After the draft, the NFL news cycle is dominated by rookie signings and other small free agent moves. The same goes for the Denver Broncos as they work through their offseason programs and get ready for the 2022 season with a new coaching staff and a new quarterback.
That makes it a great time to look over each player on the Broncos' roster. As a sort of countdown, this series is giving a profile for every player starting at number 99 (DeShawn Williams). Next up is Mike Purcell, number 98, who has been with the Broncos for a couple of years not.
Let's rewind the tape.
Purcell just turned 31 years old on April 20th. He was born in Colorado, where he played high school football.
He's a local hero of sorts.
After high school, Purcell went on to play for the Wyoming Cowboys, where he had a productive career. He didn't play much as a freshman and only picked up nine total tackles, but he stepped up in his final three years.
As the big man in the middle of the defensive line, Purcell wasn't relied on as a pass rusher, which led to only four career sacks in college. Instead, his game was about using his size and strength to two-gap, holding down the gap between offensive linemen on each side of him.
In his final three seasons, Purcell picked up 53, 48, and 83 total tackles, respectively, which led to 197 career tackles. He was one of the few bright spots on a team that went 15-22 over his final three years.
After what ended up being a productive four-year collegiate career, Purcell entered his name for the 2013 NFL draft.
While Purcell had a productive final three years in college, it wasn't enough to get him invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He did get a chance to ply his wares at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in 2013 and then run through all the athletic testing at the Wyoming Pro Day, though.
Purcell's numbers were solid — not bad, but not good either. With how he tested and all the other factors, he did not hear his name called on draft day.
After the draft, Purcell signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a college free agent. He spent the first few years there, but his rookie season was spent on the practice squad.
During the next three years of his career, he got to see the field multiple times, including multiple starts. He started eight games between 2015 and 2016 and played 597 snaps on defense from 2014-16.
Purcell picked up six total pressure with one sack in that span but 28 total stops. He was a solid run defender, which kept him seeing the field, but he was released in May of 2017.
After he was released, he spent time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs over the next eight months. He was cut and re-signed by the Chiefs a couple of times, but when they released him in September 2018, that seemed to be the end of his NFL career.
In 2019, the Alliance of American Football was formed, and Purcell got a shot with the Salt Lake Stallions. The AAF eventually folded, but Purcell did enough to catch the attention of the Broncos, led by his former defensive coordinator in San Fran, Vic Fangio.
In April of 2019, the Broncos signed Purcell to their 90-man roster. He had an impressive preseason where he worked his way up the chart by dominating game after game. It was enough to make the roster.
Purcell's impressive performance in the preseason carried over to the regular season. His play against the run kept him out there on the field, but there was an issue with tackling consistency. Nevertheless, what he did in the season was enough to entrench him as a starter, and guarantee him a roster spot in 2020.
2020 started out strong for Purcell, as Denver signed him to a three-year extension in early October. Unfortunately, Purcell suffered a season-ending injury just a few weeks later, and attention turned to the 2021 season.
For everyone in the Broncos organization, the 2021 season was a disappointment. Purcell's play took a hit, which could've been the lasting impact of the injury a season prior, but whatever the reason, he wasn't up to par. Denver struggled against the run in the middle of its defense, which was what Purcell was supposed to shut down.
Multiple times, Purcell was knifing into the backfield, leaving a wide-open running lane. However, after linebackers Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell were lost for the season, the Broncos didn't have the vets to cover up for Purcell's aggressive play upfront. Another issue with Purcell was the missed tackles.
It was a disappointing season from Purcell so Denver made moves on the defensive line that could put his roster spot in danger.
The Broncos signed D.J. Jones as one of their big offseason moves, and the expectation is he will be replacing Purcell as the starting nose tackle. The question is, can Purcell make it as a depth piece on the defensive line?
Denver could carry six or seven defensive linemen, and four or five of the spots seem to be claimed already, and Purcell isn't one of them. So that makes it a tough road for Purcell to make the roster.
Not only is this a new coaching staff, and the general manager isn't the one who gave him the extension, Purcell is on the wrong side of 30 and has a high cost. That goes against him, and his play last year wasn't good enough to overlook it.
While he still has two years left on his deal, Denver can free up just under $3.6 million in cap space while eating $774 thousand in dead money for 2022 and 2023. This will be a common theme for the Broncos as they have to prepare for giving Russell Wilson an extension, likely after this season.
Purcell will have to bounce back in a big way during training camp and preseason. His cost will make it hard to keep him on the roster if he doesn't show out like he did in 2019's training camp.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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