Spencer Larsen is one of the players who has seen more change in four years than most players see in their whole careers. Originally drafted as a linebacker and special teams player, he has slowly made the transition to the starting fullback for the Denver Broncos. With the focus shifting to a heavier run team, will this increase the chances of Larsen's return?
Larsen, who was drafted in the 6th round in the 2008 draft was brought in as a depth player for a struggling linebacker group but due to injuries and coach McDaniels having an inkling of switching him to fullback. In 2010 Larsen took the starting fullback job in training camp and has steadily improved over the past two seasons. As Larsen's role has been growing, so has the Broncos focus on the run game.
|2011 - Spencer Larsen||12||14||44||3.7||3.1||6||0||9||76||6.3||8.4||16||0|
Larsen's 2011 season was the best of his career, starting more games than at any time on offense, and was given a much larger number of snaps. He was in on 244 snaps or about 22.5% of the total snaps. While almost all of his time was spent as a run blocker, he had great success in pass blocking as well, allowing only one pressure when in pass protection. While he wasn't used often as an offensive weapon, when he was used he was effective, with 69.6% of all his touches resulting in first downs. He also saw the continuation of his impressive trend of having no fumbles in his entire career.
Spencer earned $579,381 in 2011 and as a player coming off a rookie contract, he will likely be looking for a contract around that of a fullback rather than a backup linebacker. While it would be a raise it would only be around $850,000 per year which is incredibly small in terms of a total cap. While fullback contracts vary, unless they are top tier fullbacks, they usually make under $1,000,000 a season so we can expect his contract to be under that number.
WHAT TO DO?
When looking at where to go looking forward we need to review Larsen as well as options for replacements:
- Has incredible mental drive and competitive nature, will follow a play no matter where it goes and will keep blocking until the echo of the whistle.
- Has a strong motor and lower body, able to drive back lineman and linebackers.
- Is still young and hasn't reached his peak in terms of polish as a linebacker.
- Has adjusted to the Broncos offense, something that is difficult for most fullbacks.
- Is a talented receiver.
- Struggles with choosing the ideal rushing lane in blocking especially when it comes to the 2nd level.
- Is still developing the instincts needed to be a natural blocker.
- Lacks the natural talent of top fullbacks like Vonta Leach and LeRon McClain.
- Isn't a big run threat.
Depth at Fullback:
Currently the only other fullback on the Broncos roster is Austin Sylverster who has yet to play a snap in an NFL regular season.
Free Agency Fullback Class:
If there is such a thing as a strong fullback class, 2012 would be it. Similarly to defensive end, whether Larsen should return or not depends on of if the Broncos would prefer to keep a player familiar with the offense or seek to massively upgrade the position. There are a number of top talent fullbacks in free agency, LeRon McClain, Marcel Reece, and Earnest Graham represent three of the top fullbacks but all three have sought to remain with their current teams. Of those who are improvements over Larsen we are left with David Johnson from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chris Pressley from the Bengals. Pressley has said he would prefer to return to the Bengals but if presented with a high contract both players could be persuaded to come here, but would be seeking a contract over $1,000,000 per season, nearly a quarter million over Larsen's contract.
A lot depends on what the Broncos plans are for the fullback position, if the offense is to stay on the current trend of using the Spread Option heavily, Larsen is the man to use since he has experience with the offense and there would be no learning curve for a player just coming in. If they are looking to switch to a more traditional run-heavy offense, it might be worth it to bring in a higher talent fullback.
Though if I were the Broncos GM, I like what we have in the run game, especially if Moreno returns to 100% health or we draft another running back. Keeping Larsen allows the run game to see little transition in 2012 and would allow for better chemistry in terms of blocking with McGahee and Larsen. So for me it's a very low risk, low cost move to keep Larsen.