Ranking Denver Broncos' Best Remaining Defensive End Free-Agent Options

Jon Heath@http://twitter.com/JonHeathNFLContributor IMarch 19, 2013

Ranking Denver Broncos' Best Remaining Defensive End Free-Agent Options

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    The Denver Broncos are all but done with free-agent signings, with $8.44 million remaining in salary cap room.  But at least one more position is likely to be addressed before the draft: defensive end.

    Thanks to a FaxGate, Denver's top defensive end, Elvis Dumervil, is currently a free agent.  According to the Denver Post, the team is negotiating a new contract with Dumervil, but it remains to be seen if Elvis will return to Denver.

    If Dumervil does not return, the team has other options.

1. Elvis Dumervil

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    The team's preferred choice is Dumervil, and he may remain in orange this season.

    "We'd love to have Elvis back," team executive John Elway told Chris Hall of BroncosTV on Tuesday.  "We made an offer to Elvis and we'll see how it progresses."

    According to spotrac.com, the Broncos were left with a $4.8 million "dead money" hit on their salary cap by the Dumervil release, which will make it difficult—but definitively not impossible—for Dumervil to stay in Denver.

    The Broncos have just over $8 million in cap room and will use approximately $4 million of that for drafted rookie salaries, leaving $4 million left to spend on Dumervil in 2013.  With some creative contract structuring, it would be possible for the team to retain Elvis.

    "We're hopeful that Elvis will continue to be a Denver Bronco," Elway continued.  "With him being a free agent, I'm sure he wants to see what's out there, but we are hopeful we can get something done with him."

2. John Abraham

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    If the team is unable to come to terms with Dumervil, free-agent defensive end John Abraham is one of several potential replacements for Elvis in Denver.

    Abraham (6'4", 263 pounds) is 34 years old, but also coming off a 15-start, 10-sack season in which he also recorded six forced fumbles.  The production is still there, and the price is right.

    Last season, the Atlanta Falcons paid Abraham just over $5 million and it is unlikely that he would receive even that much in 2013, making him in Denver's salary cap range.  With 32.5 sacks over the past three seasons, Abraham would thrive in Denver's 4-3 across from Von Miller on pass-rushing downs.

    Potential Contract: Two years, $9 million.

3. Osi Umenyiora

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    A third defensive end option for the team is free agent Osi Umenyiora, who John Elway tried to trade for two offseasons ago.

    Umenyiora (6'3", 255 pounds) is 31 and coming off a six-sack season in which he earned a $2.5 million salary from the New York Giants.  A two-time Super Bowl champion, Umenyiora has recorded 26.5 sacks over the past three seasons.

    Elway seems to like Umenyiora, and if Dumervil does not return, Denver will likely target Osi.

    Potential Contract: One year, $4 million.

4. Dwight Freeney

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    An obvious candidate to land in Denver is Dwight Freeney, who has already been recruited by Broncos quarterback and former teammate Peyton Manning.

    Freeney (6'1", 268 pounds) is 33 and after recording just 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons, his days of earning $12 million a season have passed.  But he can still contribute as a rush specialist.

    Rushing on the opposite side of Miller, Freeney's production would likely increase.

    Potential Contract: One year, $4 million.

5. Shaun Phillips

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    A fifth and final option is San Diego Chargers free-agent outside linebacker/rusher Shaun Phillips.

    Phillips (6'3", 250 pounds) is 31 and has been an OLB in San Diego, but could make the transition to a 4-3 defensive end under Jack Del Rio in Denver.  Coming off a 9.5-sack season, Phillips would also come at a reasonable price tag.

    Last season, the Chargers paid Phillips a $4.4 million base salary, and his value has dropped since then.  With seven careers sacks against Denver, Phillips has nine years of experience with San Diego.

    Potential Contract: Two years, $7.5 million.