Roster Grade: B+
2014 Free Agents: Robert Ayers, Jeremy Mincey, Shaun Phillips
|Player||Pos.||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Other Bonus||Dead Money||Cap Figure|
2013 Defensive End Cap Hit: $5,211,344
2014 Defensive End Cap Hit: $2,999,783
Projected 2014 Cap Space: Between $6 and $20 million
Summary: ESPN's Jeff Legwold paraphrased John Elway as saying, 'If being the highest paid player at your position is your goal, the Broncos aren't for you.' I don't remember Mr. Elway saying that, but Legwold's a reliable resource.
Shaun Phillips was a very pleasant surprise, posting stats that were almost identical to his opposite book end Robert Ayers with one exception-- sacks. Phillips managed 10 sacks to Ayers' 5.5. Sophomore Malik Jackson came on strong in 2013, posting six sacks and managing big tackles for losses. Jackson's classmate Derek Wolfe was also on his way to a stellar season before falling ill in Week 9. Up until that week Wolfe had managed a sack in three consecutive weeks.
Often times when discussing this position we forget about Quanterus Smith, who came to Denver injured and remained injured through the season. Unproven will be the adjective that most will stick to Smith immediately, but he did lead the NCAA in sacks in 2012 for a time and embarrassed Alabama's D.J. Fluker (now of the San Diego Chargers). Fluker by the way graded out this season as +.4 by ProFootballFocus standards.
Then there is John Youboty, another 'unproven', brought in as a College Free Agent and basically redshirting his rookie season. Jeremy Mincey was brought on very late in the season and had a positive impact that would be great to see develop in the Jack Del Rio/John Fox system, but as an unrestricted free agent we may never get the opportunity.
Hall Davis was drafted in the fifth round by the St. Louis Rams in 2010 and has spent time with seven other teams since then (including the Broncos). He was signed on January 7th, 2014.
2014 Status: With the Broncos set to lose both Phillips and Ayers in free agency, and no one in the public quite knowing what's going on with Derek Wolfe, do the Broncos have a starting defensive end on the roster at all? This might be Denver's biggest area of need heading into the 2014 season.
To that end, there are a number of NFL free agents, including Greg Hardy (Panthers), Michael Johnson (Bengals), Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Jared Allen (Vikings), Justin Tuck (Giants), Tyson Jackson (Chiefs), and Antonio Smith (Texans). Kyle will be back at around noon today to talk about some of these free agents more in-depth.
There are also a handful of potential cap casualties - players that could become free agents due to their current contracts - including Julius Peppers (Bears), Chris Clemons (Seahawks) and Kamerion Wimbley (Titans).
Then there's the draft, and everyone wants Jadeveon Clowney. It would take something completely out of character for Elway to land him, so I do not think that it will be possible. I really like Michael Sam (Missouri) and Marcus Smith (Louisville), I'd expect Sam to be high on Denver's radar especially pre-scouting combine. After the combine I cannot imagine that Sam stays a third round prospect (Editor's note: so you know we're consistent, this was actually written before Sam's announcement Sunday. Obviously we still feel he's very draft-able, as does John Elway).
Either Ethan Westbrooks (West Texas A&M) and Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Colorado) could end up signed as college free agents if they don't get drafted.
Still, there are a handful of other names. One of MHR's resident draft experts Christopher D. Hart will be back later today with a breakdown of defensive end draft prospects the Broncos might select between Picks 31 and 95.
Be the Broncos GM
We invite you to participate in this discussion throughout these position breakdowns over the next several weeks. Do you have a favorite free agent or draft prospect at the defensive end position? Write about it in a FanPost! Do you have an opinion on how big a need this is for the Broncos? Tell us in a comment! We'll be compiling some of the best comments and analysis from the readers into a roundtable post tomorrow.