I have seen the consternation in Bronco Country regarding the DT situation, and though this has been somewhat said before, I think it bears repeating. Time to relax and realize that the Elway/Fox and I will through Xanders in the equation, team, have a plan and they know what they are doing and in the end it will be OK. They have looked closely at the failures of Shanahan and McDaniels and will not follow the same road of reaching in drafts, overpaying for questionable Free Agents, and they will build this team from within.
Lets rewind to the draft, there was much anguish regarding not selecting a DT and looking at LBs, DBs, OL, TE in the draft. While I wouldn’t have been opposed to selecting a guy like Marcel Darius; however, Darius is not the same player or even close to a guy like Suh or Warren Sapp, who to me have been the only DT’s to come out recently that warrant a No. 2 overall pick. Those guys are game changers from the DT position, Darius, while a great player and I expect him to have a good career, do not change games the way a guy like Von Miller can. While it may be somewhat of a stretch to compare players at this point, but I would say if you want to change a defense who would you draft: Derrick Thomas or Pat Williams, to me that is how Von Miller and Marcel Darius project to. Both were great players and both have great affects on a defense, but one is a HOF player who changed a defense while the other is just a great DT. As for the rest of the draft, I am glad that the EF & X team did not reach, they stayed with their board, and got good value with later picks. They did not panic and try to get a DT that they didn’t see as a good value. Also remember, that on very rare exception does a DT come into the league and have much of an impact their first couple of seasons. The EF & X team knew that most guys would probably only be rotational players at best and would likely sit on the bench for the most part this season, with the exception of maybe a guy like Darius.
Now lets fast forward to free agency, there is obvious pains at MHR and through Bronco country that we haven’t landed the big FA DT. But lets look a little closer at the FA DT crop and see if there is really the value that people see:
Brandan Mebane – The kid is young but has shown limited ability to generate any pass rush and looks to have limited upside. He resigned in Seattle for $5 million a year for five years, which is pretty steep for basically a rotational player who has limited upside, while I think he would have been a decent pick-up, I agree that he is not worth that much money (4% of your cap room).
Barry Coefield – I liked him a lot as a FA, to me he is the best of the available FA crop. An excellent pass rusher and also good against the run, while he would have been a great pick-up, we would have had to overpay severely for his services.
Aubrayo Franklin – Good NT, but really is a 3-4 NT and not a 4-3 DT, also on the wrong side of 30 and generally suffers from the Albert Haynesworth syndrome of playing well in contract years. We may end up signing him, but I don’t see him as anything more than a 2 year stop gap.
Ty Warren – Again, more of a 3-4 player, how he transitions to a 4-3 would be interesting, but he is coming off an injury and how effective he can be is in question. Again, hopefully we don’t overpay for the guy.
Cullen Jenkins – Another 3-4 guy who, when healthy is probably the most dominate of this group, but he hasn’t been healthy in two years and he 30, again I think he got a pretty hefty contract from the Eagles, but I think the Eagles have determined they are going to spend this year to see if they can win a SB and if not, then they will blow up their team next season.
Amobi Okoye – A guy who looked very promising coming into the NFL, yet has done nothing to warrant a 1st round pick. Remember that Marcus Thomas was rated a better player in that draft but was drafted later because of the off the field issues. This is a guy who may have potential, but hasn’t shown anything.
The rest of the group is either journeyman players, guys way past their prime, or underachievers. The fact is that the EF&X team has learned from the sins of past regimes and is not willing to spend money on questionable FA or overpay for guys, as that generally has the downward spiral of compounding the problem next year when you try to get out of bad contracts and find more FA solutions. How many poor FA DT have we spent money on in the past, do names like Chester McGlocken, Darryl Garner, Ron Fields, and the countless other miracle fixes to the position that have come and gone, EF&X understand that we need home grown talent and supplement it with smart FA signings. Guys who have potential, have shown they can play, aren’t headaches in the locker room, and can be productive for 4 to 5 years. This is a team that needs a strong foundation, and that foundation won’t be built on overpaying for other teams cast offs. Have some faith that Fox understands how to coach defensive football and that he can get better production from guys like McBean and Thomas. That Elway and Xanders will find some FA that can contribute and play a solid roll on the team that they will not have to mortgage the farm to sign them. The fact they haven’t panicked, haven’t overpaid, haven’t made a bad trade should give you comfort in they know what they want, how they will get there, and that they will succeed in the end.