Broncos sign Chargers Shaun Phillips. Photo courtesy USA Today Sports.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Shaun Phillips was as nervous as an NFL prospect as he watched the first few rounds of the NFL draft.
Each time the Denver Broncos were on the clock Phillips, the long-time San Diego Chargers linebacker, wondered if this would be the selection that would keep him out of work a little longer. Phillips had been talking to the Broncos for nearly a month about signing as a free agent to help replace Elvis Dumervil, but that decision - for both Phillips and the Broncos - would hinge on the Broncos' draft plans.
When the Broncos' first picks were a defensive tackle, a running back and a corner back, Phillips knew what was coming next.
On Saturday, a day after visiting Dove Valley, Phillips signed a one-year contract. A person with knowledge of the contract told USA TODAY Sports Phillips' deal is worth up to $3 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because terms of the contract were not publicized.
"I really wanted to be here and I just wanted to feel like they really wanted me and they went out and showed me that they really wanted me to be here," Phillips said Friday afternoon on a conference call.
Phillips had 9.5 sacks for the Chargers in 2012 (and 69.5 in his nine years in San Diego), and figures to help the Broncos fill the void left by defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who signed with Baltimore after a fax snafu led to his release last month.
The Broncos also looked at signing free agents Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, but Phillips seems to have come at a better price and with pass rush production nearly equal to what Dumervil provided.
With Phillips under contract and the selection of defensive end Quanterus Smith in the fifth round, the Broncos are likely done adding pass rushers.
"I would say we're pretty happy with where we are," executive vice president John Elway said. "You never say never, but we're pretty satisfied."
Phillips now flips sides of the Broncos-Chargers rivalry after helping stoke it throughout the late 2000's through his frequent trash talking with Denver players - and coaches. Phillips and former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels exchanged heated words in 2009, but Phillips downplayed the incident Friday.
"I talk a little bit and have a little fun, but it's all out of love. I never put people down or say, 'You suck' or things like that. I try to get the best out of people because I want people to get the best out of me," Phillips said.
Moving to Denver will also mean a scheme change for Phillips after playing his entire career in the Chargers' 3-4 defense, primarily on the defensive left. Elway said Phillips will begin practicing as a strongside linebacker, behind Miller on the depth chart, but the coaching staff is already devising ways to use Miller and Phillips together.
"He'll be a valuable asset, for sure," head coach John Fox said.
(Written by Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports)
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