Broncos State of the Roster: Linebacker

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In this third part of our "Be the Broncos GM" series, we take a look at the outside and inside linebacker positions, and Denver's State of the Roster. How did Broncos linebackers perform in 2013? Who is under contract in 2014?

2014 Roster: Von Miller, Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan, Steven Johnson, Jamar Chaney, L.J. Fort, Lerentee McCray, Jameson Konz, Jerrell Harris

2014 Broncos Free Agents: Wesley Woodyard, Paris Lenon, Stewart Bradley

Player Pos. Base Salary Signing Bonus Other Bonus Dead Money Cap Figure
Von Miller OLB 3,238,688 3,443,251 - -3,443,251 6,681,939
Nate Irving ILB,OLB 645,000 173,750 - -173,750 818,750
Danny Trevathan OLB 420,000 26,018 - -52,036 596,018
Steven Johnson ILB 570,000 4,000 - -4,000 574,000
Jamar Chaney ILB 730,000 - - - 570,000
L.J. Fort ILB 495,000 - - - 495,000
Lerentee McCray OLB 420,000 5,666 - - 425,666
Jameson Konz OLB 420,000 - - - -
Jerrell Harris LB 420,000 - - - -

2014 Linebacker Cap Hit: $10,161,373

Projected 2014 Cap Space: Between $6 and $20 million

Due to both injury and performance, linebacker was a position of flux for the Denver Broncos in 2014. At different times in 2013, the Broncos lined up Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving, Paris Lenon, and Danny Trevathan as starters. They expect to get Miller, Irving and Trevathan back, but Woodyard and Lenon are both free agents, leaving a potential hole at middle linebacker.

Strongside linebacker

This position is set assuming two things: Von Miller gets healthy, and Von Miller stays clean. After suffering an ACL tear in 2013, Miller has a lot of work to do this offseason. Not only does he have to get back in football shape, in my opinion, he has to get in better shape than he was a year ago. Miller needs to lower his weight and get back to the lean pass-rushing build of his rookie and sophomore seasons in order to improve his production in a critical fourth year of his contract.

Weakside linebacker

Danny Trevathan was a revelation in 2013, and the only player outside of Terrance Knighton who represented a Super Bowl-caliber defense in the Super Bowl for the Broncos. When Von Miller went down, Trevathan went from playing in roughly 70% of Denver's snaps to nearly all of them, and he stepped up to that plate in a big way. Leading the team with 128 tackles in the regular season (41 more than the next player) and 24 tackles in three postseason games, Trevathan netted four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 2013,

Middle Linebacker

The Broncos started two men at Mike linebacker in 2013, but both appear bound for free agency this March. Denver paid Wesley Woodyard over $3 million last year, and it's not likely they'd offer something in that range after he lost his starting job to Paris Lenon. Lenon didn't impress enough to guarantee a starting role this year.

Perhaps the Broncos have Nate Irving slotted at middle linebacker for next year, the position at which Irving was originally drafted. Irving stepped into Von Miller's Sam linebacker position and actually played better in late 2013 than he had in his previous opportunities. Maybe the Broncos are hoping that boost in confidence and a training camp devoted to him as starter can translate to Irving being the starter in 2014.

This is all speculation, however, and it's possible the Broncos are looking to improve their position at middle linebacker in free agency or the draft. Another name to watch is Stewart Bradley. The former Cardinals linebacker was ahead of Irving at the middle linebacker position in training camp before he was placed on Injured Reserve with a wrist injury on August 31st.

Depth

Steven Johnson leads a group of lesser-knowns that the Broncos have been grooming. The Broncos took guys like Woodyard and Trevathan and let them work their way up from the late rounds (or undrafted status) into starters; this crowd represents the latest subjects of that methodology.

Later we'll look at free agent and draft prospect linebackers to see if the Broncos should improve their status in the middle of their defense.

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