Williams, who is about to turn 35, joined the Broncos in 2010 to become the starting nose tackle in Josh McDaniels’ 3-4 defensive alignment. Though only able to play a limited amount of snaps due to his age, Williams was a solid player, but he was never able to return to the pro bowl level at which he played before suffering a season ending triceps injury during the first game of the 2009 season. He was a due a $1 million dollar roster bonus along with a $4.2 million dollar salary in the upcoming season.
Bannan, a CU graduate, was very disappointed to learn of his release. After signing a five year, $22 million dollar contract with the Broncos last off season and starting all 16 games at left end this year, Bannan planned on making Colorado his new home. Talking to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Bannan said: “I've never been so blindsided. I've never been so confident that I held up my end of the bargain. I did my job. I gave it everything I had. It broke my heart. I want to stay in Colorado. I love the people. I know I'm going to stay in that community. I'm just not going to be able to work there."
The team asked both Bannan and Williams to take a pay cut which they refused, leading to their release a day later. Though the Broncos are interested in bringing Bannan back at a reduced price, Bannan seems likely to move on, possibly resigning with his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.
Kevin Vickerson, who was a restricted free agent under the expiring CBA, received an “original round” tender from the Broncos earlier this week. However, depending on the terms of the new CBA, he might have become a free agent, so the Broncos signed the defensive lineman to a new two year contract to avoid completely depleting the defensive line after cutting Bannan and Williams. The only other remaining defensive tackles would have been Louis Leonard, who previously played for coach John Fox in Carolina, and Mitch Unrein.
Ronald Fields, a defensive tackle who spent the last two seasons with the Broncos, is also a free agent. Denver likely will not re-sign him, leaving the team very thin at the defensive tackle position, and making it even more certain that the team will look to add some talented players there through the draft. But with a defensive line draft class that is deeper than previous years, there could not be a better time to do it. The Broncos are in a great position to pick up a top lineman in Nick Fairley, Da’Quan Bowers or Marcel Dareus at the top of the draft, but also could opt to use their second round picks on players such as Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea, who both impressed at the NFL Combine.