Low production leads Broncos to release starting tackle Adams

In a somewhat surprising move, the Denver Broncos on Tuesday afternoon released starting defensive tackle Sam Adams, one of the best interior run-stuffers of his era, but a player who made little impact for the team in its first 12 games of the season.

It is possible, given Adams' resume and reputation, that another franchise could sign the 14-year veteran for the playoff stretch run. But having registered only nine tackles in 11 games in 2007, and having failed to deliver the kind of production the Broncos expected when they signed him as a free agent in June, it is also possible his long tenure could be in jeopardy.

Adams, 34, has played with six different teams.

First-year Broncos defensive coordinator Jim Bates wanted bigger-bodied tackles when he took over the job, and Adams seemed to be a good fit after the Cincinnati Bengals cut him following only one season with the club. But the Broncos rank only 27th in the NFL in total defense, are next to last against the run, and likely will go with younger players.

The play of Adams, whose effectiveness has never really been measured by his individual statistics, mirrored the disappointing performance of the Denver defense.

A longtime, proven defender versus the run, Adams was a mammoth inside presence who regularly commanded double-team blocking, and who could engulf offensive linemen. A classic two-gap player, he typically occupied two blockers on running downs, and usually allowed other defenders to flow to the football.

But age, and a recent history of knee injuries may finally have caught up to him.

His stay in Cincinnati, where he played only one season of the three-year contract that he signed last spring, was surprisingly short-lived, given his relationship with coach Marvin Lewis. But the Bengals wanted to get younger at defensive tackle and there were some concern there as well about Adams' health and age.

For his career, Adams has demonstrated remarkable durability, missing only 14 games. Adams has never sat out more than four games in a season and had not missed more than three games since 1999. Adams did have arthroscopic knee surgery shortly after the 2006 season ended, in part because he knew he wanted to return for a 14th year.

Although he has struggled at times with weight problems during his career, Adams weighed in the low 340s for teams with which he visited in the spring after Cincinnati released him, a manageable number for him.

A former Texas A&M star, Adams was a first-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in 1994, the eighth player chosen overall that year. In stints with Seattle (1994-99), Baltimore (2000-01), Oakland (2002), Buffalo (2003-05), Cincinnati (2006), and Denver (2007), he has appeared in 206 games, with 177 starts, and has registered 461 tackles, 44 sacks, six forced fumbles, five recoveries and 33 pass deflections.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.