For the second time in the span of 48 hours, the Broncos have added a veteran defender on a one-year deal - this time signing 36-year-old linebacker Keith Brooking. They acquired safety Jim Leonhard on Saturday and placed him on the active PUP list a day later.
Brooking (6-2, 240) is entering his 15th NFL season after 11 years with Atlanta and three in Dallas, where he went from a 16-game starter in 2010 (906 snaps) to seeing more limited play last season (three starts, 408 snaps) after being replaced by Sean Lee.
Since Atlanta took him with the 12th-overall pick in the 1998 Draft, the ex-GT Yellow Jacket has been named to five Pro Bowls and appeared in 209 games (179 starts), racking up 1,069 tackles, 314 assists, 21 sacks, 13 interceptions for 185 yards, 54 passes defensed, and eight forced fumbles. Since 2001, Brooking has played in 176 consecutive games.
Last season, he was credited with 34 tackles, 16 assists, and two passes defensed; only one of his interceptions and none of his forced fumbles have come in the past six seasons.
Although these plaudits are based more upon his 2009 and 2010 seasons, Brooking has been one of the league's better linebackers in terms of both tackling efficiency and pass rushing productivity. His 2011 overall grade from PFF was a subpar -7.8 overall (pretty terrible considering the low number of snaps), down from a +1.8 grade in 2010 and +17.5 score the year before.
But considering his age (he turns 37 in October), let's hope Brooking has been signed for the sake of adding experience and quality depth, and not for an impactful contribution. Think Tim McKyer in 1997 and Seth Joyner in 1998, although both players were 34 in those respective seasons - young bucks compared to Brooking.
We've decried Denver's apparent lack of linebacker depth at several points this offseason, especially as that relates to the continuing presence of D.J. Williams. Of course, that was before we realized that keeping D.J. around made all the sense in the world. Williams is expected to miss at least the first six games of the year, leaving Wesley Woodyard the presumptive starter at the Will spot and unproven youngsters Danny Trevathan, Nate Irving, and Mike Mohamed on the second team.
Beyond those three, Denver has three undrafted rookie linebackers on the roster. The addition of Brooking can't speak well to their progress through a week and a half of training camp.
Brooking is expected to make his practice debut on Saturday, and he takes the roster spot left vacant by the Achilles injury to running back Mario Fannin, who cleared waivers and was placed on IR today.