A crowded field of cornerbacks didn’t deter veteran free agent Drayton Florence from picking the Denver Broncos as his new team.
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”In the National Football League, very rarely do you see just two wide receivers line up. Now with the bigger tight ends that are more athletic, you need more defensive backs to match up,” Florence said Thursday after signing a two-year deal with the Broncos following his release last week from the Buffalo Bills.
The Broncos have strengthened their defensive backfield this offseason, also bringing aboard veteran Tracy Porter to play with perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey. And they drafted Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden in the fourth round to compete with holdovers Chris Harris, Tony Carter, Syd’Quan Thompson and Cassius Vaughn.
”Competition is always great for a team. That’s what I’ve come here to do, compete for a job, whether that be a starting job or a nickel role,” Florence said. ”Just come in and help this team in as many ways as I can, not only on defense but special teams, also. Whatever I’m asked to do, just coming out and competing and helping some of the young guys develop.”
Florence is a 10th-year pro whose release from the Bills was regarded as a mild surprise. He had 45 starts in 46 games during his three-year stint with Buffalo. But the versatile veteran was slated to make $4 million in base salary this season and the Bills took South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore and LSU cornerback Ron Brooks in the draft.
”It was a surprise. But being in this business for as long as I’ve been, nothing really surprises you anymore,” Florence said. ”I thought I’d be competing with one of the young guys that they brought in, but they decided to let me go and go in a different direction. I respected that. When one door closes, another one opens and the Denver Broncos are a great place for me to be right now.”
Florence had seven of his 17 career interceptions with Buffalo. He spent his first five NFL seasons with San Diego, followed by a year in Jacksonville before signing with the Bills in 2009.
Florence is the first player signed by the Broncos since general manager Brian Xanders was let go earlier in the week as boss John Elway continues to reorganize the front office. But he’s just the latest free agent lured to Denver by the chance to play with four-time MVP Peyton Manning.
”Coming to Denver, meeting with Coach (John) Fox, just knowing the history about the Broncos, I thought it was a great fit,” Florence said. ”The offseason additions with Peyton Manning, obviously when you have a guy like that playing the quarterback position, it gives your team a great opportunity to go out and win ballgames. Then with the defense they already had in place here, I just thought it was a great fit.
”Champ Bailey, obviously, being one of the better corners in this league for a while, being able to play with him is something that’s going to be special. Tracy Porter is a guy that’s here also that is going to contribute to this defense. I just thought it would be a good fit for me to come in here and bring my physical attributes and playmaking abilities to this team, try to get into the playoffs and make a run at a ring.”
Florence said he didn’t speak with any Broncos players before choosing to sign a two-year deal, but ”I know a few of the guys on the team. I like what they’re doing here. I like the direction they’re going.”
Another factor that helped Denver land Florence is that he played for Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio his one season in Jacksonville, where Del Rio was the head coach.
”Yes, the familiarity always is good when you’ve played for somebody and you know how they work,” Florence said. ”The system, the language is going to be familiar.”