Broncos draft Western Kentucky defensive end in fifth round

Associated PressApril 27, 2013 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos addressed their last major need Saturday by drafting one pass rusher and signing another in free agency.

The Broncos selected defensive end Quanterus Smith of Western Kentucky in the fifth round and agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent linebacker Shaun Phillips.

The former San Diego Chargers star collected 69½ sacks in nine seasons with Denver's AFC West rival, including 9½ last season. He will likely switch from outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment to defensive end in Denver's 4-3 scheme.

The questions facing the Broncos now is how much Phillips has left — he turns 32 next month — and how fast can Smith get on the field to start offsetting the departure of Elvis Dumervil.

"I'll be ready to go by training camp," said Smith, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in November and missed the last two games. "I'm going through the rehab right now. I feel real good on it, confident on it, so I'm excited and I'll be ready for training camp."

At the time he went down, Smith was tied with Texas A&M's Damontre Moore for the national lead with 12½ sacks and was first in sacks per game (1.25). He had a three-sack game against national champion Alabama.

"That was a big game for me, playing against Alabama," Smith said. "I think it helped my draft stock out a lot due to the fact I couldn't perform in the post-season, the combine and the All-Star game. So, it helped me in a big way."

Smith was the 2012 Sun Belt Player of the Year after finishing his college career with two dozen sacks.

The Broncos acquired the pick they used on Smith — 146th overall — from Green Bay when they traded out of the fourth round for the Packers' fifth- and sixth-round selections earlier Saturday.

The Broncos came into the weekend still needing a pass-rusher following the free agency departure of Dumervil to the Baltimore Ravens, a move that followed a deadline-fueled fax fiasco last month.

Denver needed the paperwork into the NFL by 1:59 p.m. on March 15 or the team would have owed Dumervil $12 million instead of the $8 million the parties had agreed to in the restructured deal. Dumervil had reportedly found a fax machine at a Fed Ex Kinkos in the Miami area and was dealing with the contract there. But with the deadline approaching and no paperwork showing up on their fax, the Broncos had no choice but to release Dumervil.

As a free agent, the defensive end looked at similar offers from the Broncos and Ravens and elected to head to Baltimore.

That changed Denver's draft plans. When they didn't land one of the premiere pass rushers in the early rounds, they went after Phillips and grabbed Smith.

On Friday night, Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway noted finding a gem in the later rounds wasn't the same as 2011, when they grabbed Von Miller with the second overall pick.

"You're always looking for pass rushers," Elway said, "trying to find needles in the haystack that have upside. Hopefully, there will be a couple nuggets there."

In all likelihood, Miller will still play the strong side on early downs, then take Dumervil's old spot at weakside defensive end on third downs so he can torment left tackles.

That would leave the rotation of Ayers, Smith and Phillips to handle the strongside on third downs, something Phillips did for years in San Diego when he played with Shawne Merriman.

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