The Broncos face the major decision of keeping linebacker Danny Trevathan. While re-signing him is a clear priority, when coupled with the highest priority of keeping flex defensive lineman Malik Jackson, it is questionable if the Super Bowl champions can retain this star linebacker.
There are viable alternatives to replacing Trevathan if the team loses him to free agency.
Albeit a dark horse, Zaire Anderson, a Broncos safety/linebacker on the practice squad, is a strong candidate. Anderson played strong safety and weak-side linebacker at the University of Nebraska and could adapt to Trevathan’s position given his speed, range and cover skills.
One also cannot ignore he comes with a much smaller price tag, because the reality is that the Broncos also need help on their offensive line, running back and especially, quarterback.
While at Nebraska, Anderson played with reckless abandon and occasionally prolonged opponents’ drives due to lack of self-discipline. That was more to do with the personality of his head coach at the time, Bo Pelini. Wade Phillips’ defense plays with an intense physical control and prides itself on outsmarting while outmuscling other teams’ offenses. Anderson has the tools to play “smash mouth” and has upside potential.
The Broncos are high on Anderson, whom they feared they might lose to another team after releasing him upon conclusion of the 2015 preseason. Fortunately, he was reclaimed from waivers and has been the practice squad ever since.
Because one of the underrated parts of Anderson’s game is his ability to stuff the run and break up a play, if the team loses Omar Bolden and/or David Bruton, Anderson becomes an instant candidate for the safety position, as well.
The team can evaluate free agents from other clubs if Trevathan leaves. Dallas Cowboys’ free agent linebacker, Rolando McClain, makes good sense given the new brand of position in the NFL and with style of play the Broncos had on defense. However, in light of the four-game suspension to Cowboys’ Randy Gregory for violating league’s substance abuse policy, McClain might not be an option.
Another alternative is retaining restricted free agent Brandon Marshall. Like Anderson and McClain, he will be a cheaper option than Trevathan. The key with Marshall will be if the Broncos are forced to match a lucrative offer by another team.
It would be very unfortunate to lose Trevathan and Marshall to free agency; the franchise, at a minimum, must retain at least one of these two.
John Elway will look to add depth at whatever position he sees fit, but the likes of Zaire Anderson can give the Broncos flexibility to do things differently in free agency.
In a perfect world, the Broncos would love to retain everyone. With retention of Jackson perhaps being the team’s highest priority, Anderson, playing alongside Marshall, could be seen as the most practical choice to fill the void if Trevathan leaves.