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Broncos Mailbag: Is edge rusher really a need for Denver or should Sean Payton’s team focus on DL instead?

Hello Parker! Quarterbacks talks aside, I don’t really get why edge rushers are seen by many as this big need. I totally agree that we need more out of our group, and even though they showed growth, maybe they’re already near their ceiling. Or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that we already have a young group that got better, and apparently Drew Sanders is joining them, which makes for an already crowded room.

Unless you know you can get the next Von Miller, I don’t think you help the group by getting another player just for the sake of adding one. What might help them though? More pressure inside. Super Bowl champions have obviously good rosters overall, but still, the last three had the likes of Vita Vea, Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. This is the new NFL. Get a rushing mate to Zach Allen and get nasty inside. So, to you, what’s the more pressing need? Edge rusher or defensive lineman?

— Yoann, Beine-Nauroy, France

Hey Yoann, great question and thanks for getting us going this week.

The edge conversation is an interesting one, but to me it’s a need. There are a couple of reasons. One is, to put it simply, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Plain and simple. The Broncos’ young group of Baron Browning, Nik Bonitto, Jonathon Cooper and maybe Drew Sanders is promising, but at the end of the day Denver’s pass-rush group typically rated in the bottom third in the NFL in 2023. Not only that, but Browning and Cooper are entering the final years of their rookie contracts.

Moreover, while they’re all useful players, the Broncos don’t have a game-tilter on the edge. And could you really expect that with where the current group came from? Bonitto’s a late second-rounder, Sanders and Browning were third-rounders and Cooper a seventh-rounder. The hit rate on first-round pass-rushers isn’t perfect, but it’s the best place to find premium talent.

Your points about more interior rush are well-taken, though. Allen came on strong over the course of the year, but the DL struggled overall. So, what to do? It’s a deep defensive tackle class in free agency, but you’re going to have somewhat limited resources there. Texas’ Byron Murphy and Illinois’ Johnny Newton are probably first-round picks. There are other interesting players, too. I talked at the Senior Bowl with Florida State’s Brandon Fiske, Oregon’s Brandon Dorlus and Ohio State’s Michael Hall. All interesting guys and athletic interior defensive linemen. Certainly a mid-round possibility.

Overall, the front seven in general needs help. Edge, DL, linebacker. Any of them, all of them. And the time for action is drawing near.

So with the NFL combine over, which players will the Broncos continue to gush over until the draft next month?

— Ed Helinski, Auburn, N.Y.

Hey Ed, Good question. Of all the times it would be great to be a fly on the wall in an NFL team’s facility, draft meetings have to be right up near the top of the list.

Obviously, the Broncos are going to continue to do extensive work on the quarterback class. You’ll see them get on the caravan and do the pro day circuit for most or all of those players and host many of them for 30 visits and/or private workouts. The whole nine yards.

They’re in a bit of a tough spot at the moment considering they’re set to watch more than 60 players come off the board between No. 12 and No. 76.

The quarterbacks will get so much attention, but they’ll also be trying to figure out if one of the guys I mentioned above can be a Dre’Mont Jones-type third-round defensive line find. Or if they can find a Quinn Meinerz on Day 2. Or if any of this year’s tight end group beyond Georgia’s Brock Bowers — Maybe Kansas State’s Ben Sinnott or Penn State’s Theo Johnson — can inject some juice into that room.

Hey Parker, who impressed you at the combine that could be a mid- to late-round pick for us? Also, any chance the Broncos pick up Luke McCaffrey in the draft?

— Mike, Denver

Great question, Mike. Let’s get to a couple of skill guys since so much of the first-round talk with Denver is about the quarterbacks. After that, it seems like the options are offensive tackle, edge and corner. Or at least that’s how the Draft Industrial Complex sees the top half of the first round currently.

I’m not sure the Broncos are going to see value in taking a running back in the mid rounds, but USC’s Marshawn Lloyd and Kentucky’s Ray Davis both looked the part when I saw them on the field three straight days at the Senior Bowl. Then at the combine, Louisville’s Isaac Guerendo put on a show, running 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 221 pounds.

There will likely be a ton of receivers taken in the first 75 picks, but here are four guys who stood out to me at the Senior Bowl but might not go super early: Florida’s Ricky Pearsall is a smooth operator. UCF’s Javon Baker is impressive, too, and can really run for his size. Similar with Georgia’s Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. Arizona’s Jacob Cowing isn’t real big (5-11 and 175) but he was really good that week before an injury cut it short. Fortunate for him: He bounced back quickly enough to run 4.38 at the combine.

McCaffrey would fit nicely with the Broncos, though Payton does like playing with big slot players rather than the more traditional smaller, quicker guys. I covered McCaffrey’s recruitment to Nebraska and his two years there, so it was fun to catch up with him this offseason. When you watch him, watch how quickly he goes from catching the ball to top speed. It’s like he never even considers slowing down. And he got some quality time at the Senior Bowl with Broncos analyst Logan Kilgore, who coached tight ends but also returners, where McCaffrey got a bunch of work.

Parker, There is an age-old problem at Broncos’ press conferences (and elsewhere) that continues to be overlooked or ignored. The questions asked by the media are rarely audible to the general public when live or on playback. Without hearing the questions, the answers are often meaningless or at the very least, confusing for the consumer. In this age of high technology, isn’t there an answer? A boom mic? A hand-held mic to pass around? Even low-tech answers like shouting? Or simply repeating the question by the person who answers? It seems like a little thoughtful preparation could make these pressers much more meaningful. As it is, they are often nearly worthless for the fans. Can something be done?

— A Referee, Greeley

Hey Ref,

Coming with the hard-hitting stuff this week. I like it.

The Broncos’ outdoor podium area — where most of the in-season stuff happens — has a mic pointed toward reporters, but there are a lot of us and so it doesn’t always pick up clearly. Sometimes inside a mic gets handed around, though reporters — at least this one — will tell you it leads to a much stuffier proceeding and less back-and-forth, follow-ups, etc.

Just not sure there’s a great solution that allows for natural rhythm and everyone’s questions to get heard clearly. Though that’s also not my department.

Kinda like your idea about shouting, though. Maybe I’ll just start yelling my questions at top volume at Payton from now on and then, when he looks at me like I have three heads, I’ll do what so many have done before: Blame the Ref.

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