Join Date: May 2004
Location: Deer Park, TX
Here's a pretty good article from LP of ESPN.com, and he does a good job of highlighting why the Broncos were so desperate to sign the Cleveland foursome. It's a long read, but it's got some good info. ESPN.com
Their hardly flattering resumes notwithstanding, the onetime Cleveland linemen each will be counted upon to play major roles in the refurbished Denver defensive front. But why were the Broncos so incredibly desperate to restock? Why was Denver so willing to roll the dice on players whose careers keep coming up snake-eyes?
Well, in large part because the Broncos' organization has been so bad, and suffered such misfortune, in drafting defensive linemen.
Unlike the NFL's best and most stable teams, the Broncos don't grow defensive linemen. And, thus, Denver seems to be forever addressing its defensive line needs in the always dicey free-agent market. That usually means throwing good money after players who are in decline. None of the former Cleveland linemen are getting big deals financially, but all are stop-gaps, not players to develop for the long run.
And that inability, the failure to draft players and successfully raise them up through your own system, has been a glaring Broncos shortcoming.
Of the 10 defensive linemen who appeared in games for Denver in 2004, just three -- ends Reggie Hayward and Trevor Pryce and tackle Monsanto Pope -- originally were Denver draft choices. The Broncos' defensive line was like a halfway house for veteran free-agent players like Marco Coleman, Luther Elliss, Darius Holland, Ellis Johnson, Anton Palepoi and Raylee Johnson. Two of those players were added after the start of the season. If you were a defensive lineman who was released, and you had a pulse, chances were good that the Broncos were going to sign you.
Compare the Denver situation to that of, say, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Pats are loaded with young, viable and vital defensive linemen because coach Bill Belichick has made the position, and depth at it, a priority. New England took defensive linemen in the first round of three of the last four drafts. They also invested a couple of second-round picks on the defensive line during that stretch.
The kind of lopsided and unhealthy reliance on free-agent linemen that Denver has demonstrated of late, magnified again over the past month with the fixation on former Cleveland defenders, can be traced to the draft failures of the past. Ineptitude in the draft, and crucial injuries post-draft, have created a culture of failure. Instead of a unit manned by young talent, nurtured through the Denver system, the Broncos instead have holes that have to be filled by free agents or trade acquisitions plucked from other teams' rosters.
Such an approach, characteristically, is a recipe for failure and salary cap problems. The Broncos, it's fair to say, have suffered plenty of both. Someone noted on another site this week that Denver might yet hit a "home run" with its four Cleveland imports. Truth is, the Broncos wouldn't need a home run if they'd just slugged a few doubles, instead of having so many whiffs, with their defensive line selections over the past decade.
Since the arrival of coach Mike Shanahan in '95, the Broncos have selected 13 defensive linemen in 10 lotteries, and the overall results have pretty much been catastrophic. Think the Broncos have had problems choosing cornerbacks? The defensive line selections have been far worse.
Six of the 13 defensive linemen never played in a single game for the Broncos and another appeared in just nine contests. Denver invested four choices on defensive linemen in 2002 -- Nick Eason, Bryant McNeal, Aaron Hunt and Clint Mitchell -- and none has ever gotten onto the field for a game in a Broncos uniform.
Originally Posted by gwallaia
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