Denver Broncos: Defensive linemen team could still sign after losing out on big names

If your expectations were that the Denver Broncos would sign one or maybe even two defensive linemen in the early wave of the free-agent signing period, it's likely you're a bit disappointed right now.

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The Broncos appear to have a gaping hole where you don't want to have a gaping hole on an NFL roster — all along the defensive line.

The team entered the offseason with many of its own defensive linemen set to become unrestricted free agents and the buzz was that guys like Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe may be playing elsewhere next season.

The team was then connected to many talented defensive linemen as the talk of free agency began to get revved up. Unfortunately, the team has not been able to bring any of them in.

D.J. ReaderComing off a solid 2019 campaign, many saw the massive defensive tackle as a perfect fit in Denver. Reports began to surface on Tuesday that the Broncos were close to a deal with the player many fans would have all but guaranteed that they would sign.

Just moments after those reports came out, literally, he signed a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jarran Reed: A former second-round pick, Reed was seen as a great consolation prize should the Broncos not be able to land a guy like Reader. The Seahawks re-signed him to take that idea off the board.

Jordan Phillips: I argued that Phillips might be a more sensible signing than Reader and the Broncos should strongly consider him. Instead, the Arizona Cardinals signed him to a reported three-year, $30 million deal.

Quinton Jefferson: Another player that some saw as a nice fit for the Broncos is expected to sign a deal with the Buffalo Bills.

As you can see, some of the desired names are gone and frustration is mounting among Broncos fans as the team seemingly sits idly by while other teams get their players. But we must believe there is a plan in place.

Hope is not all lost. Here are some defensive linemen the Broncos can still bring in.

Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe

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BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Zaire Anderson #50 of the Denver Broncos and Adam Gotsis #99 and Shelby Harris #96 and Derek Wolfe #95 look on from the bench during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on September 24, 2017, in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Both Harris and Wolfe have been allowed to test the market, but neither player has landed a deal. That could lead them coming back to Denver as teams around the league have given contracts to other defensive linemen.

Harris was seeking a big deal, one he earned with a terrific 2019 season. He still may get it, and the Broncos should consider being the team that gives it to him.

Harris had 49 tackles and six sacks last season. He also knocked down several passes at the line of scrimmage, including one that stands out as one of the best plays of the season in the final moments of the season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

It's odd that Harris hasn't been snatched up yet by another team but those teams may feel the money he is looking for is a bit too much. Perhaps he realizes that Denver is the best place for him, even if it's for a bit less money.

Wolfe may be even more likely to come back to the Broncos as his market value is less than that of Harris. There was said to be some interest from the Bengals and as an Ohio native and a player who played at the University of Cincinnati in college, that made sense.

But then the Bengals signed Reader.

That could all lead to Wolfe being re-signed by the Broncos on a deal that would allow him to finish his career with the team.

Despite playing in just 12 games last season, Wolfe recorded seven sacks.

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Linval Joseph

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NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 11: Linval Joseph #98 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after sacking the quarterback during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee. The Vikings defeated the Titans 25-16. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

After six seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Linval Joseph was released last week but he still has some football left at 31 years old.

A former second-round pick of the New York Giants, Joseph made the Pro Bowl following the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

The Broncos could get Joseph on the cheap after he was released by the Vikings. Let's be honest, he wouldn't be available if he was still a top-tier defensive lineman. He had issues with his knee last season and that led to a reduction in production. That then led to the Vikings cutting ties with him.

The Broncos could sign him to a short-term, affordable deal to see what he can bring to the team. A veteran presence who has been a force in the league, if there is a coach who could get the most out of what Joseph has left, it might well be Vic Fangio.

For his career, Joseph has 525 total tackles and 24 sacks to go along with eight forced fumbles. In Denver, the best value he could bring is his ability to push through the interior of the offensive line and blow up plays right as they get started.

Joseph isn't a prime option at this stage of his career, but he is the kind of player you would expect to find after watching guys like Reader, Phillips and Reed sign elsewhere.

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Michael Pierce

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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive Tackle Michael Pierce #97 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium on November 25, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Michael Pierce had a tough road to get to the NFL after going undrafted out of Samford, but he made the roster of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and has become a consistent player on the team's defense.

He has played in 60 games for the team in four seasons and while his statistics are not going to jump off the page, he fills his role well and could bring that consistency and durability to the Broncos.

Pierce is not going to get after the quarterback (he only has 3.5 career sacks) but that is not what the Broncos are going to be fishing for at this point in free agency. The team has a slew of draft picks and will need to find at least one pass-rushing defensive lineman in the selection process.

In Pierce, the Broncos would be getting a 27-year old player who can clog up the middle, take on and push back blockers and open up chances for guys like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to make plays. A guy like Pierce who can do that well goes unnoticed on the stat sheet but is invaluable to the style of defense that Fangio runs.

Pierce may cost a bit more than Joseph but that is because he is four years younger. He has starting experience in the league and is solid in defending the run.

That is the kind of player the Broncos need and if the team is going to sign someone on the market that isn't a player they had last year, it should be Pierce.