The Denver Broncos are obviously trying to upgrade on defense this offseason (safety appears to be their top priority), targeting defenders in free agency and cutting ties with carryovers from last season. Two of Denver's notable defenders from 2013—linebacker Wesley Woodyard and pass-rusher Shaun Phillips—have drawn interest from other teams with the free agency signing period just one day away.
Watkins: Cowboys interested in LB Woodyard: On the eve of the start of free agency, the Cowboys have expressed... http://t.co/PtjOHBL4D0— espn_watkins (@espn_watkins) March 10, 2014
Woodyard fell out of graces in Denver last season, getting benched for six weeks and seeing spotty playing time in the playoffs. Woodyard finished the year with 84 tackles and 1.5 sacks a year removed from a 117-tackle, 5.5-sack campaign in 2012. As of now, the Broncos appear to be willing to at least let Woodyard test the waters in free agency.
Woodyard, 27, has served as a team captain in each of his six years with the Broncos since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Last season, Woodyard had a base salary of $3 million.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans have shown interest in Phillips, per The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt.
Aside from Arizona ILB Karlos Dansby, Ravens ILB Jameel McClain and Broncos DE/OLB Shaun Phillips also on Titans' radar— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) March 10, 2014
Philips was drafted in the fourth round of 2004 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers and was a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker with San Diego for his first nine seasons in the NFL. Last offseason, Phillips signed a bargain one-year, $1 million deal with Denver and went on to record 10 sacks, starting twelve games. At age 32, Phillips may have served a one-and-done stint with the Broncos, who are looking to go younger on defense.
Woodyard and Phillips are just two of several key players that may not be returning. Among the others are wide receiver Eric Decker and offensive lineman Zane Beadles.
Surprisingly, there's been little buzz on Decker. There's also a chance that Beadles will be brought back.
Elsewhere in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks are primed to re-sign defensive lineman Michael Bennett, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Bennett had been a free-agent favorite of the MHR staff. Nothing has been finalized with Bennett, yet, and many other defenders remain on the market.
The list of defenders that have been linked to Denver includes defensive end Jared Allen, cornerback Nolan Carroll, linebacker Lofa Tatupu, and safeties Jairus Byrd, Mike Mitchell, Louis Delmas, and T.J. Ward. On Monday, USA Today's Tom Pelissero predicted that Ward would land in Denver.
Ward was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. In his first four seasons in the league, Ward recorded 342 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five interceptions, five forced fumbles, and defended 22 passes as a member of the Browns' secondary. Finishing out his rookie contract, Ward earned a base salary of $630,000 last season.
The new league year (and free agency) will kickoff at 4 p.m. ET tomorrow.
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