DENVER — Vic Fangio brings a no-nonsense approach as a first-time head coach. His players praise his honesty and creativity, with Bears linebacker Khalil Mack coining him an "evil genius." To execute brilliant schemes, it requires the right pieces. The Broncos defense showed improvement last season in takeaways and sacks, but remained a shadow of the unit that barefisted its way to the Super Bowl 50 victory. Denver finished 13th in points allowed per game (21.8), 14th in passing touchdowns against and 21st in stopping the run.
The Broncos require better at multiple positions. And while the offensive needs include linemen, a tight end and a receiver, the defense boasts concerns at linebacker and corner.
At outside linebacker, the Broncos are set with starters Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. However, depth is lacking beyond second-year player Jeff Holland. Veteran Shane Ray is expected to leave in free agency, and Shaquil Barrett might join him. The Broncos maintain interest in keeping Barrett, a former CSU star. He hasn't ruled it out. But there's a caveat.
"I still wanna start, too," Barrett told Denver7. "I just wanna play and be on the field on the last drive instead of on the sideline."
Barrett is prepared to test free agency, evaluating opportunities. He is not closing any doors. Barrett boasts 14 career sacks as a key reserve.
The inside linebacker spot is a more pressing need. The Broncos want to supplement the duo of Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. Davis is a strong run stopper and Jewell, despite lacking speed, showed good instincts as he made Brandon Marshall expendable this offseason. Denver has been connected to LSU's Devon White with the 10th overall pick. White helped his case by running a 4.42 40-yard dash last week at the NFL Combine. Another player Denver is expected to at least inquire about is Baltimore's C.J. Mosley. ESPN reported Monday that the Ravens will not franchise tag the veteran, which would make him a free agent.
Mosley, 26, is a four-time All-Pro and has ranked in the top 10 in tackles in a season twice.
Fangio discussed the inside linebacker spot last week.
"We need to add to that group," Fangio said, "but I like some of the players we do have available there in Todd Davis, Josey Jewell and other players that have played in backup roles. But I'd like to see us add a player or two there to be competitive."
Speculation is beginning to simmer around free agency. On March 11, clubs can begin talking with agents of players who will become free agents on March 13 at 2 p.m. Denver is expected to be active, casting a wide net. The Broncos need a cornerback -- they would like to supplement their group before the draft -- and names like the Colts' Pierre Desir, Packers' Bashaud Breeland, and the Texans' Kareem Jackson could make sense.