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Last season, linebacker Joe Mays (27, 5'11", 246 pounds), started the season as Denver's starting middle linebacker before going on to to injure his ankle and land on the injured reserve list. Veteran Keith Brooking (37, 6'2", 241 pounds) finished the year as the team's starter.
This offseason, Brooking will become a free agent and Mays is not expected to reclaim his starting gig, as the linebacker struggled mightily on stretch run plays and against the pass last season. So, middle linebacker appears to be a position the team must address this offseason.
Not so fast, says team executive John Elway.
"We’re excited about (second-year players Nate Irving and Steven Johnson)," Elway said at the combine over the weekend, per DenverBroncos.com. "They’re both guys very capable of handling that (starting MLB) job.”
Elway went on to note that Denver's 4-3 defense ran a lot of nickle defensive sets last season and that Brooking, the starting MLB for most of the season, was not even on the field every play (he was in on 44 percent of the team's defensive plays against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs).
Even without using a MLB for entire games, it's a little surprising that the Broncos are ready to trust either Irving (24, 6'1", 240 pounds) or Johnson (24, 6'1", 237 pounds) to anchor the defense in 2013.
Two other options are LSU's Kevin Minter and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, who both likely talked to the Broncos during the combine's "bullpen," which gives prospects a chance to mingle with team officials in an open setting.
According to the Denver Post, the Broncos met with Te'o privately on Sunday evening.
We wouldn't be surprised if Denver goes with either Irving or Johnson moving forward or if the team was bluffing and goes after somebody like Te'o with the 28th pick. At this point, the MLB situation remains a mysterious one in Denver.