We've all seen the headlines regarding the insanely active free agency period that have summed up the Denver Broncos thus far. The signing of Peyton Manning culminated the quest of the two Johns–Elway and Fox–to find a QB that is a conventional pocket passer and a proven winner. Much can be debated about the health of Manning and the treatment of his predecessor, Tim Tebow; but what is not debatable is the most glaring need left behind after all that money was doled out in the first few weeks of the new season.
Have you ever heard the old football adage: "A hole so big you could drive truck through it?" Well that is exactly the state of the Denver Broncos' interior defense line, as the Broncos failed to address this position (which actually regressed), a fact that may have been lost among the frenzy of headline grabbers the Broncos have seized in the past few weeks.
The needs in the middle cannot be ignored, and a solid defensive interior, especially at the defensive tackle position, could do wonders for what are some of the top pass rushers in the league–Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Double teams in the middle force one-on-one match-ups that speed rushers such as Miller and Dumervil chomp at the bit for.
This slideshow will review a couple of scenarios which the Broncos should explore to plug this gaping hole.
So what do they have now? The answer to this is quite simply–not much. The two starters on the depth chart right now, Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren, were both placed on season-ending IR in 2011 (Warren actually hasn't played a regular season snapped since 2009).
And while it is easy to fall in love with their size, each is listed at 6'5" around 300 lbs., given their age and injury history, it is very hard to imagine that both of these guys makes it through a full season in 2012. This is the NFL, and aging, injury-prone veterans do not recover very easily (probably why they have the Comeback Player of the Year Award).
Behind these two, the situation is even more dire. Ryan McBean, who played in all 16 games last year and registered four sacks, is their most seasoned vet; but he is facing a six-game suspension for PED's. After that, you have unknowns such as Mitch Unrein and Sealver Siliga. Needless to say the depth here is not good, and therefore it needs to be addressed.
Much like the current depth chart, the remaining free agency crop is thin. After losing out on resigning Broderick Bunkley to New Orleans, the Broncos have failed to bring in a replacement. This may be because the talent at DT in free agency is so weak, but a couple of vets could be brought into camp to showcase their value.
The two best prospects left are Amobi Okoye and Anthony Garay. Although neither is the answer long-term, both provide depth and varying abilities to the interior line (Okoye for his age and penetration skills and Garay for his size and ability to clog the middle). Either could be signed fairly cheap and short-term, which could allow the Broncos some flexibility in the upcoming draft.
An unreadable poker face is sometimes not the Broncos' front office's strong suit. As it stands right now, the Broncos are most likely poised to take the best DT available in April's Draft, because they simply have no choice.
Luckily for them (and maybe the reason they are not panicking), the 2012 stock of talented DT's is loaded, with up to six that may be taken in the first round, and another four that may come off the board in the second. So which of these beasts should the Broncos take?
Well considering that many experts predict that Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe will be gone by the time the Donkeys pick at 25, the depth of the prospects allows for them to take the best of the rest, which is still very talented. These include the likes of Fletcher Cox, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy. Picking up one of these three guys in the first round will allow Broncos fans to breathe a small sigh of relief that the gaping hole that exists today will not be around come September.
With the compilation of draft picks the Broncos possess, one pick in each of the first three rounds, plus two picks in the fourth, one in the fifth and sixth (not to mention next year's picks), the Broncos are poised to move up in the second round and draft a second DT that may have slipped out of the first round due to teams filling other needs.
These players, such as Jerel Worthy of Michigan State or Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, could be had for a swap of seconds and a couple of additional picks, like a fourth and a sixth. Getting two of these late first-round talents at DT will solidify the position for years to come and plug the last major remaining hole the Broncos have in their quest for a Lombardi Trophy.
If this fails, the Broncos could settle for late second-and-third round talents such as Mike Martin of Michigan or Brandon Thompson of Clemson; but either way, two of the first three picks in the draft need to address the DT position. Here's hoping they make as big of a splash in the draft as they have in free agency.