Broncos' free agent options at defensive line

Broncos' free agent options at defensive line
Posted at 4:38 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 18:49:15-05

DENVER -- In a Broncos' meeting room at Dove Valley, the players discuss and visualize goals. 

They are reminded of benchmarks, like holding opponents to less than 3.7 yards per rush. The Broncos pulled it off five times last season, bluntly explaining their sobering issues against the run. Opponents gashed the Broncos for 130.3 yards per game, fifth worst in the NFL. 

"Obviously it's the run defense," defensive coordinator Joe Woods told Denver7 on his top priority. "This (past) season was very different than the season before. We didn't have the same amount of success. We need to look at the different ways to attack from a scheme and execution standpoint and how we coached it. It's a little bit of everything. We are going to fix it."

Adding bigger bodies is a start. The Broncos will eye defensive linemen in the draft, but are expected to dip their toes in the free agent waters, too. Depending how their pursuit of offensive linemen works out -- the Broncos will likely attempt to add a tackle and a guard -- it will impact the money available under the salary cap. The free agent options remains enticing. My look at potential candidates: 

Brandon Williams, NT, Baltimore Ravens

The list starts and stops with this brute. Kind of like ball carriers in his path. Williams is an elite run stopper. He could command as much as $12 million annually. He is that good when looking at comparables. Williams made 51 tackles last season and anchored a Baltimore run defense that allowed 89.4 yards per game. I only see Broncos playing on Williams if they decide to address their offensive line issues through the draft or at a modest cost.

Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals

If this was guy was the Broncos' top offseason signing, would fans be OK with that? They might, though the offensive line issues would continue to create squirms. Campbell, pictured above, is a former local star at Denver South High School. He held the state sack record until my nephew, Corte Tapia of Windsor, broke it. Campbell remains a versatile pass rusher capable of stopping the run. That comes with a high cost and competition. Several suitors make sense for Campbell, including the Cowboys and Steelers. 

DL Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers

At 27, Short could enter free agency in his prime. It was believed the Panthers parted ways with cornerback Josh Norman a year ago to save money for Short. The Panthers could use the franchise tag on him. He would fit with nearly any team, including the Broncos. Again, the price is a part of the puzzle as the Broncos need to address several issues.

NT Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs

Poe is a mountain of a man. And has a decent arm. Who can forget his Tebow-esque jump pass against the Broncos on Christmas night? Multiple Broncos players believe the team needs to add girth up front. Poe goes roughly 350 pounds, so he would qualify. However, he is not as stout against the run as you might think for a player who will command top dollar on the market.

DT Dominique Easley, L.A. Rams

Easley is young, and should be modestly priced. Is he an ideal fit for the Broncos? That's debatable, but he's the type of sleeper that can define a free agent class. Others in this mode include the Patriots' Alan Branch, Redskins' Chris Baker and the Saints' Nick Fairley, a former Auburn star whose inconsistent career regained some traction last season.

DT Earl Mitchell, Miami Dolphins

He is scheduled to visit the Broncos on Wednesday. He played for defensive line coach Bill Kollar in Houston, so he has familiarity with the system and scheme. Mitchell was limited to a half-season a year ago because of a lingering calf injury. At the right price, he could be a nice rotational piece on a defensive line that needs multiple additions. 


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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at