New regime, new defense, new players.
In the Mile High City, the Broncos are likely moving on from Domata Peko — as well as Brandon Marshall — as changes are happening quickly while the team looks to reload for a playoff run in 2019.
If Denver does cut ties with Peko — our Eric Goodman says the two sides are still negotiating — then the team will need a new, beefy defensive tackle to fill the gaps and stuff the run. According to Benjamin Allbright, Fangio’s team will pursue nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, formerly of the Raiders, Colts and Giants.
Source: #Broncos to pursue NT Johnathan Hankins in free agency.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) February 22, 2019
Hankins is a sixth-year pro, meaning the team would be getting much younger at the position compared to 13-year veteran Peko. At 6’2″ and 325 pounds, Hankins is a massive man, someone who can control two blockers at once while Denver’s defensive ends and those incredible edge rushers get after the quarterback.
And while he struggled through a down year with Oakland in 2018, Hankins is a very good run defender. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out at 66.5 overall with a 73.1 run defense grade last season. But, those were both down compared to his 2017 season with Indianapolis, earning a 79.7 overall grade and an 88.1 in run defense.
When he’s on top of his game, Hankins creates pressure on the quarterback, too. He had seven total pressures last year, but enjoyed 20 in 2017, including two sacks. Back in 2016, his final year with New York, he had six sacks, while his 2014 season total of eight sacks is a career-high.
Peko played well for the Broncos his last two seasons in Denver, but the younger Hankins can likely replicate and possibly improve upon what the veteran was doing in the middle of the defensive line.
Signing Hankins would mean getting younger, and likely cheaper at that defensive tackle position, while getting a player who has the potential to out-perform what Peko was doing in Denver.