When the Broncos set out to improve their team in free agency this year, one area where they need to make a move is at middle linebacker.
The Broncos tried various combinations at that position this past year, signing Paris Lenon close to the start of the season, and trying to force a square peg (Wesley Woodyard) in a round hole, which is unfortunate because a three-man combination of Danny Trevathan, Von Miller, and Woodyard would have easily been the Broncos’ most talented trio of ‘backers.
It should’ve worked, but it didn’t.
The Broncos’ defense was giving up points in gobs, and we quickly saw the team from 2013 that ranked in the upper half of the league in most categories was not the same, regardless of injuries.
To prevent this bunny trail from going any further, the Broncos need a middle linebacker. They need a veteran guy to come in, AND they need a young guy to come in. Or, they could get a combination of both (see my article on Chargers LB Donald Butler).
This is a key position the Broncos have to fill. They obviously aren’t opposed to going after aging veterans, even guys who many think might not even be able to play. They used Keith Brooking back in 2013, and they used Paris Lenon this past year. Both guys are in their mid-30s.
This year, arguably the top free agent inside linebacker (pre-roster cuts) is former Jaguars and Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith, who has a strong connection with the Broncos in defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
The Broncos just re-upped Del Rio for two more seasons, though he could bolt for a head coaching gig at any time, but at least for this offseason that connection could help them.
It helped them (I assume) land defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, a former Jaguars player who helped the Broncos have one of the league’s best run defenses a year ago.
Daryl Smith is a guy who would help out in that regard as well, but he’s still playing at an all-around high level. He will be 32 years old in March, so he’s not an antique by any means, but he’s probably not going to get a huge long term deal.
Smith would fit the profile of what the Broncos need in a reasonably priced, very productive free agent veteran who can come in and provide them with a piece to the championship puzzle, plain and simple.
In his first year with the Ravens, which could have been his only season with the Ravens, Smith racked up 123 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions. He also forced a pair of fumbles.
The Broncos need this kind of leader in the middle of their defense, someone who consistently makes plays and is flying to the football. I was baffled at the fact that they didn’t pounce on the opportunity to snag him in 2013, because the Ravens paid him just a hair over $2 million, and that was a maximum amount with incentives.
For John “Moneyball” Elway, that was a gaffe and oversight with the team having a clear issue at the MLB position.
Former third round pick Nate Irving has not developed as expected as a middle linebacker, rather, he has played backup strong-side backer behind Von Miller.
At last report, Smith had said he wanted to re-sign with the Ravens but there is certain to be a market for his services if they can’t re-sign him before free agency opens.
If the Broncos could get him, you’d have to consider that a huge move.