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Examining Earl Mitchell's potential fit on the Broncos

Zac Stevens Avatar
February 22, 2017


The Denver Broncos must have not received the memo that the 2017 new league year doesn’t begin until March 9. With over two weeks left until the official start of next season’s operations, the staff at the UCHealth Training Center is deep in 2017 mode. Their first official move, after putting together a coaching staff, is welcoming free agent defensive lineman Earl Mitchell in for a visit on Wednesday.

After being released by the Miami Dolphins last week—in an effort to save salary cap space—Mitchell hit the market as a hot commodity. Just hours after losing his job, Mitchell had interest from a number of teams around the league, including the Broncos.

With Mitchell expected to land in the Mile High City Wednesday, it appears the interest was mutual, however not exclusive. Before stopping in Denver to meet with general manager John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph and his staff, the defensive lineman had visits with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers earlier in the week and is expected to meet with the Atlanta Falcons directly after leaving Denver.

While his services may not be easy to get, there are many reasons the Broncos brass is interested in potentially adding him to their defensive unit. First and foremost is his familiarity. Although Mitchell has never been a Bronco, the coaching staff knows him just as well, if not better, as players currently on the roster. Not only was Joseph Mitchell’s defensive coordinator last season in Miami, Mitchell played for current Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar when they were both members of the Houston Texans from 2010-13.

Additionally, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman fits one of the Broncos’ biggest weaknesses: stopping the run. After falling from the third-best team against the run in 2015 to the fifth-worst just a year later, Denver needs additional help to try to bring them back to their form two years ago, and Mitchell would be a move in that direction.

Often classified as a defensive tackle, Mitchell would actually be a defensive end in Denver’s 3-4 scheme. If the 29-year old were to sign with the Broncos after March 9, he and Jared Crick would likely rotate with each other at one defensive end spot opposite of Derek Wolfe.

Although Mitchell is certainly not Malik Jackson, he would be a piece of the puzzle in helping replace Jackson a year removed, specifically against the run.

Signing Mitchell should come at a significantly lower cost than Jackson as well. Mitchell was due to make $4 million with the Dolphins in 2017 and seeing that Miami cut him instead of trying to trade him indicates that his value isn’t much more than that. However, he could receive more on the open market especially if he continues to draw interest from multiple teams like he has so far.

Unlike most other free agents that have to wait until March 9 to sign with a new team, Mitchell could sign with the Broncos immediately as he is not currently under contract. While the fit seems natural on paper, only time will tell if the two sides agree.

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