The Denver Broncos have taken an initiative to upgrade their defense this offseason, and that continued just days away from the 2014 NFL draft with the signing of free-agent defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
Gray Caldwell of DenverBroncos.com reported the news of Austin's acquisition on Monday, which bolsters Denver's depth along the defensive front.
In last year's draft, the Broncos invested a first-round pick in North Carolina product Sylvester Williams, and have sought out another former Tar Heel in Austin to help at same position. Williams was excited about Austin coming to the Mile-High City:
The New York Giants originally chose Austin in the second round (No. 52 overall) of the 2011 draft.
That situation was viewed as an ideal environment for Austin to thrive, since the Giants had a deep rotation featuring Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. Unfortunately, a steady career didn't pan out for Austin in the Big Apple, as a torn pectoral muscle in the preseason cost him his entire rookie season.
After debuting without much success in 2012, Austin was released before last season started, then played in two games for the Miami Dolphins, only to be cut again in October. Austin then caught on with the Dallas Cowboys, playing once in Week 8 before suffering a back injury, which led to America's Team waiving him not long thereafter.
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk provided his analysis on Monday's move.
"He’ll have to compete just to make the 53-man roster in Denver, but for the Broncos, it’s a low-risk signing with potentially significant rewards," writes Smith.
Terms of Austin's deal in Denver have yet to be disclosed, but he has a lot to prove to make it onto the roster despite the need for the Broncos to get better play on the interior of the defensive line.
At the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Austin turned heads with his 4.9-second 40-yard dash and 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at 6'2" and 309 pounds. That elite athletic ability has not translated to a productive stint in the NFL, but the talent is there for him to be a disruptive force.
While there will be pressure to perform and make a strong, quick impression, at least Austin is going to an excellent organization, where the king of preparation in quarterback Peyton Manning should provide a strong example. Denver has also brought in Pro Bowl defensive veterans in DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward since losing Super Bowl XLVIII to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos are making a smart move by bringing in Austin as a low-risk player who offers significant upside because of his physical tools. If he does fulfill his supposed destiny as an NFL starter, this could be one of the most underrated signings in the already excellent tenure of legendary Denver QB John Elway in the front office.