As we approach the offseason, I want to continue keeping tabs on players that I think would be smart for the Broncos to pursue. There’s currently ‘nothing to see here’ as there would have been at this time last year with DeMarcus Ware (then of the Dallas Cowboys), but a name for the Broncos to keep an eye on as the new league year draws closer is San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.
Having moved to a 3-4 defense now with Wade Phillips, the Broncos are going to need some bigger, physical linebackers for their new look D. Willis is certainly that, and the reason he’s a name to monitor is that he is coming off of a season-ending toe injury, and with two years left on his contract, he is a candidate for release in San Francisco thanks to the emergence of 2014 rookie and popular Broncos mock draft pick Chris Borland.
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The Broncos have a linebacker in Danny Trevathan coming off of injury as well, and the emergence of Brandon Marshall this past season is impossible to ignore. That being said, the Broncos have an interesting situation ahead of them with the transition to a 3-4 base, even though it might not look that much different than the defense they ran this past season. If they play Marshall and Trevathan at the same time, they might be susceptible up the middle because neither of those guys are really bruisers in the middle. Those guys get freed up to make plays at their WLB position, and they can just fly to the ball. Playing ILB in a 3-4 alignment isn’t exactly the same but they will be key players, nonetheless.
I think Willis gives the Broncos a physical presence in the middle of the defense and a guy who can elevate this team significantly. Even if John Elway had to trade a 2nd or 3rd round pick for the soon to be 30-year old linebacker, I think it would be worth it.
Getting Willis would give the Broncos a linebacker group of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the edges, Marshall/Trevathan and Willis on the inside, and you can move guys all over the place. The Broncos also have great depth on the edges with some underrated players, but they could add a guy or two in this year’s draft if they so choose.
Whatever San Francisco’s plans with Willis, the Broncos should call in find out. Another obvious fit if Willis is released is back with Vic Fangio in Chicago With the Bears, who have a huge need for linebackers. That would lead me to believe the Broncos might be better off giving up a pick or two depending on what the 49ers are asking for for Willis, but it’s tough to gauge his price right now. He’s also on the books for just over $7 million in each of the next two seasons.
The Broncos have proven over the last three or four years that our biggest fantasies are not out of the realm of reality, and this is something I’d really like to see happen.