ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When John Elway told Vic Fangio in March 2019 that the team was signing defensive tackle Mike Purcell, the Denver Broncos coach chuckled and said, "Be careful, you might like him."
Almost 19 months and 17 games later, Purcell signed a three-year contract extension with the Broncos. Team sources said the deal is worth just under $15 million.
Fangio had predicted that a guy who had been cut 10 times by six different teams before a stint with the Salt Lake Stallions in the Alliance of American Football would push aside more notable signings. His prediction has come true.
"It's amazing, a complete blessing, to be sure," Purcell said Tuesday. "There are times you think about hanging it up, it's time to move on and start a real career ... but I'm glad I didn't."
At one point Purcell said he had given some thought to dropping some weight -- "into the 200s" -- and applying to become a firefighter. In 2017 alone, Purcell spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams, the Chicago Bears, the Carolina Panthers, the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, all "while my wife was pregnant with our daughter."
Purcell, who went to high school in suburban Denver (Highlands Ranch), has started 11 games for the Broncos over the past two seasons, including all four this year. He has become a regular in their base defense, at first as a reliable run-defender, but had the Broncos' first sack of the season in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Purcell had spent four seasons with the 49ers, including two on their practice squad and two when Fangio was the team's defensive coordinator. Fangio was also the Bears' defensive coordinator in 2017, when Purcell was briefly on their practice squad.
Earlier this season, defensive end Dre'Mont Jones said of Purcell: "Mike's been providing us with the same things he had last year, just being stout as hell in the run game. He has this incredible strength, incredible ability to pick up offensive linemen and throw them across the field. I think Mike is going to continue that. He has been continuing that. I'm looking forward to seeing Mike play this year."