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Report: Broncos expected to pursue defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins during free agency

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Johnathan Hankins could replace Domata Peko in the Denver Broncos starting lineup in 2019.

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Oakland Raiders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

According the Benjamin Allbright, the Denver Broncos are expected to pursue free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins during free agency.

Hankins was a second-round pick by the New York Giants in the 2013 NFL Draft and is entering his 7th season in the NFL. He will turn 27 years old in March and has been one of the better run defenders in the NFL during his career.

During Hankins six NFL seasons, he has totaled 220 tackles, 12 sacks, 7 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. During this past year for the Oakland Raiders, Hankins totaled 36 tackles during his one season with the Raiders.

Pro Football Focus ranked Hankins as their 10th best interior defensive lineman who will be available in free agency in a few weeks.

After going unsigned all offseason, Hankins latched on in Oakland after Week 1 of the regular season, quickly earning the starting nod when Justin Ellis went down on a thin Raiders defensive line. Hankins’ first four seasons of starter level play for the Giants earned him a big payday with Indianapolis in 2017, a marriage that only lasted one season.

The veteran played admirably in Oakland this season, but his overall grade took a step back to 66.5, second-worst of his career. While Hankins offers very little as a pass rusher, the nose tackle has demonstrated spurts of very strong run defense and finished with 18 run stops in 2018. He can remain a depth piece moving forward.

This wouldn’t be the sexiest signing by the Broncos, but it would give Fangio a big blocker eater and run stuffer in the middle of his defense. In his past two stops with the Bears and 49ers he has used a true nose tackle so this potential addition would make a ton of sense.

He is also just turning 27 years old and probably at least has two seasons of solid play left in the tank before starting to decline with age. This would give the Broncos a starting nose tackle and likely take them out of the nose tackle market in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.

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