Editor's Note: There was a mistake in the rankings. This should be the spot occupied by Virgil Green. Nate Irving should be #5.
2014 Salary: 645K + 173K signing bonus
Projected 2015 Salary: 1.0-1.5 million
2014 Role: Starter, MLB
Projected 2015 Role: Starter SILB
It has been a long and tumultuous process in the short career of Nate Irving, after an injury shortened campaign in 2014 we are left in a similar position to where we were when he was drafted. There are still a lot of unknowns. Nate is an above average player in the running game and can hold his own as a zone defender in the middle. He is not a 3-down MLB though and concerns about his health will always be there even though Nate had played in 46/48 games prior to last season.
The Broncos are flush with young talent at LB, but what they sorely miss are larger bodies to plug in the middle in Wade Phillips 3-4 scheme. At 6'1" 241, Nate is one of the larger backers on the roster. He's shown the flexibility to play the Mike on base downs and also provide support to Von Miller at the Sam position. Something that Wade has expressed over and over again is that he will tailor his system to the strengths of his players. Nate may not be sideline to sideline coverage man, but he can get uphill in a hurry to make a play in the backfield. You could go a long ways utilizing him as a blitzer or even a free rusher in green zone dog situations.
In Phillips' 3-4 base, Nate would project as your Strongside Inside Linebacker or the ILB that lines up on the TE's side of the formation. In nickel situations he would leave the game in favor of Brandon Marshall and both Marshall and Trevathan could be your linebackers in Phillips' 4-2 nickel.
As far as salary Nate should come on the cheap. Even if the Broncos find someone better to man the SILB spot, Nate has been a valuable special teams contributor and can always provide an insurance policy in case of injury.
What say you MHR--would you resign Nate Irving?