Denver Broncos no longer have to make a big trade to upgrade LB

Denver Broncos 2021 roster - Jamie Collins. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos 2021 roster - Jamie Collins. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

With the injury bug striking early, Denver Broncos GM George Paton has brought in two LB’s to fill the void. Could another signing help?

Contending with injuries has been an early test of George Paton’s reign in Denver. I’m not going to run down the whole laundry list just to depress you, but after losing Josey Jewell for the year and Chubb until ~midseason, we’ve already made some moves to shore up this unit.

Bringing in Micah Kiser was well played on Paton’s part, and getting a young player with starting experience off the Rams’ practice squad is a solid boost to this unit.

In a breakout 2020 season, Kiser proved himself a capable volume tackler with 77 on the year and even took over a game against the Eagles with 16 tackles. He didn’t make much of an impact penetrating the backfield but could be a valuable part of this rotation, especially on early downs while Strnad handles more coverage duties.

OLB Aaron Patrick was also brought in off Jacksonville’s practice squad following Chubb’s injury. A pass rush prospect out of the FCS in Eastern Kentucky, he finished his college career with 27.5 sacks and 42.5 tackles for loss in 5 seasons, the best of which was his senior campaign. He’s yet to see the field in the NFL however, and after signing as a UDFA with Jacksonville in 2020 has been a practice squad/depth player. He’s likely now the 5th option at OLB, behind Von, Malik Reed, Jonathon Cooper, and Andre Mintze.

Denver Broncos no longer need to trade for Jamie Collins

While both of these signings have helped patch up this linebacking corps, a bonafide veteran signing could go a long way to solidifying the unit. When Jamie Collins’ name was floated as a trade block option a few days ago, my kneejerk reaction was that he could be a great fit in Denver. However, he would have come with a hefty cap hit as he had just signed a 3 year, $30 Million contract in 2020.

The Denver Broncos aren’t in the position to be taking salary cap dumps, so I dropped the idea.

Now that he’s been cut by the Lions, I think the Denver Broncos would do well to take a long look at the former All-Pro/Pro Bowler. Having come from New England’s hybrid defensive front, he’s used to lining up both on the edge and off the ball.

Collins is effective in a variety of roles. In the pass rush, he has 25.5 career sacks and notched a career-high 7.0 in 2019 with the Pats. He can make plays in coverage, with 11 interceptions and 36 pass defenses, and has good athleticism to go with his 6’3″ 255-pound frame.

He’s also excelled against the run throughout his career, and he’s made 61 tackles for loss as well as 19 forced fumbles. He even led the Lions in tackles last year.

As always though, stats don’t tell the whole story. He’s got nice numbers and he’s just 31 years old, so how did he end up cut? The contract certainly played a role as he was signed to a huge deal during Matt Patricia’s time in Detroit, but he had just taken a $4 million pay cut in the offseason.

For whatever reason, it appeared that he wasn’t gelling in Dan Campbell’s scheme, and it did appear at times this season that the effort wasn’t all there. Hence the trade block, and the release.

However, I think Vic Fangio’s defense would be a much better fit. It is a departure from the Belichick schemes Collins has played in most of his career, but a talented LB like him could flourish here. Vic is a true linebacker whisperer, a term that doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it’s true.

He could fit in potentially at both linebacker spots we’ve seen weakened by injury, and even when Bradley Chubb returns he could continue to be an impact defender.

He could likely be had on the cheaper side of things as he still carries a dead cap of $8.8 Million this season in Detroit. That could be a good thing for the Denver Broncos in any potential talks, and as the injury bug has been a problem early, this team would do well to shore up any thin spots with proven veterans.

Getting a potentially high-level linebacker who can cover two positions is an intriguing enough prospect at this point in our season, but the real kicker is that Collins is a signal-caller. Josey Jewell was settling into this role as the defense’s field general, but now that he’s out of the picture bringing in a veteran with years of experience could help keep this defense in top form.

Of course, there’s an incredibly high chance that Bill Belichick will kick the tires back on his old standby, but I’d love to see him in Orange and Blue instead.