Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Mar 2010

Broncos Sign Jamal Williams

The Broncos got their nose tackle. They've added longtime Charger NT Jamal Williams on a three-year deal worth $16 million, with $7 million guaranteed.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 09 Mar 2010

31 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2010, 4:13am by sports-veronica


by Formersd (not verified) :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 8:07pm

I sure hope AJ Smith was right in letting him go. This is one that he'll really regret if he got it wrong.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 9:05pm

As a Bronco fan, I'm hoping the opposite, but it certainly is a high-risk, high-reward deal.

by tunesmith :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 8:46pm

34 years old and a three-year deal. Hopefully his input will increase the skills of the Broncos' younger DL players.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 12:19am

They don't have any young DL players.

They could be in position to have a first round of Dan Williams and Dez Bryant. Instead, McGenius traded the 14th overall pick for a slow midget who's now the 6th CB on the depth chart.

by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 4:04am

Xanders is the GM, not McDaniels. We have to assume the former made the call, don't we?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 9:02am

I was under the impression (though I could well be wrong) that McDaniels had final say on trades and personnel decisions. Either way, unless their working relationship is completely dysfunctional I imagine they discussed the decision together and were both OK with it.

by tunesmith :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 5:14am

The real test will be to see if Alphonso Smith outperforms whoever Seattle drafts at #14 in this coming season.

by Theo :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 9:32pm

He's good for another 2 or 3 years. His position and skill set is age friendly.
But what is he doing with the Co's? Are they going to make a championship game anywhere this decade?

EDIT: hm yeah, 'this decade'... I'll leave it in there, so people can party poop about how the calender started at year 1 and not year 0.

by Bobman :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 6:31pm


The decade I am in started in June 2003 and ends in August 2015.

Not only did I fail Latin, but math as well. And since then I have lived under a rock.

Back to your original question, I assume they looked at their hot 6-0 start and said, "Yeah, we could be an 11-12 win team with a few tweaks."

What they really need is an 8-game season. Their first half records over the past 5-10 years probably rival the Colts.

by Michael Schuttke (not verified) :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 9:58pm

This could pay dividends for Denver in the manner that Minnesota's signing of Pat Williams in 2005 did. It is a roll of the dice but one that is a fairly calculated risk and one that has a much higher reward than the downside from the risk...Plus it potentially hurts a divisional opponent; always a plus.

by Theo :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 10:07pm

Ohw yeah, that game planning on Mondays is going to be FUN.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 2:37pm

Pat Williams was what I thought of too. Denver isn't really a 3-4 or a 4-3 proper, so Jamal may well end up playing the nose relatively often rather than playing the 2 gap line position in a 4-3. It amounts to the same thing, I think. The question in denver is how long their cornerbacks can hold out, in particular Champ, who isn't a spring chicken. Still, in my view the Portis trade that brought him to Denver was one of the best deals in NFL history for Denver.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 8:46am

Very different injury histories, though. When the Vikings signed Pat Williams, he had missed three games in the last six years. Jamal is a year older than he was and coming off an injury that took him out for an entire season. He's also struggled with injuries generally through his career in a way that Pat hasn't.

by Kibbles :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 10:44pm

I like the Broncos strategy this year of signing players whose skillsets actually fit the defense they're planning on running.

by andrew :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 12:44am

I was hoping the Vikings would sign him to replace / phase out Pat Williams as he winds down, thus preserving the "Williams Wall".

Oh, well, maybe they'll draft Dan Williams.

by Bobman :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 6:34pm

There's always Ricky Williams. Pretty fast for a DT, though undersized. He brings with him, in his luggage, a fine Minnesota tradition: The Original Whizzinator. (which sounds like something my 9 year-old would invent)

by Scott C :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 4:24am

As a Charger fan -- I wish him well but damn couldn't he have gone out of the division?

He was out for a year many moons ago because of a bronco's cut-block that took out his ankle that he said was a dirty play. Even though the coaches and scheme responsible are gone, I'm still somewhat surprised he went to the Broncos. Then again, his former D-line coach is there now ....

by andrew :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 8:47am

Well, in theory he'll be safe from the Broncos dirty tactics while on the team.... or maybe he's out for revenge.

Honestly though wasn't most of that stuff from Alex Gibbs, who moved on to Detroit? He's with the Seahawks now...

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 9:00am

To the best of my knowledge, Gibbs never went to Detroit. His stops after Denver were Atlanta (under Mora) and Houston (Kubiak). You're right that he's now in Seattle, though.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 10:25am

There is a supply and demand imbalance on the number of human beings in the world that can play NFL nosetackle at a high level.

Jamal Williams might be past his prime, fresh off of injury, and expected to decline due to age, but if he can hang on a little bit longer he is a very very valueable player and was worth the gamble in my opinion.

