Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/6/12

Broncos LB D.J. Williams (#55) making a tackle in a home game against the Bills

When the Broncos’ 2011 season came to a close, not only did it mark the end of one of the NFL’s most prolific roller coaster rides of a story, but it also left the fan with a couple heart attacks, potentially anger management issues, and a 2012 dream.  The Tim Tebow lead Broncos were exciting and breathe taking, but only for the final quarter… which later became known as “Tebow Time.”  During “Tebow Time,” the fan would get every one of his/her hard earned penny’s worth.  Although the first three quarters were embarrassing and depressing, the fourth quarter clearly filled the fan with that which was lacking; hope.  The immediate football fan would proclaim that the excitement was solely due to the enigmatic ways Tim Tebow would bring his team from behind and finish the game in the winner’s circle.  However, just about every sports analyst would tell you, “First credit the defense.”  Interestingly enough, they would all be correct.  For as the defense went, so did the Broncos.  Granted that the defense is half the team, but if it were not for key stops produced by the Broncos’ D, then Tebow Time would have sounded more like, “I want to forget Tebow’s Time?”  On this defense is a man that has remained a cornerstone sense 2004.  He was a starter when the team went to the AFC Championship, and he has played for every one of the past six defensive coordinators.  He has over 600 total career solo tackles and during his career as a Bronco, he has played in more games than the future hall of famer Champ Bailey.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen; the man is the one and only D.J. Williams.

D.J. Williams was drafted in the first round by then head coach Mike Shanahan at number 17 overall in 2004.  Sense then, D.J. has solidified his role in the NFL as a legitimate LB and could easily be starting on any NFL roster.  Sense 2004, D.J. Williams has only missed eight games.  As a result, in the eight years D.J. Williams has been a Bronco, he has played in 120 games (not including playoff appearances).  He has tallied up a combined 810 tackles in his career, 617 of which were solo (NFL.com).  During his career, the defensive coordinator carousel has been never ending and as a result, D.J. Williams has played in every LB position possible.  He is a die-hard football player and is one heck of a tackling machine.  Unfortunately (and unfairly), he has yet to see a pro-bowl but still continues to be one of the more dominant linebackers in the game.  However, apparently cutting ties with D.J. Williams remains to be quite the possibility.

It has been widely reported and is now public news that D.J. Williams is facing a six game suspension due to drug abuse and could possibly be facing even heavier punishment as a result of DUI that he has yet to go to court for.  Currently, D.J. Williams is looking to appeal the six game suspension standing upon the premise that his urine sample was mishandled by the NFL.  Assuming the most optimistic situation for D.J., he would still have to face possible punishment for his DUI charge.  In a worst case scenario, D.J. Williams may be facing up to 8 games suspension.  Now, for anyone out there doing the math, that’s half of the 16 game season, which at what point the Broncos could very well be out of the playoff run entirely.  On the other hand, they may very well still be in the run and would love to see D.J. return to the team completely healthy and ready to go for the remainder of the season.  Now, as it stands, D.J. Williams is set to make $5 million for the 2012 season and then $6 million in 2013 based on a restructured contract he signed back in 2009.  By cutting ties with D.J., the Broncos would then essentially be saving $11 million.  The problem of course is that you no longer have D.J. Williams.

Now, many in the Bronco fan nation believe it’s time to cut ties with the unappreciated and underrated LB.  They believe that when a prodigy becomes a problem, it is best to remove the problem so as to develop new prodigies.  Is that really such a good idea?  Sense 2004 the only other Defensive Bronco to remain on the team has been the sensational Champ Bailey.  Anyone else drafted or signed  has sense been released and is currently either unemployed or employed elsewhere.  But after going through three head coaches and six different defensive coordinators, one can only be impressed that he is still an obvious starter year in and year out.  The only thing anyone ever talks about is, “What position will D.J. be playing this year?”

Assuming the Broncos did wish to cut D.J., they would be cutting a guy who averages little more than 75 solo tackles a year and replacing him with who?  Behind D.J. is Wesley Woodyard, an undrafted free agent who just completed his 4th and best NFL season with 67 solo tackles and 97 combined.  He is set to make $1.5 million and has impressed coaches sense his arrival in Denver.  Make no mistake, there’s a reason Williams starts over Woodyard.  However, Woodyard would save the Broncos about $3.5 million this year and $4 million next year.  With the brutal hit the Broncos are taking in terms of cap space with new QB Peyton Manning, it could be that D.J. Williams is a casualty of cap.  However, behind Wesley Woodyard are two inexperienced LBs and one of them happens to be a rookie.  The Nate Irving project is not going as quickly as many of the Bronco personnel had hoped.  It’s probably safe to assume they had wished to be replacing Joe Mays (the MLB) with Irving and thus allow them to use Woodyard to rotate across the board in any LB position.  But instead, they drafted Danny Trevathan who is known to be a tackling machine despite his smaller size.  In any case, neither of these two appears to be ready to take on a starting role in the NFL.

With all of this in mind, what then do the Broncos do with D.J. Williams?  Do the Broncos cut ties with the only defensive stalwart (outside of Champ) sense 2004 and hope that a star rises among the youth in training camp?  Or do they hang on for the ride and cross their fingers in hopes that D.J. can find himself capable of playing more than 10 games this season?  Naturally, only time will tell.  But before time tells us, perhaps D.J. should remind the Bronco staff and Bronco faithful how he caused the fumble (and recovered) against Miami which allowed for Tebow time.  How he ran Marion Barber out of bounce thus giving Tebow time to tie the game and eventually win.  Perhaps he may even mention how it was never his side of the field that failed when the opposing team decided to run a draw out of shot gun.  Or, better yet, compose his own highlight reel of him obliterating ball carriers and (interestingly enough) not getting flagged for it.  Just maybe don’t mention your coverage of TE’s.  Either way, whatever the Broncos decide to do with him, if anyone asks, “What position will D.J. Williams be playing?” the answer will undoubtedly be, “Linebacker.”

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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