Lost in the NFL Draft coverage over the weekend was the Denver Broncos signing of Shaun Phillips. We touched on it a little in our Saturday coverage, but the acquisition is worthy of more discussion. Phillips signing with the Broncos is more than just an afterthought; it’s a significant move.
The Broncos have been in the market for a veteran pass rusher since Elvis Dumervil left via free agency for the Baltimore Ravens. The focus had been on Dwight Freeney and to a lesser extent, John Abraham. Both of those players are demanding more money than the Broncos want to pay, and Abraham’s demands are insane. He wants a multi-year contract for $12 million a year, and he’s 34. No one is going to give him that, especially not the Broncos.
As John Elway has done, he moved onto the next step and that step was Phillips. He fits what the Broncos need on the field and he also fits into the financial puzzle. Like it or not, those two things have to come together in any free agent signing.
Take away the money and an argument can certainly be made that Phillips is the best of the three. He had 9.5 sacks with the San Diego Chargers last season which was more than what Freeney had with the Indianapolis Colts. It is also on the same level of production when compared to Abraham. Phillips is also the youngest of the three at 31 years old (Freeney is 33 and Abraham is 34).
Phillips brings more than just being a pass rusher as he can play all over the front seven and that gives the Broncos options. One of the things defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio wants to do is move Von Miller around making it harder for offenses to account for him.
In order to do that, the Broncos needed someone who could play the strong-side linebacker spot when Miller is being moved around. Phillips can do that and do it well. On obvious passing downs, Phillips will line up a defensive end opposite of Miller. As mentioned, Phillips had 9.5 sacks last season and he did that without a Miller on the other side. The two of them could easily combine for 30 sacks in 2013, especially if the offense does what everyone thinks they are going to do and the Broncos are playing with the lead.
Phillips, especially when compared to Freeney, is an every down player. He stops the run and often gets penetration allowing others to make a play in the backfield. In addition to the sacks in 2012, Phillips had 50 tackles and two forced fumbles on a bad football team. Throw in the fact that he agreed to a contract loaded with incentives and the Broncos have a very motivated football player.
Phillips may not have been the name that everyone heard in terms of free agent pass rushers, but he is the best fit for the Broncos.
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