With the NFL Combine completed, we are now looking towards free agency as the legal tampering period opens up next week. The Denver Broncos have decided not to pick up the contact option for Brandon Marshall, which opens up some depth issues at the inside linebacker position.
Weight: 236 lbs
Experience: 5th year
Hicks was a third-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 after a solid final season in college at Texas. He was drafted despite missing multiple seasons due to injury. During his college career, he finished with 248 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions.
In the NFL, Hicks has only started in all 16 games in one season (2016) where he piled up 86 tackles and five interceptions. In 12 games last season, he compiled 91 tackles and 3 sacks while missing four games due to injury.
Despite the injury concerns, Pro Football Focus graded Hicks as the second best coverage linebacker since 2015. Even though his 10.7 YPA mark above is nearly four yards higher than C.J. Mosley’s, PFF was undeterred in their grading of his coverage ability.
The problem is that two of Hicks’ four seasons have ended on injured reserve. In 2015 and 2017, he was able to play a combined 714 snaps before being sidelined with pectoral and Achilles injuries, respectively. Those potential durability concerns aside, though, Hicks’ production in his time on the field should be a massive draw to linebacker-needy teams across the league. It’s not often that a player with Hicks’ talent hits free agency, set to be just 27 at the start of next season. He may not be the highest-profile name on the market, but he should be highly coveted, particularly given the skillset he possesses in coverage.
The question John Elway must answer is whether or not PFF has their grades right from the film or whether that eye-popping 10.7 YPA is more accurate of Hicks’ coverage ability in his post-Achilles injury.
Why this makes sense
Hicks has shown he can be a pretty good player in the NFL. If he can come into Denver and perform like he did when healthy in 2016 and parts of 2018, then he would be the kind of low risk, high reward free agent signing that Elway tends to go for.
The primary factor would be the savings the team would get from signing Hicks over a more heralded guy like Mosley. That would keep the cap flexible this year, as well.
Why it doesn’t make sense
Injuries. The kind of low risk, high reward tactic hasn’t really paid off. Even when the player was good, like Ronald Leary, the injury bug was really hard to overcome. And when the player was bad, like Menelik Watson, then its just a guy eating up cap space and too risky to have on the field.
How many times can the Broncos go for a player with a very questionable injury history (two complete seasons in all of college and NFL career) and expect them to suddenly stop having those issues? At some point, you need to pay for results.
I’m not on the Hicks train. This would not qualify as a ‘swing for the fences’ mentality I noted earlier this week that Elway needs to approach. I’d like to see the Broncos go after proven talent and pay a premium for it.
If the Broncos do pursue Hicks, then they absolutely need to plan on having a lot of depth at the inside linebacker position. If history is any indication, they would need players who can start sitting behind Jordan Hicks.
Do you want the Broncos to sign linebacker Jordan Hicks?
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