Broncos retain DT Warren with lucrative 6-year deal

Updated: March 11, 2006, 8:41 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Working hard to keep one of their priority free agents, the Denver Broncos on Saturday reached agreement with defensive tackle Gerard Warren on a six-year contract extension, ESPN.com has learned.

Defensive Tackle
Denver Broncos

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
19 14 5 1 3 0

The deal, which makes Warren one of the NFL's highest paid defensive tackles is worth about $36 million and includes approximately $10 million in bonuses.

Denver officials worked late into Friday night to lay the groundwork for the agreement and then the two sides resumed negotiations on Saturday afternoon. Agent Joel Segal, who negotiated the contract, was out of town and could not be immediately reached for comment.

Warren was the No. 14 player in the ESPN.com ratings of unrestricted free agents.

The Broncos had been very public about their desire to retain Warren, who played extremely well in his first season in a Denver uniform, after being acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a March 2, 2005 trade for a fourth-round draft pick. And Warren told Denver-area media outlets this week that his preference was to remain with the Broncos, perhaps even at less money than he might have commanded as a free agent.

Warren's value to the Broncos goes significantly beyond his statistics. He started all 16 games in 2005, and registered a modest 42 tackles and three sacks. But the five-year veteran anchored the interior of a defense which statistically ranked No. 2 in the league against the run, and occupied blockers so that the linebackers could flow to the ball.

It marked the first time in his career that the former University of Florida star was asked to subjugate his own goals for the overall performance of the unit and, playing for defensive line aide Andre Patterson, who also coached him in Cleveland, he responded well.

The third overall choice in the 2001 draft, Warren was often criticized in Cleveland for not living up to that lofty status. But he is a player who can eat up blockers and get some penetration when put into "one-gap" situations, and the Broncos coaches love him.

Warren, 27, has played in 76 games, all but one of them as a starter, and has 289 tackles, 19 sacks, five forced fumbles, four recoveries and 13 pass deflections.

In two other moves, the Broncos re-signed long snapper Mike Leach for four years and running back Ron Dayne for three.

A third-stringer last year, Dayne will get a shot at the lead running back role with the recent departure of Mike Anderson, a salary-cap casualty.

Dayne, who won the 1999 Heisman Trophy when he set the career college rushing record at Wisconsin, is entering his seventh NFL season. He spent his first five years with the Giants but after a rookie season in which he rushed for 770 yards and five scores for a team that advanced to the Super Bowl, he never lived up to his college credentials.

Dayne played in 10 games for Denver last season and averaged 5.1 yards on 53 carries with one touchdown. Although his carries were limited while backing up Anderson and Tatum Bell, he played a significant role in two crucial victories.

Leach, a part-time tight end who joined the Broncos as a free agent in 2002, has handled Denver's long-snapping duties in every game for the last three seasons and served as the team's long snapper for the final eight games in 2002 after signing as a free agent.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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