Many fans were surprised when former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Earl Mitchell opted to sign with the San Francisco 49ers as opposed to the Denver Broncos yesterday. Mitchell seemed like a shoe-in signing for Denver, with Head Coach Vance Joseph and Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar having worked with him in the past, but none of that seemed to matter.
Former Miami Dolphins' DT Earl Mitchell plans to sign with 49ers, per league source. Big pickup before league year begins.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2017
Despite the connections, Mitchell did what any wise free agent would do and went to a team who was offering him a longer contract that included more money. That being said, there is no reason for Broncos Country to panic over this missed free agent signing. Furthermore, I don't agree with Schefter's sentiment above that the 49ers acquisition of Mitchell was a big pickup.
Let me put it into perspective: Mitchell was cut from a team (Miami Dolphins) that already lacked talent on the defensive line. Moreover, he is also 29 years old and coming off injury. It is quite doubtful that nearing thirty and at the tail end of his career, that Mitchell would have been the savior to our defensive line issues, or the kind of impact player worth the contract he was given.
There will be plenty of players available for the Broncos to attempt to acquire in free agency at the defensive tackle position. Bennie Logan, Johnathan Hankins and Nick Fairley are likely on Denver's radar. The first two are players who are much younger and show more promise than Mitchell at this point in their careers. Logan and Hankins biggest strengths are being strong against the run, and Logan has graded out as one of the league's best run-stuffing defensive tackles.
Fairley is an interesting player, one the Broncos had graded very highly coming out of the 2011 NFL Draft and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they attempt to pursue him in free agency. Fairley had the best season of his career last year for the New Orleans Saints, totalling 43 tackles and racking up 6.5 sacks. He has the ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback, which are traits that would fit well in Denver's base one-gap attacking 3-4 defense.
If you aren't infatuated with the idea of those three players, just know that the Broncos have the cap space available to make a run at Brandon Williams, Dontari Poe or Calais Campbell to help fortify their trenches when the time comes. Those players certainly won't be cheap, but General Manager John Elway hasn't had a problem opening up the checkbook for top-tier free agents in the past, especially when their skills can help propel the franchise back into Super Bowl contention.
So don't hit the panic button yet, Broncos Country. Free agency is on the horizon and the Broncos will be making some big moves. I can guarantee you that.