Player: Malik Jackson
Explanation: This is a tough one. As great of a player as Malik is, there’s just no way the Broncos can realistically get in a bidding war for his increasingly lucrative services. Over the four years that Malik was with the Broncos, he kept projecting upward with his play. When Jackson was on his game, he was great. Nobody can take away how good he’s been this year. Unfortunately, money talks and no amount of “take less for another ring” talk would or should convince Jackson to stick around.
As much as I’d want Jackson to stay, I’m not going to be one to judge a player for going after the best contract he can get. In a league where the average player only lasts a few seasons, players need to do what’s best for their family and their life after football. Part of ensuring security in their future is going after the most lucrative contract that they can get when they reach the marketplace.
If the Broncos can’t bring back Jackson, I wish him the best moving forward with his career (Unless he goes to the Raiders) and we’ll take a moment to savor the last great play that Jackson was a part of in a Broncos uniform.
Player: Antonio Smith
Explanation: The 34 year old veteran signed a one year deal with the Broncos last off-season with the idea of Smith providing valuable veteran depth and spot duty in pass rushing situations. With over 130
starts and 47 sacks on his resume, Smith provided the ideal depth to back up the young guys in Wolfe and Jackson and certainly could have started, if the Broncos needed him to.
To the Broncos advantage, their draft picks held their own and kept Smith in rotational duty for the entire season (9 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Despite the pedestrian stats, Smith’s experience in the NFL and with the Broncos coaching staff, he provided a nice cushion for them in the event that injury inconsistent play nagged the players ahead of Smith.
At this point in Smith’s career, though, he may be best served with the idea of walking off into the sunset and into the next phase of his life. He turns 35 during the middle of the 2016 season and despite an appealing NFL resume, I don’t see many teams eager to add his services. Hopefully he realizes that his best days are behind him and he decides to walk away from the NFL a champion.