KUSA - Depth along the defensive line was added Sunday when the Denver Broncos signed veteran Henry Melton.
Although Melton posted an Instagram of himself signing the contract while wearing a Broncos ball cap, the team has yet to announce the transaction that would include a corresponding removal of a player from its 90-man roster.
A defensive tackle by trade who could also fit as a defensive end in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 system, Melton is a former Chicago Bear standout who has been a rotational player since blowing out his knee in the third game of the 2013 season.
Melton, 29, was playing that season on an $8.45 million franchise tag, which he earned by recording 7.0 sacks from his inside position in his Pro Bowl season of 2012.
After his injury, Melton played 16 games for Dallas in 2014 and another 16 for Tampa Bay last year, when he was reunited with former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith.
With the Broncos, Melton figures to play a role similar to what Antonio Smith occupied last year, which means 10 to 25 plays a game as back up to Sylvester Williams at defensive tackle and Jared Crick or Derek Wolfe at defensive end.
The Broncos became concerned with defensive line depth after starting defensive end Vance Walker went down last week with a torn ACL and the primary players behind him are second-round rookie Adam Gotsis, who is coming off his own ACL injury, and undrafted rookie Kyle Peko.
Right guard help?
With Ty Sambrailo not expected to be ready by the season opener in 18 days because of his elbow injury, Darrion Weems suffering a concussion in the preseason game Saturday night against San Francisco and rookie Connor McGovern needing more time to develop, the Broncos may have to go outside to find reinforcement at right guard.
Michael Schofield started at right guard Saturday but he quickly kicked outside to tackle, which is his position. The expectation is for Schofield to serve as the Broncos’ game day swing tackle.
Weems was looking like the starter at right guard until his helmet met the friendly-fire knee of rookie running back Devontae Booker in the second quarter.
Weems, a tackle by trade who is learning a new position at right guard, figures to be in the league’s concussion protocol this week. Schofield figures to get first-team reps at right guard this week.
James Ferentz is the Broncos’ backup center who has also played some left guard but not much right guard.
One player the Broncos might look at is Ryan Jensen, a scrappy backup guard-center with the Baltimore Ravens who hails from Fort Morgan and played at Colorado State-Pueblo.
Hillman days numbered?
The Broncos have already paid $200,000 in signing and workout bonuses to running back Ronnie Hillman this year, and have another $400,000 of his $1.8 million salary guaranteed. The Broncos are not likely to pay that salary now that Hillman has fallen to No. 3 on the depth chart behind C.J. Anderson and Booker with No. 4 tailback Kapri Bibbs continuing to play well.
Hillman had a 21-yard kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter Saturday. While returning would enhance his value, it’s not always a good sign for an established veteran to play special teams in the fourth quarter of a preseason game.