For many Denver Broncos fans, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton can best be described as a big, fat, American winning machine. Since General Manager John Elway signed Knighton as an unrestricted free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars, prior to the 2013 season, “Pot Roast” has piled up five sacks and an impressive 58 solo tackles.
Knighton has become an elite defender when it comes to clogging holes in the run game. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the ninth best run stopping defensive tackle in the NFL. With the Broncos impending shift to Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, Knighton could become the focal point of the defensive line. But, come March 9th, he will be an unrestricted free agent. One might think he’d be Elway’s top off-season priority. According to Knighton, that’s not the case.
Speaking with ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Wednesday night, Knighton expressed frustration with the Broncos front office over what he called a “disrespectful” lack of communication.
“I think I’ve made it very clear to them that I want to be a Bronco,” he told Anderson, “My agent tried to get something done before the year, during the year, and immediately when the season was over. They just haven’t had the same interest.”
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Following the Oakland Raiders hiring of former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Knighton tweeted that the Raiders were, “Getting a great damn coach.” That led many to believe that Knighton had interest in joining his former head coach and defensive coordinator in Oakland.
He didn’t exactly back away from those sentiments in his conversation with Anderson, saying, “Jack stuck with me. He’s a big part of the reason I’m in Denver. So, if things don’t work out [with the Broncos], he’s definitely the first person I’ll talk to.”
Ultimately, as it is with most free agents, whether or not Knighton wears orange and blue or silver and black in 2015 will come down to money. “I feel like I haven’t had that big pay day that I deserve yet; and I’m looking for that,” Knighton said.
If Terrance Knighton gets his “big pay day,” he’ll be in line to make upwards of $7-9M in 2015. With 19 free agents on their roster, and only $27M in cap space, it could be difficult for the Broncos to sign Knighton, while also improving the team in other areas.
The situation only gets more difficult if the Broncos aren’t able to sign star receiver Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos are expected to place their franchise tag on Thomas, if they’re unable to sign him to a long-term deal by the start of the new league year on March 9th. That move could cost the Broncos up to half of their current cap space.
The question for Elway may be whether or not Knighton, who’s turning 29 on the fourth of July and has dealt with serious weight issues in the last two seasons, can be trusted to stay on the field. Knighton is listed by the Broncos at 335 pounds. However, it’s been rumored that he weighs much more; potentially up to 80 pounds more.
Despites his size, he hasn’t had serious injury issues during his time with the Broncos. Yet, Elway must approach Kington’s contract negotiation with caution. Big defensive tackles like “Pot Roast” are notorious for breaking down once they hit thirty. One need only look to Albert Haynesworth’s time in D.C. to see what can happen when big men get overpaid.
Knighton is older than Haynesworth was he signed a seven-year, $100M contract with the Washington Redskins in 2009. If the Broncos want Knighton back, it would be best to make sure he’s got his head screwed on straight first.
It’s likely that Knighton, and most of the Broncos free agents, will hit the open market. On Denver's KKFN (104.3 FM) Thursday, the Denver Post’s Troy Renck told Alfred Williams and Darren McKee, “The Broncos want to let the market set the price of free agents."
Renck implied, based on private conversations he’s had with Elway, that the Broncos felt better approaching free agency with a “wait and see” attitude, as opposed to jumping in before other offers were fielded and potentially overpaying. If that’s the case, Terrance Knighton could find himself back with his “great damn coach” in silver and black, sooner rather than later.