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Be the Broncos GM: Defensive Tackle Roundtable

The MHR Staff debates the state of Denver's roster at defensive tackle and whether now is the time to extend Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Montgomery: It's time to tackle defensive tackle. The Broncos have Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, and Sylvester Williams as returners with starter potential. If you're the GM, what do you do?

Tim Lynch: Normally, I would be quite happy with these guys heading into 2014. However, the injury bug has me really paranoid, so maybe add a low dollar free agent with potential upside for outperforming their contract.

Kyle: Sign Mitch Unrein. He scores touchdowns, therefore I like him.

Jon Heath: Williams is the only youthful defensive tackle with notable experience that Denver has right now. In my opinion, they should be looking for tackles in the mid-rounds of the draft.

Tim: I disagree Jon. Terrance Knighton is only 27 and is coming off a very dominant 2013 campaign.  I really like where the Broncos roster stands at defensive tackle.

Jon: Beyond Knighton, who do you like at the position going into 2014? I ask because Vickerson is 31 with injury risks and I don't feel that we can count on Williams to anchor the middle just yet -- he's still budding as a defensive flower.

Kyle: Oh, you can ALWAYS draft a defensive tackle. Always, always, always. A mid-round pick kind of goes without saying for me. I would even use a 1st round pick on DT again. That's just my opinion of the position. Plus, would anyone really mind if we replaced Vickerson? The guy is dominant at times, but he also cost us a lot of yardage in personal foul penalties that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Christopher Hart:   The Broncos would be wise to re-sign Mitch Unrein on an affordable contract.   He is a good platoon player and made some good plays with the snaps he received in 2013.   With the status of Knighton and Vickerson past 2014 in question, the Broncos would be wise to draft someone in the mid-rounds at the position.   The Broncos have already scouted Shamar Stephen from Connecticut and Zach Kerr of Deleware who project as big-bodied defensive tackles capable of taking up space and helping out in the run game.   We can definitely upgrade over Fua.   Great teams continue to build on the lines, even if great players are there.  It isn't a top three round need, but someone in the fourth or fifth round would be a welcomed addition to our group of defensive tackles.

Jon: I agree, Kyle. Vickerson is nice to have around, but I don't want to lean on him or Williams going into 2014.

Christopher:  Kyle, you bring up a great point regarding Vickerson.   He plays well, but he also has unacceptable penalties on the field.   Moreover, do we know what the status is regarding his recovery from his hip injury?   I am no doctor, but I can't imagine someone at that size, being able to be the force he was at his age (31) and coming off an injury.   That being said -- a prospect to groom as a potential replacement is imperative for not only success in 2014, but beyond.

Scotty Payne: I like where the Broncos are at DT. They have a solid rotation and guys like Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe have shown they can be productive at DT. I would re-sign Mitch Unrein, and head into the draft with Pot Roast, Sly, Big Vick and Unrein.

Now the draft is a whole different ball game. If a guy like RaShede Hageman, Aaron Donald, Stephon Tuitt or Timmy Jernigan fell into our laps at 31, It would not surprise me if Elway picked up one of these guys, especially with Knighton and Vickerson being Free Agents after next season.

Big Pete: Big Vick has that nasty streak in him that was clearly missing from the Broncos in the Super Bowl. That is why Vickerson is so vital. Sure, I'm a bit skeptical of anyone coming off of a hip injury, and sure, he costs us some yards, but the Broncos NEED to get nasty which means they need Big Vick.

I feel that defensive tackle is one of the stronger positions on the Broncos roster. This doesn't mean that they shouldn't address it this off sesason, it's just that they no longer have to 'break the bank' to try to shore it up. What the Broncos need to do is sign Terrance Knighton to a long term deal before he gets so expensive that they have to let him walk. After that, we have Kevin Vickerson who brings the nasty, and Sylvester Williams who is a competent starter in my eyes. Sly really grew last season, so I'm very comfortable with having him in the primary rotation. Sprinkle in Unrein and a mid-round draft pick, and I think the Elway has provided plenty of talent for Jack Del Rio to work with.

Kyle: So you'd sign Pot Roast right now, Pete?

