling with this for a while, I believe there are at least 3 capable starters for this scheme:
Sam: Joe Mays
Mike: Wesley Woodyard
Will: DJ Williams
Placing Woodyard at Mike appears risky, but I believe this may work. From what I have seen, he has the skillset to stop the run, drop into coverage, and rush the passer. In addition to these, he has also shown the kind of leadership backed up by exemplary effort and play that you would expect from a defensive captain. I have been waiting to see Wood replace DJ in the starting lineup for some time now, and in light of the scheme change, this may allow both of them to start at different positions.Wesley could surprise us.
Mario Haggan is an interesting player, capable of playing Mike as well (he was a MLB in Buffalo,) but he excels on STs and I think he should contribute the most in that role.
Joe Mays may be a bit of a risk at Sam, but from everything I saw last year, he improved in his coverage, which made him that much more dangerous, when taking his vicious physical style of play into account.
Neglecting FA since it's very difficult which player will be allowed to walk, there are a few draft options: Denver could take Martez Wilson with their #36 pick and move Woodyard to Sam or as a backup at either Sam or Mike position, whenever Wilson is ready to start as a Mike LB. If Wilson is gone or is not their preference, Greg Jones could be had at #46 and would make a great leader for the defense. Mason Foster would be great as a Sam, but the Broncos may have to use their #36 pick on him, or he may not fall to their 2nd 2nd round pick.
There is no doubt that Denver should acquire more depth to bolster this unit, but as long as DJ is moved to Will, I think he can stay.The lack of numbers just do not afford the Broncos the luxury of considering trading him.
This is the motherload of issues going into the offseason. Orton may get a lot of attention because QB is the premiere position in football, and fans' debates will rage on into the night over this topic, but Doom's caught in a precarious position and it warrants a more expanded discussion.
The idea of trading Doom has come up in recent discussions, following Stink's comments that he doesn't believe Elvis will be productive out of the 4-3 DE spot. I can understand why he'd say this, and it's possible that he's being short-sighted in doing so. But I will concede however, that the Broncos are as thin at DE when considering the 4-3 base defense, as they are at LB and Safety. So could Stink be exaggerating Doom's future or is he onto something?
What should the Broncos do with Doom?
Let me be clear that as a Bronco fanatic, I would like for Doom to stay in Denver. In an ideal world, I'd love for him to retire a Bronco. Denver's invested a lot of time and money in him (perhaps too much) and should reap the rewards long-term. He's a good sport, is loved by his teammates and the fans, and has been a very productive player for the defense in nearly every season that he's played. The 2010 season provided evidence that without Doom in the lineup, the Broncos could not generate a pass rush from their remaining players.
And that's a valid concern, but the more I think about the big picture, the less comfortable I am in expecting that he'll regain his 2007 form (he played through injury in 2008) next year or even the year after. If the Broncos want to win soon and are making a scheme change to the 4-3, will Doom meet expectations as an every-down 4-3 DE? This is a tough one to answer. And is it really wise to expect the pass rush to come from only one player? Is it ever a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket?
In my opinion, the answer is no. The Broncos' FO must begin planning for the long term future and that takes Doom's future into account. Either they:
1. Draft Bowers for talent and much needed depth at DE (or bring in a FA) until Doom is 100%, which is a long term plan filled with hope that may not work out for Doom's value or
2. Consider trading Doom for an immediate impact replacement, allowing Denver to use the #2 pick on someone other than DE. The thought of having 1st round pick Ayers, Doom with his big contract, and Bowers at the #2 spot seems ridiculous from a contractual standpoint and doesn't make good business sense for Denver.
If the second option is exercised, then the apparent solution I believe, is to trade him to Houston, but would the Texans be willing to make such a trade?
Currently, these players are earning premium money, so it's understandable that the teams would want to get the most value out of them, especially if they want to win right away. The Texans aren't getting the value back from Mario's rookie deal of 6 years, $54 million, with $26.5 guaranteed, by playing him at 3-4 DE and he's also about to command a new contract. Are the Texans willing to risk experimenting with Mario Williams in the 3-4? If it doesn't work out, then his value will drop and probably won't resign him. Ultimately the Texans risk losing a pro-bowler and getting nothing in return, which makes this situation interesting, because of the sense of urgency as well as the potential benefit for each team.
In 2010, Dumervil received a 6 year, $61.5 million deal with $43 mil guaranteed. Should the Broncos pay him that type of money for another 5-12 sack season? Let's be honest with ourselves: he's a premier 3-4 OLB, and he received that contract to be an OLB, instead of a 5'11" 248 pound DE. It's rare to have a trade option come up where it's a straight up player for player. (Clint Portis for Champ Bailey is the last one I can think of.) Could this be a win-win?
And herein lies the dilemma. Is it worth the loss of an undersized pass rusher, who is now better suited for the previous scheme, to an instant contributor in the current scheme? This is a tough one. I admit I am torn.