Denver Broncos free agency: With Malik Jackson seeking a massive contract, could the Broncos find a bargain in Patriots DL Akiem Hicks?
John Elway has always approached free agency with what I believe is exactly the right mentality — aggressive, but not stupid. There are always contracts being handed out on an annual basis that leave me scratching my head, wondering what executives in this league are smoking.
Despite the legality of marijuana in Colorado, Elway doesn’t appear to be operating under the influence…
But enough jokes, let’s get to the point.
The point of me writing all this is to tell you that Elway isn’t going to come off of a certain number to keep Malik Jackson, not when he has players like Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, and next offseason Sylvester Williams and Brandon Marshall to pay for. The offseason is full of players to add to a defensive line that could be productive in the Broncos’ defense, even if they aren’t of Jackson’s caliber.
Not to mention, the Broncos return Vance Walker who was an inexpensive, versatile free agent pickup last year.
In looking at the list of possible free agents this offseason, what if John Elway wants to go a little more conservative on the defensive line again instead of spending a truckload of cash on Malik Jackson?
Before Derek Wolfe was re-signed last year, one of the highest paid players on the d-line was Antonio Smith.
The 2016 NFL Draft is loaded with defensive linemen, so much so that NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock stated he thinks teams could get 1st or 2nd round talents in the 3rd and 4th rounds.
It just so happens the Broncos might have some additional picks coming in those rounds as well…
At any rate, the Broncos have some leverage with Malik — a nice free agent market and an excellent crop of youngsters coming in the draft. Need we be reminded that Malik himself was a 5th round selection after transferring from USC to Tennessee and generating basically zero pre-draft hype?
There are gems like that to be found, both in the draft and free agency. One such gem is New England Patriots defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who was acquired in a trade for Michael Hoomanawanui last year. The rare midseason trade paid off for the Patriots, though it didn’t help them best the Broncos in the AFC title, and Hicks was an excellent addition to their front.
He provides incredible size at 6-5 325 pounds, but is versatile enough to be a force in a three- or four-man front. That would certainly excite Wade Phillips.
Like Malik Jackson, Hicks is coming off of his rookie contract and is just 26 years old. He’s a bit underrated as far as the rest of his peers in free agency. He will be competing for money with the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, the aforementioned Malik Jackson, Ian Williams, Jaye Howard, and Nick Fairley among others. What is enticing about this move for the Broncos is that Hicks is:
C. On a vastly different tier than Jackson, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
D. A Patriot
Stealing from the Patriots is one of the best parts of the offseason (see: Welker, Wes; Talib, Aqib)…
Obviously the Patriots are going to want Hicks back, and they could afford him, but he would have the opportunity for a lot more snaps in Denver than in New England after they’ve used consecutive top picks on interior defensive linemen.
This would be a nice move for the Broncos, though plenty has to play out between now and free agency.