Happy Wednesday, Broncos Country.
The strength of the Denver Broncos in 2015 was their historically great defense.
Their ferocious play and ability to creative turnovers and big plays often changed the tide of the games and helped bail out an offense who managed to get by with little production en route to a Super Bowl championship.
Outside several depth departures, most of the teams starters outside of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan will be back with the team in 2016. Though Von Miller hasn't reported to the start of the Broncos early offseason team events, have no doubts that he and the team will agree to a long-term contract that will make him one of, if not the highest paid defensive player in the league.
The team expects big things from last years first-round pick Shane Ray, who will likely see an increased role on defense and several other young players such as Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson may see an rise in opportunities due to the void at inside linebacker opposite of Brandon Marshall.
However, a quick gloss over the roster and 2017 team free agent pool shows a future glaring need for the Broncos on the defensive trenches.
Kenny Anunike, Phillip Taylor, Vance Walker and Sylvester Williams are all slated to hit free agency. Anunike is a restricted free agent, but hasn't been able to live up to his training camp hype due to chronic knee injuries. The team rolled the dice with a one-year deal with Taylor, and it is unlikely he is a long-term solution to the Broncos need at nose tackle. Walker was an underrated piece of their defensive line last season, but may find more suitors on the open market next offseason who will pay him more than his affordable rate with Denver in 2016.
Alas, the biggest elephant in the room is what the team will do with fourth-year player Sylvester Williams. Williams has seen an increase in defensive snaps each year since he was drafted, but the team hasn't decided whether or not they will choose to exercise their fifth-year option on the former North Carolina Tarheel.
The price tag for that decision would be over $6 million dollars for 2017, and it is up for to debate as to whether or not his on the field production merits such a high price tag.
To combat potential departures on their defensive line, the Broncos would be wise to invest not just one, but at least two selections in this years NFL Draft to fortify their trenches.
Replacing Malik Jackson should be their first priority. Luckily for Denver, there are a handful of quality prospects such as Robert Nkemdiche, and Vernon Butler who could fill that void in the first-round.
The pool of players at nose tackle isn't as plentiful, but it is still filled with several collegiate stars who would be quality fit for Wade Phillips' defense. Prospects such as Andrew Billings, Kenny Clark, Willie Henry and Maliek Collins could be potential options for the team in that regard and should find homes early on in this years' draft.
Under the leadership of John Elway, the franchise has been able to hit often on their defensive selections in the draft. I expect more of the same from them this year and believe it is in their best interest to take advantage of one of the deepest defensive line drafts in NFL history to ensure that their championship caliber defense continues to fire on all cylinders not only this year, but for future seasons to come.
Feel free to give your thoughts on prospects at defensive end and nose tackle that you would love to see the Broncos draft. As always, thanks for reading and here is today's offering of Horse Tracks.
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