|04-02-2007, 07:53 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
A look at the man in the middle
Russell Dillard in Richmond, Va., leads off a horde of those who wondered about the Broncos' attempted trade of Al Wilson . . .
Q: OK, I realize again that Shanahan and Co. know what they are doing. I love the guy to death, but apparently Al Wilson is damaged goods. It is a shame. He is such a tough SOB. The neck is obviously not something to mess around with. Could this be the beginning of the end for one of the best Broncos ever?
And A.P. Crisafi . . .
Q: This Al Wilson trade really has me scratching my head. Looking back, its almost as if Shanahan wants to dismantle the whole thing, getting rid of Mike Anderson, Trevor Pryce, Plummer, and now Al Wilson? I just donít understand it. All had a lot of good years left, and experience, as well as being a large part of the leadership. Is there something going on here?
And Dr. Stuart Penk . . .
Q: I, too, am saddened by the news of Al Wilson's (near) departure to the wastelands of the NFC East. I've got to believe that the Broncos are not so cold-hearted as to be like every other money-motivated team, but instead they take care of their own. Al Wilson has really played his heart out week after week for how many years? There must be underlying reasons other than cap space or inability to renegotiate.
And John Barrows in Marshall, Minn. . . .
Q: I am really disappointed in the recent news of a possible trade of Al Wilson. I think this is a horrible move if it does happen. I would compare it to when the Avalanche traded Chris Drury. Unless a team is going to overpay big time, it would be really stupid to trade away a team leader and Pro Bowl player. Denver needs defense; we need playmakers to stop other teams, and Al Wilson is a playmaker. Why are the Broncos even considering it?
A: Few things since the Inbox first opened for business have incited the response that came with the Broncos attempted trade of Wilson to the Giants.
The Broncos had worked out a deal for a draft pick in next month's draft -- most likely it would have either been a third- or fourth-rounder had the trade been finalized -- but the Giants failed Wilson on his physical because of concerns about his neck.
However, Shanahan said Tuesday that he believes, after consulting with the Broncos medical staff as well as a specialist who has examined Wilson in recent seasons, Wilson is still healthy enough to either play for the Broncos or another team in the '07 season.
He called the Giants move "a little strange'' and "surprising.''
Overall, Wilson has four years remaining on his contract at a significant hit on the salary cap -- at least $6 million in each of those four years. There is some feeling within the Broncos that, despite his Pro Bowl selection in '06, that Wilson didn't play up to his usual level this past season.
Couple that with some neck trouble that he has had in his career to go with thumb surgeries after each of the last two seasons -- he played in a cast for most of this past season as well as some of the '05 season -- and there is some concern that he has taken a pounding that may begin to affect his play.
Wilson has given everything he has had to the defense. But scouts in the league are wondering if, at 29 and slightly undersized at his position, the punishment he has absorbed in many 100-tackle seasons isn't starting to catch up with him.
From Wilson's perspective, he was apprised they were trying to trade him and he likely feels better about moving somewhere that he can start if it looks as if his playing time might get cut in Denver. Should he remain in Denver, he likely is looking at a scenario where he plays a lot less on third down to get D.J. Williams on the field more with Ian Gold in the team's nickel package -- it includes just two linebackers in the five-defensive back look.
Also, the Broncos offseason moves have made it clear the team was not happy with its offense with the major signings in free agency coming on that side of the ball. But defense took its fair share of anger as well.
Shanahan let three defensive assistants go, including former defensive coordinator Larry Coyer -- the most changes he has made in one swath on one side of the ball. Also Tuesday, he said Gerard Warren, who signed a multiyear deal before the '06 season and then struggled with his conditioning after toe injuries for much of this past season, needed to play far better in '07.
The market for Wilson may now be tempered somewhat because of a failed physical, but every team has its own standards. It's certainly possible -- and often happens in similar situations -- another team would look at him and clear him to play.
It varies team to team. So Wilson's agent -- Peter Schaffer -- is still free to find a trading partner and has said he would continue to do that.
Shanahan has made it clear he could see Wilson still playing for the Broncos in '07 if nothing is worked out. They would likely try to re-negotiate Wilson's deal if he stays on the roster, but it could still end up that way.
Teams will be on the hunt for more trades just before the draft, so things could pick up again for the Broncos if they still wish to trade Wilson.
John Coates in Houston looked at the wide receivers, among others . . .
Q: If (Brandon) Stokely gets healthy, and plays as he is capable, do you think this means Rod Smith is now history, for all practical purposes? Also, what is the deal on (Alvin) McKinley? I thought (the Broncos) were through taking the Browns' rejects? Is this just trying to add depth? Why don't they bring Myers back?
John Conroy also took a look . . .
Q: I'm sure you're going to get a lot of questions about what you make of the signing of Brandon Stokley. It seemed to me that the Broncos were set at wide receiver this year with (Javon) Walker, (Brandon) Marshall and (Rod) Smith as the top three. I thought a healthy Domenik Hixon would be a great fourth receiver, who would probably be the third receiver in 2008, assuming Smith calls it quits after this year. I thought David Kircus played well last year, and I thought Shanahan liked the way Brian Clark played, but now I'm not too sure how confident the Broncos are in either one of them . . . How many wide receivers do you think the Broncos will carry this year, and what do you project their roles to be? It seems to me that Smith, Stokely, Kircus and Clark may be competing for two slots on the team.
A: Smith's health, as well as Stokley's, does bring a little uncertainty to the position. Smith had hip surgery this offseason and isn't expected to be full speed until some point in training camp.
Shanahan said Smith played with the injury much of last season, and it does explain why some scouts thought Smith was not showing his usual explosiveness in and out of his cuts.
For his part, Stokley is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon and is not yet running full speed. It could be summer until he is 100 percent ready as well.
Also, with Marshall's arrest Monday on domestic violence charges and a new, tougher discipline policy from the league set to be finalized in January, he could be facing some kind of suspension -- likely a short one, but it's still possible -- as well.
So things will be in flux, at least through training camp. Routinely the Broncos have kept five or six receivers through the years. To go to seven would be rare, and the seventh would almost certainly have to be the team's full-time returner and at least two of the other receivers would have to be regulars on kick and punt coverage.
Hixon, whom special teams coach Scott O'Brien likes as a prospect, could certainly earn that returner role. So, Kircus and Clark, if Hixon can indeed push his way into the lineup as a returner, would likely be fighting for a spot under a scenario where the Broncos keep six.
If they eventually choose to keep five receivers, that makes it more difficult to divide up that second tier at the position. Hixon, Clark and Kircus will get some time as returners in the preseason so that may decide the issue among them.
But that's a long way off, and a lot of things can happen before then.
As far as McKinley, the Broncos were looking for some depth in the rotation. He played end in the Browns' 3-4 last season so that makes him a little quicker than most tackles if he moves inside to tackle in the Broncos 4-3.
Scouts are divided on McKinley. Some believe he is a productive player who has flashed some high-quality play over his seasons, but some think he's not all that instinctive at times and gets caught up in the traffic.
But the Broncos still have the draft to go and would also gladly take Myers back if they get closer to training camp and Myers still doesn't have a deal from another team.