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Broncos add big defensive linemen in Domata Peko, Zach Kerr

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Mar 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-11 20:01:21-05

DENVER -- The Broncos continue to repeat the following refrain in the free agency drive thru: Super Size Me.

One day after adding a pair of burly offensive linemen, the Broncos beefed up the defense with tackles Domata Peko and Zach Kerr.

Every player joining the Broncos this offseason eclipses 300 pounds. If the idea behind signing guard Ronald Leary and tackle Menelik Watson was to get tougher, Peko and Kerr were brought in to make the defense bigger. 

Opponents gashed the Broncos for 130.3 yards per game last season, plummeting Denver to 28th in the rankings. The Broncos sat third in 2015 at 83.6, which made teams one dimensional and led them into the unfriendly skies of the No Fly Zone. Peko, whose younger cousin Kyle saw time at defensive tackle for the Broncos as a rookie last season, struggled with consistency in 2016. He didn't produce a sack after netting five the previous season. However, he played well against the Broncos on Sept. 25. Denver finished with 52 yards rushing, its third lowest total of the season.

"We couldn't run on him. He was stout," Broncos all-pro cornerback Chris Harris told Denver7. "Go watch the film."

The Broncos apparently did. They thought enough of the 32-year-old to sign him to a two-year deal with $3.8 million guaranteed. Peko, 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, owns 518 tackles and 18.5 sacks in 11 seasons, all with the Bengals. 

Kerr, 26, checks in at 6-2, 334 pounds. The Colts moved on him after he showed flashes in three seasons, but never settled into one position. He played nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end in Indianapolis. He produced 2.5 sacks last season. The Broncos see him as underrated player who could blossom with more playing time. Peko and Kerr will compete for starting jobs. The Broncos lacked beef upfront a year ago after Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville and Vance Walker blew out his knee in training camp. Adam Gotsis, Sly Williams and Billy Winn were unable to consistently win at the point of attack.

In Peko and Kerr, size matters. Last year the Broncos got pushed around in the AFC West, particularly at Oakland. The Raiders ran for 218 yards in a win on Nov. 6, and the Chiefs plowed for 238 on Christmas night, crushing the Broncos' playoff hopes. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods told Denver7 on multiple occasions that improving the run defense was a "top priority."

The Broncos have adopted a patience, purposeful approach in free agency. They added Leary and Watson on four and three-year deals, guaranteeing roughly $24 million. Peko's guarantee is $3.8 million with Kerr less. The Broncos still have room under the salary cap if they want to pursue a quarterback. Tony Romo, though, has never been a top priority this offseason, and the Broncos are not inclined to trade for him. If he becomes a free agent, they are expected to talk to him. However, this is not Peyton Manning pursuit 2.0. With Manning, the Broncos moved all their chips to the center of the table with general manager John Elway admitting there was no Plan B. 

In this case, the Broncos are not looking to replace Tim Tebow. The Broncos feel comfortable with Trevor Siemian, the favorite to keep his starting job at this point, and Paxton Lynch. Mike McCoy's uptempo offense suits both their skillsets. Teammates also believe Siemian will improve because he will have more freedom at the line of scrimmage than allowed in Gary Kubiak's offense. Any pursuit of Romo would come with a caveat. He would have to be willing to play at a figure the Broncos believe fits their salary cap and protects them against injury. Romo will be 37 in April and has made four starts the past two seasons.

The Broncos own 10 draft picks and have addressed the offensive and defensive lines. More improvement is necessary, but multiple boxes have been checked with the first workouts less than a month away.