With the release of defensive tackles Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, the Denver Broncos now only have two defensive linemen under “contract” right now. Practice squad addition Mitch Unrein, a rookie from Wyoming and Louis Leonard, a young player who has been with John Fox in Carolina. Essentially, Louis Leonard is the only defensive tackle with NFL experience on the Broncos’ roster right now.
Now, the team is likely looking to bring back Kevin Vickerson, a 6’5″ 330 pound beast of a man who had a very solid season as a training camp scrap-heap pickup. The Broncos should also be looking to retain Marcus Thomas, a fourth year player out of Florida who has seemed to make great strides. The possibility of finally being a starter in Denver has to be somewhat enticing to him, but what will his price tag be?
What implication does this have on the NFL Draft? Well, a lot.
The Broncos are undoubtedly going to be going defense with this first pick, but these two moves all but guarantee that the pick will not be either Patrick Peterson or Von Miller. The Broncos and head coach John Fox believe that they have two starting caliber DE’s and a very good one in Elvis Dumervil and former first round pick Robert Ayers, but they appear to be starting from scratch at defensive tackle.
The top two defensive tackles in this year’s draft are Marcell Dareus of Alabama and Nick Fairley of Auburn. Both are players the Broncos have on their draft board. Another option is Da’Quan Bowers, the defensive end from Clemson. I think with this new development, the Broncos have to have narrowed it down to one of those three players, and they may be set to take one of Dareus or Fairley. Going by NFL Mocks’ rankings, the order of selection right now would be Dareus, Bowers, and then Fairley.
We will know more in the coming weeks, but right now, this seems like the Broncos are making a statement.