NFL Free Agents 2011: 5 Under-the-Radar Free Agents for the Denver Broncos
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Broncos opted to avoid picking up defensive lineman in the 2011 draft, citing there were several viable options in free agency that they wanted pursue. Head Coach, John Fox is quoted on the Denver Broncos official page as saying, "I think typically in the National Football League, you have two means -- one is college (draft) and the other is free agency. Never in any year that I have been in the NFL have you accomplished meeting all your needs in just one of those pools.
So, I think that we will have to address that moving forward in the next pool." The two most prominent needs for the Broncos remain at the running back position and on the defensive line and linebacker positions. I have compiled a list of key defensive pickups that the Broncos might consider in free agency, all of which are under the radar among the rest of the league.
Follow me: @jamuckley
Jerome Harrison, RB (UFA – Eagles)
Jerome Harrison is Peyton Hillis 2.0. He has yet to receive a real shot on any teams, but he could make a huge difference for Denver in 2011.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Jerome Harrison is Peyton Hillis 2.0. Oddly enough, Hillis replaced Harrison when he fumbled in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former Bronco, a major McDaniels blunder, went on to have an amazing season as the primary back for the Browns, and Harrison was traded to the Eagles. In the two games that Harrison received considerable playing time on the Eagles, he rushed for 208 yards on 32 carries. He is a big back who can be used in the passing game to block and can be a game changer if he is given a chance to run. With the developing Tim Tebow at quarterback, Harrison’s presence would give him some covering and he could be a good change of pace back to complement Knowshon Moreno. Harrison is the only offensive player on the list because of the Broncos numerous issues on defense which must be addressed to make serious strides in 2011.
Pat Williams, DT (UFA – Vikings)
Pat Williams is probably the best known free agent on the list and he is a beast! His abilities for the Broncos would transform the Broncos' defense.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Pat Williams is probably the best known free agent on this list. The Broncos need some big tough run stoppers in the middle in their new conversion from the 3-4 defense back to the 4-3, and Williams is an obvious choice. Williams is well-acquainted with the 4-3 in his many years with the Vikings and the Bills. Williams’ downside is his increasing age. Last year, some of his age (37 years old) showed as he started to struggle. However, on a team that seems consistently lost on defense, the Broncos could make a move to acquire Williams for his veteran leadership, colossal size, and run stuffing capabilities. He would be a big plug for the gaping hole that marks the middle of the Broncos defensive line.
Raheem Brock, DE/DT (UFA, Seahawks)
Raheem Brock would thrive alongside Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller in the Broncos 4-3 defense.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Raheem Brock is a utility defensive lineman. However, by utility I mean he can do it all! He is a huge game changer, who has very few starts, but always makes an impact. Case in point, last season with the Seahawks, Brock made nine sacks without starting a single game. The Broncos are bringing back Elvis Dumervil after missing all of last season when he tore his pectoral muscle, and Brock along with some of the other Bronco d-linemen will complement Dumervil’s electrifying speed and strength to shore up the spotty Bronco defense.
Stephen Tulloch, MLB (UFA, Titans)
Stephen Tulloch is a run-stuffing monster something the Broncos have sorely missed for years!
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
It is well-documented that run stopping has perennially been a problem for the Broncos on defense. Last season, the Broncos ended 31st in the league ahead of only the Buffalo Bills in rushing defense yielding 154.6 yards/game on average! However, bringing in a run stopping monster at the middle linebacker position would go a long way in reversing the trend against the run. Stephen Tulloch is just the man for the job. He made 111 solo tackles last year with the Titans, and needs some work wrapping up as 14 opposing rushers broke tackles against him, however, with a defensive minded coach such as John Fox, Tulloch could leave his past mistakes behind and advance forward with the Broncos.
Brandon Mebane, DT (UFA, Seahawks)
Brandon Mebane is another huge run stopper that would be a huge addition to the Broncos defense in 2011.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Brandon Mebane is another huge run stuffer. He plays in the inside and has also shown a spark rushing the passer. Alongside beasts such as passing rushing beasts like Dumervil and the newly acquired rookie, Von Miller, Mebane could boost last year’s 11 hurries and 1 sack numbers to something nearer his career high of 5.5 sacks. Adding the run stopping abilities would bring something to stabilize the Broncos front four and their sieve-like defensive line. Mebane would come at a cheaper price tag than say Pat Williams, if the Broncos aren’t prepared to spend top dollars on a defensive tackle who is pushing 40 (he’ll be 39 years old this season), they might opt for the more affordable and younger Mebane (26 years old).