Kerney could land in Denver in 2007

The Denver Broncos have hired former Falcons defensive line coach Bill Johnson to take over their defensive line. He replaces Andre Patterson, who joined the Broncos in 2005, and was instrumental in that team acquiring in the past two off-seasons six ex-Cleveland Browns, his former employers.

Johnson had been with the Falcons since 2001 after two decades of coaching on the collegiate level. He was replaced by Kevin Wolthausen, who followed new Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino from Louisville.

With Johnson’s joining of the Broncos staff, the Rocky Mountain News is speculating that perhaps potential Falcons free agent defensive end Patrick Kerney will be in their cross-hairs this off-season.

The Falcons entered negotiations to re-sign Kerney back in December, but he indicated then that changes to the coaching staff could affect negotiations and his decision to return to the team.

Kerney has been a Falcon since 1999, when he joined the team as their first round pick out of Virginia. Only linebacker Keith Brooking has been a part of the team for longer. Kerney turned 30 in December, and had been a picture of durability during his career in Atlanta before this season. He had never missed a game since joining the Falcons, but managed to miss seven games this past year due to injury. He came away with 4.5 sacks in nine games, ranking second on the team behind Rod Coleman’s six.

Many believe that due to Kerney’s age and potential salary demands, it will be difficult for the Falcons to retain him. If he does hit the open market, the Broncos could be one of several teams interested. The Broncos tied for 15th in the league in sacks in 2006, but the lack of a pass rush has been a sore spot in recent history, as the team was the 28th-ranked team in 2005.

The Broncos have shaken up their defensive coaching staff, replacing coordinator Larry Coyer with Jim Bates, and Patterson with Johnson, and are not expected to retain linebackers coach Kirk Doll. Kerney could potentially be a major component of a revamped 2007 defense.

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Aaron Freeman
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