Kyle: The Broncos have three middle linebackers as exiting free agents: Wesley Woodyard, Paris Lenon, and Stewart Bradley. Yet they STILL might have the man for the role in 2011 draft pick Nate Irving, who finally found a rhythm in 2013, albeit at strongside linebacker. It's time to dish fellas; if you were the Broncos GM, what would you do at linebacker?
Scotty Payne: Nate Irving played the game of his life in the Super Bowl. I would give him the first shot at the job. I think he can be a solid two down run-stopper for us. The big question with him is: can he cover?
If the Broncos do look at adding a inside linebacker via Free Agency, the only guy I want is Daryl Smith. He's coming off a great year for the Baltimore Ravens, and I don't think he will demand a lot of money or a long term contract.
Now, for the draft, I would look for two different types of LB's. One that can rush the passer and complement Von Miller, and one that can still be a coverage guy like Trevathan. A few pass rushers that stand out to me are Kyle Van Noy, Trevor Reilly, and Jeremiah Attaochu. A coverage guy that I really like is Ryan Shazier. I think he could play inside, and he reminds me a lot of Danny Trevathan.
Ian Henson: The whole offseason John Elway could not stop talking about Irving. He was the middle linebacker up neck and neck with Stewart Bradley for the starting role until the news about Von Miller's suspension came through. Irving ended up taking on the strong side position, losing out on middle to necessity and opening a spot for Danny Trevathan to shine.
Be the Broncos GM
Top guys at linebacker entering the combine are: Anthony Barr, Chris Borland, Khalil Mack, C.J. Mosley, Trent Murphy and Ryan Shazier, although Murphy is more likely to be a defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker at the NFL level. I don't see any of those guys lasting deep enough into the draft for Denver to draft any of them. It would be incredible for any of those six to make it out of the second round. I just don't see taking a linebacker before then, and judging from history (save for Miller being drafted at the second overall pick) the team won't dedicate anything too early in the draft to a linebacker.
Here is a prime example of leaving the dance with the girl you brought, Miller, Irving and Trevathan are a pretty solid starting group. Steven Johnson and Brandon Marshall are returning from the Super Bowl roster, and the team has a diamond in the rough with Lerentee McCray (who the team may or may not have hid on their injured reserve list). I'd say stay still here, don't move an inch. There is room for competition in the middle, but at some point you have to reward the players that are doing the tackling. As of now there is no reason to demote Irving or Trevathan.
Scotty: Borland won't be a first round pick Ian. He's 5'11 and some change, and probably ends up going third or forth round. Trent Murphy could be available at 31, but as you said he's more of a DE/3-4 guy.
I do like the starting group of Trevathan - Irving - Miller. Just need to add some depth, and another edge guy.
Ian: Sorry, I was saying that Denver wouldn't take a linebacker before the third round and I wouldn't expect any of the guys that I listed to make it that deep in the draft. 5'11" linebackers do fine in the NFL. See: Dumervil, Elvis. Even Trevathan and Irving are only 6'1" (I say only, because that is three inches shorter than me, but I do not mean to offend anyone). Chris Borland is already drawing comparrisons to Luke Kuechly, Mike Mayock is comparing him to Zach Thomas as well saying "wouldn't let [Borland] get out of the second round." Borland had 421 tackles at Wisconsin.
Scotty: Ah, gotcha! Not denying Borland's talent one bit. Dude can play for sure, just the questions about his size and short arms will be debated for next weeks/months. Watch these hits on Ohio St's Carlos Hyde.
If he's there in the late third round, I wouldn't be upset with the Broncos getting him.
Christopher Hart: At some point in time the Broncos are going to have to get realistic about adding another linebacker to their defense through the draft. Lets face it: No free agent addition since Al Wilson retired has panned out. Niko Koutevides, Joe Mays, Stewart Bradley, Paris Lenon. Quite underwhelming to say the least.
Additonally, the Broncos have kept trying and woefully failed by moving around players to patch up the defeciency. It happened with DJ Williams and stunted his growth potential. We saw it with both Irving and Woodyard to little success. The point is Denver can no longer afford to ignore the linebacker position in the draft. They will need to replace Woodyard and I do not share the sentiments my colleagues have states in regards to Irving being able to be productive -- quite simply he is not a long-term option in my eyes and never was.
I respectfully disagree with Ian's statements referencing the draft. There are more than enough linebackers available in this draft who can be starters or day one contributors from the get go. The Broncos aren't going to get a bluechip prospect, but have the ability to maneuver in the draft to get a player they covet -- they just have to show the willingness to do so. Whether or not they will remains to be seen. Denver passed on Alec Ogletree in the first round last year, but apparently gave him a long look. I expect John Fox and Jack Del Rio to upgrade the position for the 2014 season and make up for inadequately addressing it last year.
Ian: Denver has had 23 draft picks since 2011, 19 are still on the team, 10 are starters (2 are quarterbacks and two are on injured reserve), Nate Irving is either starting or getting cut. He started four games at SAM during the regular season and showed up as big as he could on the biggest stage of all. He is ready, I don't know what else he needs to prove, just needs the opportunity to do it consistently.
With John Fox giving his nod of approval and Jack Del Rio coaching you, I can imagine pretty much any linebacker coming in and doing well.