ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It was just a punchline offered in passing on Friday. But as the Denver Broncos worked on their free-agency plan through the weekend, it continues to be the theme of the team’s offseason work.
John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations/general manager, was asked if he planned to talk to any prospective free agents who weighed less than 300 pounds. He laughed and said “no."
He was joking, but only a little, as the Broncos’ work in the open market -- including the addition of defensive tackle Domata Peko and nose tackle Zach Kerr on Sunday -- continues to be a football version of a really big and tall shop. The Broncos have thus far reeled in guard Ronald Leary, tackle Menelik Watson, Peko and Kerr.
Peko and Kerr agreed to terms this weekend. It's certainly no shock, because Elway has spoken often about “attitude" and cranking up the Broncos’ ability to be physical on both lines after the team didn't make the playoffs this past season, Denver's first postseason miss since 2010.
Peko, 32, is a bit of a departure from Elway’s preferred profile in free agency, but he has been both highly productive and durable in his career. Peko has started 16 games in each of the past seven seasons, and has played in 16 games in 10 of his previous 11 seasons. At 325 pounds, he can play the power end in the Broncos’ 3-4 front on defense or move inside as a nose tackle in some of the team’s specialty looks.
The Broncos eyed plenty of candidates for the nose tackle job in free agency, meeting with Earl Mitchell, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers, and Chris Baker, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Overall, the Broncos were on the hunt for physical players in the defensive front who can improve their run defense -- they were 28th against the run last season, allowing 130.3 yards per game -- and eat up some blockers to free the team’s edge rushers, especially Von Miller.
Miller did not have a sack in the team’s last four games in 2016, facing a steady diet of double- and triple-teams as the Broncos struggled to beat single blocks in the middle of the formation.
That helps explain the Broncos’ approach to the open market thus far, as Elway has said the offensive and defensive lines are among the priorities. With power players Leary and Watson on board along the offensive line, Elway said they're “exactly the kind of player we were looking for."