The Denver Broncos lost plenty this offseason, but linebacker Zaire Anderson — among others — is proving their ability to promote and develop within…
The Denver Broncos lost plenty this offseason in terms of big name players and guys who signed big free agent contracts elsewhere. With the way the salary cap is set up, the Broncos can only do so much in terms of signing players in the free agent pool and bringing back their own guys, so development of players within the organization has become a critical way for this team to maintain championship quality.
Zaire Anderson is a former undrafted player out of Nebraska. It wasn’t for lack of production or ability, but likely his lack of overall size and timed speed. After all, Anderson was a 5-11, 228 pound linebacker coming from college, and at the size of a bulky running back, he managed a 4.82 second 40-yard dash at the Nebraska pro day.
After a strong camp and even some first-team reps in his rookie year with the Broncos, Anderson ultimately landed on the practice squad, where he spent the entire 2015 season developing. The Broncos signed him to a futures deal after the season, and liked him enough to not bring in any additional linebacker via the draft.
This team could justifiably spent a third round pick on an inside linebacker, perhaps even higher, and no one would have batted an eye, but that’s not how this team operates.
They have faith in their scouting department, and they have faith in their playoff development.
Zaire Anderson scored a touchdown off of Bennie Fowler’s blocked punt in the team’s first preseason game against the Chicago Bears, and has made an impression on the coaching staff.
A strong impression.
“Wade and I were having a nice conversation about him on the field today,” Head coach Gary Kubiak said after practice on Tuesday. “He’s probably one of the players that has come the furthest. The only thing that holds Zaire back is the total understanding of the defense because he has to make calls. He has to do all that. His effort, how he plays and his reactions are really good now that he understands the defense. You’ll see a better player.”
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The Broncos just re-signed linebacker Brandon Marshall to a multi-year extension, and they have a ton of faith in third year linebacker Todd Davis to fill the role left behind by Marshall, who is taking Danny Trevathan’s spot as the play-caller.
Anderson has to get used to calling plays and making sure everyone is in position, but for the time being, he knows how to get himself in the right position and always be around the football. It’s an exciting development for the Broncos whose inside linebacker position is currently comprised of undrafted free agents, a seventh round pick, a street free agent, and a former practice squad cast-off.
That’s how you judge your front office and coaching staff — when players are out-playing their draft status (or lack thereof) consistently and making a significant impact on a Super Bowl champion.
Zaire Anderson is the latest, and should be in line for a prominent role with this team in 2016.