John Elway has been putting short-term bandages on the Denver Broncos’ defensive tackle position for the last couple of years, and it might finally be time to find a long-term solution. While a deep draft class at defensive tackle is one way to address the position, the Broncos could also dip their toes into the waters of free agency to find their solution.
Free agents who may be available include Henry Melton, Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant, Jason Jones, Sedrick Ellis, Wallace Gilberry and many others. Since the draft is deep at defensive tackle, the free agents could be a real bargain. The best value might end up being Glenn Dorsey, who has been miscast as a 3-4 defensive end for the past four seasons.
Dorsey was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft and was supposed to be a dominant interior three-technique defensive tackle. After just one season at defensive tackle, Dorsey was moved to defensive end in the wake of Kansas City’s organizational change. Moving him back inside could prove very productive.
While the Broncos could just as easily move Derek Wolfe inside and look for a defensive end, a switch like that might impact Von Miller negatively. Wolfe was a great run defender, which made Miller’s job much easier. With Miller coming off the edge, Wolfe often had the opportunity to pass rush against interior lineman without much success, so moving him inside full-time might not be an instant success.
Elway has options and could just put another bandage on the position by re-signing players like Justin Bannan, Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson. It also makes sense for the Broncos to opt for an aging star like Seymour, but if the Broncos want a long-term solution, they are going to have to find one in the draft or with a value free agent.
A Value Free Agent
Anytime a player is switching positions, it’s usually going to negatively impact his value. Dorsey hasn’t played one-gap 4-3 defensive tackle since his rookie season, and it wasn’t a particularly productive rookie campaign. Any team signing Dorsey is taking a slight risk in hoping that he can still make an impact inside.
It’s a risk worth taking for the Broncos, because they would still have quality players like Bannan (if re-signed) and Wolfe on the defensive line. For a reasonable cost, Dorsey adds flexibility and potentially the interior pass rush that would make Broncos overall pass rush nearly unstoppable.
Dorsey is also coming off an injury and only played in four games in 2012. If Dorsey had been placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL he would be too much of a risk, but he was actually placed on injured reserve with a calf injury. Dorsey last played in Week 9, and he should be 100 percent healthy for the 2013 season.
Having not played last season, Dorsey’s value on the open market is going to take another hit because teams don’t have much of his most recent tape to evaluate, which is another reason he should be inexpensive. Addressing the defensive tackle position in free agency also enables the Broncos to use their draft picks to address needs at other positions.
Since the Broncos drafted Wolfe last year, it would also seem odd if the Broncos dedicated another draft pick to their defensive line. All signs point the Broncos using free agency to address the problem, which should include re-signing some of their own players and shopping for other undervalued free agents.
Dorsey is 27 years old, so he should have several good years of football left in him. In the last four years, Dorsey has been stuck playing the run in a two-gap 3-4 defense, and he adjusted quite well. According to Pro Football Focus, Dorsey posted positive grades in 2010 and 2011. Dorsey was particularly good at defending the run, which was his primary job as a 3-4 end.
It’s worth noting that Dorsey was drafted to be a one-gap penetrating pass-rusher, but was able to transition to a two-gap containing run defender. Dorsey isn’t going to lose the skills he developed, which means he should at very least continue to be a good run defender even if he’s moving inside.
At worst Dorsey would be as productive as Vickerson, but younger and with significantly more upside as a pass-rusher. Dorsey is either another short-term solution to the position or he has a monster year at his natural position as opponents slide protections to the outside to help on Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
For what is likely a minimal investment, Dorsey is a great solution for the Denver Broncos.