COMMENTARY | Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez and Shaun Phillips have long been in the fold, but the Denver Broncos aren't done with free agency.
Not by any means.
In fact, John Elway and Co. have their sights set on another prize, a Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl champion and future Hall-of-Famer who's been named to eight Pro Bowls, three Associated Press First-Team All-Pro squads and ranks second among all active defensive backs with 55 career interceptions and 17 sacks.
Going off the glow of the above résumé, signing Charles Woodson appears to be the no-brainer of no-brainers. On the flip side, Woodson is AARP age by NFL standards at 36 going on 37 later this year, and he's been on the free-agent market for nearly 2 months with no takers so far.
Woodson visited the Mile High City last Wednesday but left town without a new contract in his carry-on bag. The former Green Bay Packer and Oakland Raider also has drawn recent interest from the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and the Raiders -- whom he's scheduled to visit Tuesday, May 21 -- but at this point the Broncos appear to be the front-runners.
Surprisingly, that news has been greeted by mixed emotions in Denver, with some even going as far as to write off Woodson as a washed-up has-been who would be taking valuable snaps away from a secondary full of up-and-comers.
That's knee-jerk nonsense at its finest, not to mention a blatant case of gridiron age discrimination. To counter this blather, here are three reasons why Woodson would be a perfect fit for the 2013 Broncos:
Safety remains a weak link
His inexcusable playoff gaffe notwithstanding, Rahim Moore made noticeable strides in 2012, Mike Adams was a solid free-agency pickup and Quinton Carter will be back in 2013, ready to reclaim his starting role after a year lost to injury. Also, backup David Bruton has been re-signed to reprise his role as a special-teams demon.
And despite the lackluster-to-awful overall safety play in the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens and their season-long troubles defending opposing tight ends, the Broncos have been confident enough in this quartet not to have addressed the position in either the draft or free agency so far this offseason.
But that doesn't mean the safeties aren't the defense's weak link.
In short, the Broncos' safety play in recent years has been spotty-to-steady at best, and what it's been lacking is good, old-fashioned, game-changing play-making.
That's where Woodson could really help, and we'll state the case with one tidy stat comparison:
Over the past three seasons, eight Broncos safeties have combined to intercept eight passes, record 12 forced fumbles/fumble recoveries, notch eight sacks, score zero defensive touchdowns and fail to garner a Pro Bowl invitation.
Meanwhile, by himself over that same three-season span, Woodson has 10 picks, eight forced fumbles/fumble recoveries, 5.5 sacks, two defensive TDs and a pair of Pro Bowl appearances.
Veteran presence part of Super formula
Want to gauge the role of veteran defensive-back play in NFL success?
Look no further than the rosters of the Super Bowl champs of recent seasons: Ed Reed, Darren Sharper, Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders -- safeties, all -- helped deliver Lombardi Trophies to their respective franchises.
Then, of course, there was Woodson himself in 2010, manning the Packers' left-corner position in all-pro fashion and playing a major role in Green Bay's Super Bowl run before departing with a broken collarbone in the first half of the Big Game itself.
That veteran presence and experience is priceless -- just re-read the third paragraph of this article if you have to -- and ask yourself if a seasoned vet like Woodson comes anywhere close to letting Jacoby Jones haul in a 70-yard, game-tying Hail Mary pass in the final minute of regulation in a playoff game.
Denver has a strong safety tradition
Billy Thompson, Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, Brian Dawkins.
The Broncos' history is rife with stud safeties, and most -- if not all -- of the franchise's best seasons have played out with a Pro Bowler, Ring-of-Famer or future Hall-of-Famer lining up deep in the secondary. And in most of those seasons, that standout safety was a 30-something, "over-the-hill, past-his-prime" contributor.
Woodson could -- and should -- be the next on that list come next February.
Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver Broncos and the NFL since early childhood, and can be followed on Twitter @kenpomp.
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