Examining How D.J. Williams Became Expendable for the Denver Broncos

Jon HeathContributor IMarch 6, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 4: D.J. Williams #55 of the Denver Broncos looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 4, 2011 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Ten years ago, the Denver Broncos used their first-round 2004 NFL draft selection (17th overall) on promising Miami linebacker Genos Williams.  Since then, "D.J." has recorded 824 tackles, 20.5 sacks and forced 13 fumbles—making a name for himself one of Denver's top tackling defenders.

But in more recent years, Williams' off-the-field life has become a headache for the team.

Williams went on to dress for seven games (starting in one) and recorded 14 tackles in 2012.  Although he still appears to have some gas left in the tank, the Broncos are primed to move on without Williams this offseason.

On Sunday, the Denver Post's Mike Klis ran a story that the Broncos are "expected to part ways with Williams," which would clear up around $6 million in 2013 cap space.  Ideally, Denver would like to receive a late-round draft choice in return for Williams.

But with the 6'1", 242-pound Williams turning 31 this summer, it seems unlikely that the Broncos would be able to find a trading partner for a player that is on bad terms with the league's front office.  According to Klis' report, the Broncos will probably flat out cut Williams by April 15 (when Denver's offseason workout programs begins) if they are unable to trade him.

The Broncos are generally more concerned with on-the-field production than off-the-field shenanigans (they proved that by keeping Williams as long as they did), but D.J.'s rap sheet has hit a boiling point and the Broncos have other players more than capable of picking up the slack at a cheaper price.

Denver's defense played without Williams for most of last season and there was no production drop-off in his absence.  Without Williams starting in all but one game of the season, the Broncos' defense ranked second overall (in terms of yards) with fellow outside linebackers Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard turning in Pro Bowl-worthy seasons.

Miller, who is due to earn $5.7 million in 2013, finished the season with 63 tackles, 18.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.  The Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Miller out-performed his contract by leaps and bounds last season.

Meanwhile, Woodyard filled in for Williams across from Miller and totaled 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and three interceptions.  Playing on a $1.75 million 2012 salary, Woodyard was one of Denver's pleasant surprises last season, albeit a season that concluded with him being snubbed from the Pro Bowl.

At middle linebacker, the Broncos are going a different route.  That leaves outside linebacker as the only position where Williams would fit in 2013, and Miller and Woodyard already have both OLB gigs locked down.

Williams appears headed out of Denver, and it's easy to see why.