On January 13th, the Denver Broncos hired John Fox as their head coach. That was also the day the Denver Broncos officially became connected to free agent running back DeAngelo Williams. Williams is a great running back with fantastic speed and has added value as a pass catcher. The Denver Broncos are a team lacking in running back talent and hired the former head coach of stud running back DeAngelo Wililams. It was just too easy to connect the dots. To this day, the Denver Broncos remain the team who is most connected to DeAngelo Williams. The two parties seem to fit at a first glance, but a look below the surface shows that it might be in Denver's best interest to pass on DeAngelo Williams.
DeAngelo Williams has found a lot of success in the NFL. He was drafted in the 1st round (27th overall) by the Carolina Panthers. After playing a back up role his first two years, Williams finally became the starter for the 2008 season and he did not disappoint. Williams rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns. The next year he rushed for 1,117 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2010, Williams played in 6 games rushing for 361 yards and 1 touchdown before he was put on injured reserve for a foot injury.
He's undoubtedly a great player capable of breaking big plays at any moment. However, he has quite a few question marks that make him a fit for the Broncos for several reasons.
1. DeAngelo Williams is 28 years old
Williams just two years away from being the dreaded 30 years old. Historically, running backs start to fade out at the age of 30. Many running backs have seen their production slip at that age. Names such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Edgerrin James, and Shaun Alexander are prime examples of what can happen to a running back when they reach 30 years of age. Now, it should be said that Williams has just 871 career carries which is far less then any of the above backs had. However, at 28 years of age, how many years of being an elite number one back does Williams have left in him?
2. DeAngelo Williams has injury history
DeAngelo Williams has suffered a number of injuries over the year. He missed time in his rookie year due to an ankle injury. He missed 3 full games in 2009 and played limited in 2 other games that year due to a knee injury. He also missed 10 games of the 2010 season due to a foot injury. In his last 2 years, DeAngelo Williams has missed a total of 13 games and also played limited in 2 others. That combined with his age has to be a concern.
DeAngelo Williams is by far the best available running back on the open market and that will inflate his price. It is not known the exact amount he is asking for, but a couple contracts to possibly compare to would be Maurice Jones Drew's and Stephen Jackson's. Maurice Jones Drew signed a 4 year, 31 million dollar contract in 2009 with a 17.5 signing bonus. Stephen Jackson signed a 5 year, 49.3 million dollar contract extension in 2008. I tend to think that Williams' contract would be closer to Maurice Jones Drew's. That would mean Williams would be making somewhere between 4-7 million dollars per year. That's a heck of a contract to give to a 28 year running back with injury history.
Let me make something very clear: Knowshon Moreno has not played up to his draft status as the 12th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. With that being said, is Denver just going to give up on Moreno after 2 years? Let's not forget that the Josh McDaniels running system was non-existent. Do you guys remember the Tennessee Titans game? Watching players like Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter run was painful. The only time are running game looked even okay in 2010 was when Knowshon Moreno was on the field. The key for him is staying healthy. He has been unable to stay healthy the past two years. If he were to go through an entire training camp without an injury who knows how good he would perform. Now, i'm not saying we should just hope that Knowshon stays healthy. What I am saying is that we should give him one more year before we decide to sign a free agent like DeAngelo Williams to a huge contract.
DeAngelo Williams is a heck of a football player. He is going to sign on to be the starting running back of some team once the lockout ends. However, I'm not so comfortable with the idea that Denver will be the team he goes to. It really pains me to say that because I really like DeAngelo Williams. He's a really good guy and a class act. He's one of the few running backs who didn't complain about his contract when he was going into his last year. However, his age, injury history, and predicted contract size makes me take pause.
If I were apart of the Broncos organization, I would recommend the Broncos to pass on DeAngelo Williams. There are plenty of running backs that can be signed for a lot cheaper and who could have big impacts for the Broncos. Players such as Jerious Norwood, Jerome Harrison and Michael Bush could be better value. In addition to the free agents currently available, there are some running back who could be cut shortly after the lockout ends. A couple names include Willis McGahee and Reggie Bush. There are plenty of talented running backs who could help with Denver's desire to become a dominant running team once again. None of them would require the big contract that Williams would require.