Monday was as busy a day as one can recall for the Broncos in free agency, with three signings — unrestricted free agents Montrae Holland and Paul Smith and street free agent Travis Henry all signing deals with the Broncos.
Each fills at least a potential need. Holland brings an option at guard, where starter Cooper Carlisle is an unrestricted free agent. Smith provides special-teams help and depth at fullback, a position that has both Cecil Sapp and Kyle Johnson on the restricted free-agent market.
The signing of Henry, meanwhile, brings the Broncos a 1,000-yard runner just three days after they finalized the trade of last fall’s 1,000-yarder, Tatum Bell, to the Detroit Lions.
When Monday’s deals were complete, General Manager Ted Sundquist talked about what transpired. Excerpts are and will be in stories elsewhere on DenverBroncos.com, and, obviously, Sundquist wouldn’t get into potential signings or further players that he has targeted, but he did speak at length about the acquisitions, and about where the team stands as of four days into the league year.
Below is a transcript of what Sundquist had to say Monday night.
MONTRAE HOLLAND — WHAT CAN HE BRING TO THE TABLE THAT PERHAPS WASN’T THERE BEFORE?
With regards to Montrae Holland, you’ve got a guy that’s been a former starter, that is maybe out of the normal parameters of what people think we might be looking for at guard. He’s a bigger, stouter guy — a little more powerful. He has an excellent ability to sit down in pass protection and really keep the pocket from bowing in the middle. He is athletic for a guy who’s a 320-pounder. He moves well and I think he can execute what we’re trying to do in the run game. But definitely he’s a powerful guy at the point (of attack) in trying to root people out. He has starting experience, and with the possibility of having the right guard position open going into training camp, he’s going to bring some excellent competition there and hopefully can have an opportunity to be the starter.
HOLLAND’S PLAYING TIME DECREASED LAST YEAR. WAS HE CAUGHT IN A CHANGE IN PHILOSOPHY AND SCHEME LAST YEAR?
I couldn’t really answer why they didn’t play him last year.
PAUL SMITH, WHAT DOES HE PROVIDE?
Well, Paul Smith has been an outstanding special-teams player over the course of his career to this point. But certainly I think he was wanting to put himself into a position where he could contribute even more on the field from the fullback position. He’s athletic. I think he’s got good hands, which is important for our fullbacks, being able to slip out in the flat, catch passes at the goal line and things like that. Certainly that athleticism transfers to his ability to get up into the line of scrimmage and put body on body in regards to linebackers. We just liked what we saw with his competitiveness and certainly his production on special teams. With our new special-teams coordinator, Scott O’Brien, he puts a premium on that and this is a guy who’s really been a core guy for the Rams last year on that side of the ball. He was wanting to expand his role, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.
DID SCOTT O’BRIEN RECOMMEND HIM TO YOU?
Well, the scouts did, too.
AND, OF COURSE, TRAVIS HENRY — WERE YOU ANTICIPATING HIM HITTING THE MARKET ON SATURDAY?
Well, Travis Henry, from my understanding, was the MVP of the Titans last year. Obviously, a lot was said about Vince Young and his rookie season and making the Pro Bowl, but I think a lot of people — coaches, scouts, football people — will tell you that a lot of things that Vince was able to do was because of the threat from the run game that Travis gave. As far as the surprise of them letting him go, they’ve got a new general manager (Mike Reinfeldt), and he may have come in with a different philosophy, and certainly Travis may have been looking out there for a different opportunity that brought him more than what the Titans were. Only he can answer that. The great thing was that we were prepared when he did hit the market, and we were ready to go and got him in there that evening after we saw that he’d been released.
DID HENRY VISIT ANYWHERE ELSE AFTER COMING TO DENVER?
No. He visited here, and then, in speaking with his agent, they were supposedly in communication with a number of teams — Green Bay, Oakland — but he came in here and we were able to kind of sell him on a number of things. First his fit in this scheme, and how we thought his skills would contribute to that. Secondly, the fact that he would be competing for a Super Bowl every year. I mean, that’s what we’re about — trying to get there. Third, the intangibles. Everybody that’s in the organization, from the people in the personnel office, to the people downstairs, to dealing with you guys. He was very impressed with that. It was just a matter of pounding out the contract, and we were able to do that. We kept him overnight and got it finished.
DID PURSUING HIM CAUSE ANY CHANGES IN SALARY CAP MANAGEMENT IN REGARDS TO PLAYERS YOU WILL PURSUE, OR ARE THINGS RIGHT ON TRACK?