Drafting a DT is a huge risk, they flame out at a high percentage...

by ammek :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 6:17am

I can't find a link to back this up, but I remember reading somewhere (here?) that early-round DTs had both the highest hit rate and the highest bust rate among positions other than QB. In other words, it's a boom-or-bust pick. You rarely can move a DT in the way you can, say, shift an OT to OG. They have no value on special teams. And I guess the recurring-injury risk to a massive guy is significant: certainly the Packers' recent DT gambles have struggled even to get onto the field (Justin Harrell, Donnell Washington, perhaps BJ Raji).

by Eddo :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 11:32am

Walterfootball.com had an article on this; it's a bit crude, like most of his stuff, but the main point is that defensive tackles bust slightly more often than quarterbacks, and hit slightly less often.


From the article:
There were 29 quarterbacks selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993...
Hits: 13
Busts: 12
OK: 2
TBA: 2

Defensive Tackles:
There were 33 defensive tackles selected in the top 16 of the NFL Draft since 1993...
Hits: 15
Busts: 15
OK: 2
TBA: 1

Now, let's look at the hit and bust rates for each position:
Quarterback Hit Rate: 48.2%
Defensive Tackle Hit Rate: 46.9%
Quarterback Bust Rate: 44.4%
Defensive Tackle Bust Rate: 46.9%"

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 11:47am

If you know anything about statistics, you'll recognize that those numbers are essentially equivalent. It would be nice to get a larger sample.

by Theo :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 12:03pm

That's why the word 'slightly' is in there.

by Eddo :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 2:24pm

Yes, and the article acknowledges the fact that, due to the sample size, there is no significance to the slight differences. I just didn't want to copy too much text.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 03/12/2010 - 10:16pm

If the numbers are broadly pointing in the right direction - ie both hit and bust rates for quarterbacks and defensive tackles taken in the top 16 are fairly similar - that seems to me a pretty powerful argument to the effect that quarterbacks are actually being underdrafed relative to DTs. A quarterback hit is so much more valuable than a defensive tackle hit that a rational team ought to be willing to accept a lower hit rate on a QB than a DT at any given draft spot. Hence Sam Bradford first overall . . . (a move of which, on balance, despite my considerable admiration for Suh, I approve)

To be honest, though, I don't think it's implausible to suggest that "DT" is too broad a category of player to look at anyway. Guys who will end up as nose tackles, 4-3 under tackles and 3-4 ends are all likely categorized as "defensive tackles", and given the disparity of skills involved it seems quite likely to me that some of those groups are significantly easier for NFL scouts to evaluate than others.

by Keasley (not verified) :: Wed, 03/10/2010 - 10:55am

I assumed when the Chargers released him that their doctors determined that he was unlikely to play football again.

If healthy, I think this guy is still a very good football player. And I can't imagine the Broncos would shell out $7 mil without at least a reasonable expectation that the guy will be able to play football.

So looks like a really good move by the Broncos.

by SJT (not verified) :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 1:45am

I assumed when the Chargers released him that their doctors determined that he was unlikely to play football again.

No, they probably determined he wasn't worth paying $6 million dollars this year for the production he was likely to have for them. They probably also looked back and realized that they went 12-4 in games without him last year.

by MJK :: Thu, 03/11/2010 - 12:59pm

A couple of points:

1). It should be noted that the Patriots won two Superbowls starting big, aging nose tackles that the rest of the league thought were past their prime (Keith Traylor, which is a great name for a NT, and Ted Washington). Maybe McDaniels hopes he can repeat that trend in Denver? But all kidding aside, it does seem to be a position that ages well, or at least better than, say, RB.

2). On the "decade" issue. I made some comments about that a while back in a thread and got rightly corrected about it. The fact is that "decade", "century", even "millenium" just specify a length of time, not when the periods start and end. A "decade" could start in 1996 and end in 2005. The whole "2000 wasn't really the start of the 21st century" thing is true, because by specifying the "21st century", you're specifying the 21st hundred year period since the start of the AD calendar, which runs from 2001-2100. So the year 2000 was indeed part of the 20th century. However, when people say "this decade", it is commonly understood to refer to the particular period of ten years that all have the same "tens" digit. In which case, "this decade" would refer to 2000-2009. Note that "this decade" actually spans both the 20th and the 21st centuries, just as any "aughts" decade will span two numbered centuries, due to the way the terms are commonly used.

3). I think this is a good signing by the Broncos if they really want to move to a 3-4, but I wonder if moving to a 3-4 is really a good thing for a team looking to improve to be doing these days. It's become so popular that it no longer has the advantage it used to have (i.e. it was easy to get good players because you were the only one looking for a certain skillset, and it worked well because teams saw it so rarely). Without those advantages, it's pretty much no better than a 4-3, and so a team should run whichever set it's personnel are a better fit for. I don't know enough about Denver's defensive personnel to say, but I wonder if this is just another example of a coach trying to force his system on the players, instead of doing his job and trying to create a system that plays to the strengths of the available players...

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Fri, 03/12/2010 - 2:40am

It was never easy to get good 3-4 players.