There’s no question that one of the holes the Denver Broncos will have to address this offseason is at middle linebacker. In 2012, 14-year veteran Keith Brooking manned the position admirably for the Broncos and compiled 54 tackles, but Denver needs to get younger at middle linebacker, and probably won’t try to resign Brooking.
With elite pass rushers on the outside of their defense in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos need to get stronger in the middle of their defense and get a player that can stuff the run and help force opponents into third down situations, when their great pass rush can be a factor. There have been a number of names thrown around as possibilities for the Broncos at middle linebacker, including free agents, draft picks, and even some internal options; but one player they would be wise to stay away from is former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
With all the controversy surrounding Te’o’s situation with his fake girlfriend, in addition to his questionable 40 time at the NFL combine, his draft stock has fallen considerably, so much so that he may still be on the board when the Broncos draft 28th overall. If Te’o is still available when the Broncos pick in the first round, it’ll certainly be tempting for the Broncos to pick him. Not only would he fill an obvious need for them, but he’d also be the top middle linebacker available at that point and possibly the top player overall still on the board towards the end of the first round. However, even if he’s available for them, the Broncos must resist the temptation to draft Te’o.
Plain and simple, the Broncos don’t need the distraction that Te’o will bring. If the Broncos learned anything from the Tim Tebow era in Denver, it’s that few players are worth the distraction they bring, and Te’o is not one of them. There’s no doubt that after everything he’s been through both on and off the field and the way his draft stock has fluctuated so much in just a few months time that Te’o would bring a Tebow-like hoard of media attention to whatever NFL franchise drafts him. If Te’o were to be in training camp with the Broncos, it would be one of the dominant storylines of the fall in Denver, and unnecessarily so.
The window the Broncos have to make a serious run at a Super Bowl is relatively brief, possibly as small as two or three years, which makes the 2013 season critical for them, and an opportunity they need to take advantage of. Te’o, even if he were to be their starting middle linebacker, would be a distraction away from the team’s Super Bowl hopes, which is something the Broncos can’t afford to let happen. The team’s focus must be solely on the mission at hand, and the media circus that would follow Te’o can only get in the way of that.
While he may be an intriguing draft pick and a useful player on the field, if he were available to them, the Broncos need to stay clear of Te’o. They have a small window of opportunity to become serious Super Bowl contenders, and they can’t let anything stand in the way of that; and the possible distraction that Te’o would bring to the team is a risk too big to take.