Right on plan. Right on schedule. I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now, with still more to come. Henry’s (contract) was one that you had to prepare for. Again, you asked me earlier, was I surprised that he got let go — not surprised, but when he did get let go, then it was in the plans, but you kind of had to shift some things to make sure that you finished it off. We were able to do that without really upsetting the apple cart on the things that we wanted to do, and we were able to get it done.
1,000-YARDER ON THE MARKET FROM THE PREVIOUS SEASON — DOESN’T HAPPEN TOO OFTEN.
Yeah. He runs with authority, and I’ve been saying that for quite a while now — that we’re trying to get our running game back to a point where we’re running with some authority. You’ve got fourth-quarter leads in four games — especially at home — and you need to close an opponent out, and guys like Travis Henry have that ability to close a team out in the fourth quarter. Certainly as you look back at last season, you win three or four of those games where you’ve got leads at home — if you protect them with a good running game, like we did in those Super Bowl years, now you’re 12-4 or 13-3, and you’re talking about hosting a playoff game — and we’re right back to where we were a year ago when we were talking about all this.
WHAT’S INTERESTING TO ME IS HOW THE RUNNING GAME WAS IN THE TOP QUARTER OF THE LEAGUE LAST YEAR, YET THE PERCEPTION IN THIS BUILDING SEEMS TO BE THAT IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT.
Again, I’ve used the adjective “authoritative” in talking to our scouts and to Coach Shanahan and to prospective candidates for that position. Getting more authoritative in the way we attack a defense. You can churn up a lot of yardage, but if you’re not making third-and-1 or first-and-goal — sometimes a 1-yard run is as important as a 60-yard run. Certainly, we think that Travis, with the way he’s built and his power — I mean, fans are going to love this guy. I don’t know if they’ve had a chance to see any clips of him with Tennessee, but this guy runs with power.
I REMEMBER SEEING CLIPS OF HIM BACK IN HIGH SCHOOL IN FROSTPROOF, FLA. — HE RAN THAT WAY BACK THEN.
Yeah. He may have one of the best stiff-arms I’ve ever seen.
THIS WRAPS UP A BUSY DAY — BUSIER IN FREE AGENCY THAN ANY ONE DAY IN RECENT YEARS?
Yeah, but I think the thing fans have to remember is that there are some years when free agency is going to be all about retaining your team, signing your young players — guys that you drafted that are in the last year of their deal. And we had to do that last year. It was like, “Well, the Broncos didn’t delve into free agency.” Well, actually, we did. We signed Matt Lepsis, and other re-signings and contract extensions happe
ned in February. In this particular year, we didn’t have a lot of those particular situations, which allowed us to, I think, get a little more aggressive with looking outside and bringing in (players). We said last year we were going to tweak a few things; we were going to stay status quo, we were happy with what we saw coming out of that 13-3 year, and that didn’t get it done last year, so you have to make changes. You have to stay aggressive, and you have to do the things that you think are going to get you back and put you in those opportunities where you can compete for a Super Bowl and I think we’ve done that in our preparation and evaluation of these players. It started with the reserve/future contract guys, some of the people that we’re bringing in here, that have no notoriety and not a lot of pomp and circumstance. Those guys — I think there’s some football players in that group that will make that final 53. That was just as important.
DAVID KIRCUS, NICK FERGUSON, GUYS LIKE THAT.
Yeah, and you’re also constantly dealing with a trade aspect, trying to improve your position, acquiring players that you might not otherwise be able to draft at that particular position that are veteran players, and then you get into this market in unrestricted free agency, and that will go for the next few more days, and we’ll keep an eye on it a little bit. It will slow down.
AND THAT COMES ON THE HEELS OF A WEEKEND THAT WAS LIKE THE MID-1990S, WHERE TEAMS SPENT A LOT ON THE OPENING WEEKEND.
Yeah. Then, the last phase is the draft, and we’re excited about having four first-day picks and really feel like there’s going to be an opportunity to get some “impact” type guys, and by then, the offseason program will have started. We’ll get a chance to see some of these guys that we have added, and we’ll get ready for camps in the summer. I’m very, very pleased with how things have gone so far, and it’s been a team effort with the coaching staff, the scouting staff and the personnel that have put all this together to make sure that when the players come in, that they have a good visit, understand what we’re all about and that when they leave here, they’ve had all their questions answered, and they have a good feel whether they can fit or not, and then it’s up to myself and Mike Bluem to try to put together the best financial package and sort them out.