ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Maybe now some of the public panic over the pace of the Broncos’ free-agent activity can fade away.
With the Monday morning re-signing of five-year veteran Marcus Thomas, the additions of defensive end Derrick Harvey and tight ends Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario and an afternoon trade of an undisclosed late 2013 draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Brodrick Bunkley, Denver added moderate-to-low-cost depth to positions in need of it.
With Thomas and Rosario, the Broncos know what they’re getting.
THOMAS played the first two years of his Broncos career in the 4-3 and will return there, likely competing for the nose tackle slot. At minimum, he’s a solid, steady rotational player who might not wreak much havoc, but can occupy a blocker.
The deep knowledge of Rosario’s skill set comes, of course, from his time with John Fox in Carolina from 2007-10, when he was the Panthers’ most polished pass catcher among their tight end complement but went without a touchdown last year, which likely had more to do with the Panthers’ complement of overmatched quarterbacks than any flaws in Rosario’s game.
“He probably had his best year in the NFL a year ago,” Fox said, “so he’ll add to that tight end competition.”
Rosario can also be a threat lining up in the slot and has often motioned into the backfield to assume an H-back/fullback-type role on occasional snaps. Don’t be surprised to see the Broncos use him in this way, and expect to see him in motion on most of his plays, given his ability to get open from multiple positions.
FELLS promises to offer competition for Rosario; he actually had more catches, yardage and touchdowns than Rosario in 2010 (which also meant he outpaced the entire Denver complement of tight ends in all three categories). However, his strength is as a blocker, which plays well in how Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy liked to use tight ends in Carolina, along with then-offensive coordinators Dan Henning and Jeff Davidson, they typically had three tight ends on the 45-man active roster, with frequent use of two tight-end sets.
Incumbent tight ends Dan Gronkowski and Richard Quinn should have every reason to feel threatened by the arrivals of Fells and Rosario, because it seems a near-certainty that rookies Julius Thomas and Virgil Green will stick on the roster in some capacity. Indeed, the purpose of the signings could be to create a four-man veteran competition to decide who will provide the buffer that allows the rookies to develop and not be rushed into service. This is an especially crucial concern in regards to Thomas; as impressive as he has been at training camp he still has less football experience than anyone else on the roster.
BUNKLEY might benefit from a change of scenery. After starting every game in which he played from 2007-09, the Florida State alumnus only started five of 14 games last year, but was still considered to be solidly in their mix until they signed ex-Packers defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins in free agency.
The ” change of scenery” theory might come into play for HARVEY; the difference is that he didn’t have a proven record of success during his three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being the eighth overall in 2008. Harvey only had eight sacks in 47 career games for the Jaguars, who finally lost patience with him and benched him for Austen Lane last season.
If the Broncos were asking Harvey to start, the move would arch eyebrows. But Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers already appear entrenched as the ends, with Von Miller likely to see some pass-rush work at one of the end spots. There’s little harm that can come from giving Harvey a look, so why not?
Of the five Broncos pickups in in the last 24 hours, Harvey is the least likely to start. All of the others can be expected to at least push for first-team work, if not become solid starters entirely.
These aren’t the moves that will draw national headlines, but they’re the kind that can help the Broncos avoid being as devoid of depth as they were in 2010.