Pete: Yes! I would sign him before he became too expensive. I know some people want him to "prove it" for two straight years, but if/when he does "prove it", he'll command twice the money that we can likely get him for today! I'm not saying to break the bank on him, but I would for sure lock him up for $4-5 million per year for 5+ years. Think about it, he only made $1.75 last year and he's scheduled to make $2.75 this year. That is peanuts. Double that money and lock him up long term! I have a feeling he'd take it because it's a "good faith" showing from both parties.

Bronco Mike:  The Broncos won't pay Pot Roast now.  They do not renegotiate mid contract.  I know Kuper took a pay cut but that was after injury riddled gameday inactives galore followed by a demotion to backup.  Overall though DT went from a position of little depth to a position of great strength.  Kevin Vickerson will be a big questionmark but the further development of Sylvester Williams should offset any loss there.  I think the Broncos need one more big man for the rotation at NT and that can be found very cheaply.

Ian Henson: Tom Nalen made an excellent point tonight regarding Terrance Knighton and his contract situation. Knighton and Champ Bailey have the same agent, the Broncos are going to have a hard time asking Knighton to honor his contract, while not honoring their contract with Bailey.

Jon: Well snap.

Mike:  I disagree, I see the situations as different.  Champ's decline has been in the works for sometime now, even before this last injury riddled season.  You don't see the Broncos looking to cut the fat after one incident (see Kuper) and you won't see them looking to reward a player for one year.  If Knighton produces next year he will get paid and the Broncos would do well to be the ones that pay him.

Ian: Nalen would further his point by pointing out that the Broncos executives have no problem renegotiating contracts for their front office executives (Elway had another year on his contract, before his extension Tuesday).

Pete: Mike, Elway's "rent a vet" style has to change sometime. He can't have this enormous amount of player turnover each year and expect to stay competitive. Eventually he'll have to keep these guys, and locking them up before they command top tier money is what separates good GM's from bad GM's.

Mike:  Still not an apples to apples comparison.  Three seasons of success including three division titles and and a Super Bowl appearance.  That is far more impressive than a one hit wonder, which is what Knighton's season was until he proves it again.  It sucks, but that's the way it goes.  Knighton saw some decline in Jacksonville which is why I think the Broncos will want him to go out and perform at that high level again.

Pete, I realize that most of the contracts have been short "prove me" deals but that seems to be the norm in the NFL right now.  The only guys Elway has signed long term are Manning and Vasquez, and you can argue that Manning was basically a series of 1 year deals. The Knighton deal, while a little bit more of a "prove me" deal is still along those same lines.  Do I think the Broncos will lose some value by waiting a year? Perhaps.  It is a gamble, but in the grand scheme of things do the Broncos as an organization see DT as that impact position worth a wheelbarrow of money?  They didn't seem to think so when they let Bunkley walk, though Bunkley was a one dimensional player.

I think Knighton deserves an extension, I also think the Broncos should follow their organizational battleplan which does not seem to be impulsive to say the least.

Pete: The thing is, is that it won't take a wheel-barrel of money to EXTEND Pot Roast. What will take a wheel-barrel of money is to let him play out this contract and then sign him long term.

Christopher:   Knighton deserves an extension and it would be more cost effective to get a deal done prior to him hitting free agency in 2015.  I do not believe he would be in the position to command top dollar in any negotiation at this time.  If an extension were in order --  a yearly average of ~ 3.5 million over three more years would be a fair investment and not a bank breaker.

Furthermore,   I do not see the worry over the cap.  When it comes down to business, teams can afford their better players.  Knighton happens to be one of them.  There are plenty of players on this roster who aren't worth the cash and could be released to allow such an extension to happen.  Hopefully the two sides can reach an agreement.

Kyle: It's a game of chess. The Broncos have not had a defensive lineman like Knighton since Trevor Pryce. He was good the entire season, but he really came on late. Watching Knighton take on double team after double team and dominate many of them was spectacular, and if opponents left him one-on-one? Forget about it.

So here's the catch: you can pay him now, but are you sure that late level of production is sustainable? You can not pay him now, then watch him dominate his way right out of your price range for 2015.

I think Elway will do the latter.

Don't be surprised if the Broncos draft a defensive tackle fairly early in 2014.