Heading into the 2022 season, the Denver Broncos’ edge room as a whole was widely viewed as a group with enough talent to be one of the strongest positions on the team, while also being one of the positions with the most to prove. In hindsight, both points were true and still stand tall today.

Denver Broncos outside linebackers in review

After dealing with a handful of injuries, inconsistent play with various flashes of brilliance, where does the Denver Broncos outside linebacker room stand today?

Randy Gregory and Baron Browning
Baron Browning and Randy Gregory, the two projected starting edge rushers on defense next season, are the most talented players at the position — but that didn’t stop them from going through various highs and lows in 2022. Gregory entered the season off to a red-hot start, arguably serving as the team’s best defender, generating 15 total pressures through three weeks.

Unfortunately for Gregory, his hot start would come to a screeching halt after suffering a knee injury in Week 4 against the Las Vegas Raiders. His injury landed him on injured reserve, leading him to miss a large portion of the season before returning and only playing in Weeks 15 and 16 toward the end of the season. While talent has never been Gregory’s issue, injuries and missed time must be considered. In fact, Gregory has never started more than 11 games throughout a season in his career.

Looking ahead to next season, Gregory is a shoo-in for a starting role. He is an ultra-talented pass rusher that can win in a variety of ways, consistently showcasing the ability to be one of the league’s best at the position when on the field. With that being said, the Broncos would be wise to examine the depth behind him — as it is anything but a certainty that he will be available throughout the entirety of a long and grueling NFL season.

Starting beside Gregory after the departure of Bradley Chubb, Browning took on the role of a full-time edge rusher for the first time last season. Much like you would expect from somebody with very little experience there at the NFL level, Browning was inconsistent at times but showed flashes of brilliance. Specifically, in Week 5 against the Colts, Browning exploded for 10 pressures on just 20 pass-rushing reps.

Browning’s high-end pass-rushing reps are led with visibly clear elite athleticism, having a ridiculous blend of speed, lateral agility, and bend around the corner.

While his pass-rushing technique is a work in progress, it is impressive considering how little he’s played the position, winning primarily with dips, spins, and the ability to convert speed to power. There is little doubt that Browning has the talent to develop into a very good NFL pass rusher but where he really needs to improve is in setting an edge consistently.

Too many times this past season, Browning was either simply beaten by bigger and stronger NFL offensive tackles or fooled by play design — ultimately losing the edge and potentially giving up a big play. The good news is a lot of these issues can be improved and with more time at the position, further development can be expected.

At the end of the day, fans should be very excited about Browning’s potential, having the tools necessary to be a long-term fix at one of the league’s premier positions.

Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper
In tier two, Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper couldn’t be more different in terms of play style and draft status but now both reside as rotational edge players behind the projected starters for next season. Bonitto, who was drafted 64th overall in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft — came into the league with expectations that he could be a player Denver could throw into obvious passing situations to cause havoc.

Only being around 6’3″ and 240 pounds, where Bonitto lacks in size and strength for the position, he makes up with burst and the ability to bend around the corner.

Throughout his rookie season, Bonitto struggled to make a massive impact, only accounting for two sacks and 14 hurries. Looking ahead to next season, uncertainty is the best word to describe him. While fans should not write him off just yet, he must prove that his smaller frame can hold up in the run game, ultimately making him a positive addition as an every-down player.

Considering that he was drafted in the second round, the Denver Broncos would be wise to give Bonitto the necessary time to further develop his game. As for Cooper, quite opposite of Bonitto, he was selected in the last round of the NFL draft but has shown the consistency needed to be a very solid player to come off the bench and play in a prominent role if needed.

While Cooper’s ceiling may not be as high as the other players listed ahead of him, he now stands as one of the best options on the team that can both get after the passer and defend well against the run that eliminates him being a situational down option. The soon-to-be third-year pass rusher’s primary ways of winning are with an extremely hot motor, explosiveness, and a signature hesi-step to hand swipe move that has given various offensive tackles fits so far in his short career.

That being said, Cooper is a better fit to be a rotational piece. He is a solid player across the board but is not elite enough in any one category to validate a starting role. Cooper is a player the Broncos should keep around because of the need for quality depth at the position, in order to be successful. His ability to step onto the field and not hurt the defense in any category is valuable and is especially helpful in a room full of unknowns.

Jacob Martin
After the Denver Broncos dealt Chubb to the Miami Dolphins, they acquired Martin and a 2024 fifth-round pick from the New York Jets in exchange for the Broncos’ 2024 fourth-round pick. Unfortunately, Martin’s season was cut short due to a knee injury in Week 14 which landed him on injured reserve — only playing in five games for Denver.

Taking a look at Martin’s game, he is a fluid player that is an ideal fit on passing downs and beats opposing offensive tackles with his patent cross/chop move. This move has been his go-to ever since he’s been in the league and has been a problem for his opponents to defend.

Much like other players at the position, Martin is a situational player but ranks below Cooper and Bonitto after having almost no impact as a Bronco due to his injury.

Projecting to next season, Martin is still under contract with the Broncos and has displayed enough on special teams throughout his career prior, making him a valuable piece going forward — cutting him could save the Broncos almost five million dollars in cap space.

At this point, it is probably a coin flip if he returns, with other options offering benefits in different ways defensively.