The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Fare thee well, Keith Burns Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's unfortunately time to bid adieu to a longtime friend - Keith Burns, who's spent 18 of his 20 NFL seasons with the Broncos.

At least he's reconvening with an old friend, as he's heading to Washington to coordinate Mike Shanahan's special teams.

Burnsy first joined the Broncos as a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 1994, and he anchored their special teams unit for 11 of the next 13 seasons, with one-year stints with Chicago (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004) sprinkled in between.

The 40-year-old South Carolina native was a part of both of Denver's SB-winning teams, and upon his retirement, he jumped right into coaching, as a ST assistant on Shanny's 2007 squad.

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Forget Welker - what about Harvin? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With the contracts for wideouts Brandon Stokley and Matthew Wilis up, several fans have suggested Denver should pursue New England's Wes Welker in free agency.

But given the contract Welker figures to command ($8M-$10M/year?), and with the team facing much bigger needs (interior offensive/defensive lines, middle linebacker), the receiver would appear to be beyond the team's budgetary restraints.

If the Broncos are interested in adding a dynamic slot receiver (and we have no idea whether they are), then what about pursuing a younger, more explosive version of Welker?

To that end, it's being reported that the Vikings are looking to trade Percy Harvin.

The electric receiver/runner/return man is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and his $2.9M salary would also be his cap number for any team that acquires him via trade. Minnesota would be left with just $1,128,800 of dead money, so that's not a factor.

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Is a wider field a safer one? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! From former CFL, Bills, and Colts exec Bill Polian, via Dan Pompei, comes an intriguing idea for potentially improving the safety of the NFL game.

In the opinion of Polian and Warren Moon, who of course began his pro career up north (because he's black), the CFL's wider field lends itself to smaller, faster players, and fewer big collisions, especially in the middle of the field:

“The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be,” Polian said. “We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out. You have fewer higher power collisions in the Canadian League than here.”

A wider field almost certainly would lead to more scoring, and a shift in the offensive-defensive balance of the NFL. Schemes would be affected. This might not be a bad thing for the NFL. But it would be a radical thing, to use Polian’s word.

This would indeed be a drastic change, and one that demands tireless research to determine its value, before instating. But if it helps preserve the game and the quality of life of the men who play it, then we're all for the idea.

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NFL greats speak out against illegal guns Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! If you read but one football article today in its entirety (you know, aside from this one), we cannot recommend the following one highly enough.

Former longtime AJC reporter Drew Jubera published a book last year about the storied Valdosta High football program, and in a column for the Times, he explains why his long-held resentment toward football coaches was turned completely around by his experience at Valdosta:

The team’s all-American tight end is the son of a former N.F.L. player whose career was cut short by drug addiction. The father later was shot in the head while he was trying to rip off a street dealer for $5 worth of crack. He survived, put his life back together, and showed up to watch practice every day, cane in one hand, determined that his son would not repeat his mistakes.

Those kinds of stories have become a regular part of the human interest features churned out during the buildup to national championship games and Super Bowls.

But for high school coaches in places like Valdosta, where it all begins, those stories are called Monday.

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Peterson suffered sports hernia in Week 10 Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In all honesty, I found it difficult, if not impossible, to muster any outrage at Adrian Peterson having beaten out Peyton Manning for league MVP last weekend.

Of course, I agree with TJ's point that even the worst quarterback is roughly equivalent in value to the best running back. In those terms, Peterson over Manning is similar to Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout in MLB, and I thought that decision was ludicrous.

Perhaps it's because I'm still too busy feeling bitter about Denver's loss to Baltimore and blown opportunity at a Lombardi Trophy.

Whatever the cause, and even if you are upset about the MVP voting, there's some news regarding Peterson that casts his performance as even more incredible than we already knew.

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Broncos down to $14.1M in cap room Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! A week ago, we speculated that Denver's cap space had slipped to around $15M after allowing for incentives and escalators triggered during the 2012 season.

Turns out our number was a bit optimistic, as according to PFT, the Broncos currently have $14.1M in available room, which is down from the $18.5M they had just a month ago.

To be crystal clear, this is a 2013 figure, meaning anyone schedule for unrestricted or restricted free agency is not included on the Denver payroll. Re-signing any or all of Brandon Stokley, Tony Carter, Britton Colquitt, Mitch Unrein, Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, David Bruton, Dan Koppen, and Jason Hunter will eat away at that $14.1M figure.

Re-signing Ryan Clady or applying the franchise tender to him (very likely to occur) would swallow the majority of it.

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Broncos may still move Franklin inside Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As we dive into the 2013 offseason, it's always helpful to be reminded of some of the procedural rules coming into play.

First up is the waiver rule, and this is relevant because almost every article about Detroit's dumping of Titus Young inaccurately describes the move as a release or cut. The problem with that wording is it suggests Young is a free agent who could sign with any team, and that just isn't the case.

As a player with less than four years' service time, Young instead had to be placed through waivers. This is why the Seahawks won't be able to cut Russell Wilson and give him a raise, as some had suggested could happen. He'd have to be waived, and obviously, that would result in him becoming the Chiefs' next starting quarterback.

In Young's case, the Rams were the only team to put in a claim, and he's now their property, rookie contract and all.

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Look for Dumervil to stick around at current pay Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! One of our readers emailed us a fine question yesterday about Denver's offseason strategy as it pertains to Elvis Dumervil. Writes Isaac:

Should the Broncos actively look to move Elvis Dumervil this offseason? Don't get me wrong - I love Elvis. I love having him on this team. However, I do not feel that he is currently worth the amount he is getting paid. I am open to this line of thought based on two factors:

1) His production has not improved to where we hoped it would after his string of injuries and his play does not merit the salary he is due to make.

2) The Broncos need all the help they can get money wise if we are going to keep this team contending for a championship for the next 2-3 seasons.

I do believe we have a servicable replacement already waiting in Robert Ayers, and more help can be brought in via draft/free agency. If we can move his salary AND get draft picks or a good player in return, it is a win/win for the Broncos. Is it time for the Broncos to pursue this move? Should they ask him to re-structure?

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What might have been, and flipping the page

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's kind of hard to know what to feel today. On one hand, there will always be a sense that the 2012 Broncos were good enough to win the Super Bowl, and we won't ever know what might have been had Rahim Moore gotten to his proper depth.

We've wondered for many years what would have happened had Michael Dean Perry just gotten himself off the field a little faster sixteen years ago, or if Champ Bailey had been able to pull in that early would-be pick-six against Ben Roethlisberger nine years later.

1996, 2005, and 2012 are years that could have been, and nothing that happens going forward will erase the sting of those losses.

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Why the HOF’s enshrinement limit should be eliminated

Good Morning, Broncos fans! For many of us, this is a bitter weekend. The Broncos are not playing in the Super Bowl, while the team that is, beat them in large part thanks to a 70-yard Hail Mary pass.

The cherry on top is that no Broncos will be entering the Hall of Fame this year - not Terrell Davis, not Randy Gradishar, neither Karl Mecklenburg nor Steve Atwater. Of course, that's old news, since none of them even made it beyond the semifinal round of voting. Gradishar didn't even get that far this time around.

As HOF voter Jim Trotter stresses, there are plenty of major flaws with the Hall's selection process, not the least of which is TD's exclusion. Trotter makes a fine case on Davis's behalf, and we'll again ask - how many eligible men were the best player on two Super Bowl-winning teams but are not in the HOF?

That should probably be enough on its own, but when you throw in a 2,000-yard season, a league MVP, a SB MVP, and by far the best postseason resume of any running back in history, and TD is a no-brainer.

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