Denver Broncos: Matt Roth Could Provide Defensive Upgrade

Dan AllenCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Tennessee Titans is sacked by Matt Roth #90 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during their season opener at EverBank Field on September 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos have done many things this offseason to bolster a roster that only barely made the playoffs in 2011. Those additions include quite possibly the biggest free-agent acquisition ever in Peyton Manning, as well as tight-ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, cornerback Tracy Porter and defensive tackle Justin Bannan.

Yet several areas of the team could be improved. The defense has already seen much improvement through the draft with the addition of second-round defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, who should step into a void at defensive tackle immediately.

One position that was left with little improvement is defensive end. Although Elvis Dumervil is more than capable at the position, playing opposite him is the questionable Robert Ayers.

Ayers, who was drafted 18th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, has done little to live up to the expectations placed upon him during his three seasons with Denver. In 42 games played, Ayers has less than 100 tackles and only 4.5 sacks--very poor numbers for a first-round pick through his first three seasons as a professional.

Last season Ayers stepped it up a bit to the tune of 39 tackles and three sacks in 13 starts, but he is still a questionable starter at defensive end. Ayers played 4-3 defensive end for the first time in his professional career in 2011 after playing 3-4 outside linebacker in both 2009 and 2010.

This is where Matt Roth comes in. Roth is a talented pass-rusher who could provide pressure from the defensive end position much better than Ayers has done thus far. Through eight seasons in his NFL career, Roth has managed at least three sacks in all but two seasons, several of which were done as only a situational pass-rusher.

In 2011, Roth totaled 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks in only nine starts for the Jacksonville Jaguars before concussion symptoms prematurely ended his season. Roth was an integral part of Jacksonville's pass-rush, and was sorely missed for the remainder of the season.

Because of the concussion symptoms, of which Roth has been medically cleared, few teams have been willing to take a flier on the veteran player. Roth could be given a one-year "prove it" deal while Denver determines who will take over as the starter at defensive end. Rookie Malik Jackson and second year end Jeremy Beal are both possibilities to start in the future, but will need time to develop.

At the least Roth could provide a capable and affordable backup defensive end in the event Dumervil or Ayers miss time in 2012, as both have had injury problems throughout their careers.