During the 2015 free agency period, the Broncos didn't make an effort to re-sign veteran defensive tackle Mitch Unrein. He was a rotating body in the Broncos defensive line unit for five seasons (four active, one practice squad), but saw an insignificant number of snaps in 2015 and participated in only half of the teams games. During his tenure in Denver, he also made contributions on offense by paving the way as a fullback near the goal line and even catching a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning.
With overall depth on the defensive line an area of concern, some might have thought the Broncos would have brought back the hometown kid, but opted not to instead and signed veteran defensive lineman, Antonio Smith instead due to his familiarity with Wade Phillips and success within his defenses. The market for Unrein was underwhelming, but he eventually signed with division rival San Diego Chargers.
In a recent article from ESPN.com San Diego beat writer Eric D. Williams, he discussed some of his reasons for choosing the Chargers as his next playing destination.
He cited his familiarity with the team via competing against them as one of the primary reasons he chose the Chargers, along with having a bond with Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who used to be the offensive coordinator of the Broncos.
"I’m looking forward to it," Unrein proclaimed. "That actually played into it quite a bit. I knew the San Diego Chargers. I knew what their program was because we had to compete against them every single year. I knew that they were a tough team. They would always give us problems. So I knew they were going to be a competitor, and we’re looking forward to being a top competitor this year."
Feeling marginalized by his former teams decision to not bring him back for another shot at glory, the veteran added some fighting words.
"It will be nice to get some payback this year."
There is a possibility that payback might be in store for Unrein this season. The Broncos offensive line is currently in flux, so there may be no better opportunity than now for him to play his heart out and make a difference defensively on the field. It is a young and inexperienced line, so mental mistakes and errors are bound to happen. Errors that could certainly play to his favor.
Alas, he might have to play the best football of his life to achieve payback status. It must be noted that in four years as a rotational defender for the Broncos, Unrein never registered a sack, forced fumble or logged a turnover for the team. Perhaps that is why the Broncos didn't feel obligated to even humor him with a contract offer during free agency.
"As long as I can get on the field more than I did in Denver last year, I’ll be a happy camper."
Well Mitch, if you would have played better in Denver, you probably would have seen the field a bit more. The best players play the most. Period. As a veteran of the NFL, you should know that by now.
Best of luck in San Diego, you and your teammates are going to need it if you want to take the division crown away from the Broncos.