For the first time since 2015, the Denver Broncos’ linebacking corps feels like a position of strength to the franchise, thanks to George Paton uncovering a few diamonds in the rough.

Where do the Broncos go from here at linebacker, and what tough decisions will they be forced to make this offseason? Let’s take a look.

Josey Jewell

Arguably the most underrated player by Broncos Country, Josey Jewell had a wonderfully resurgent season after missing most of 2021 with a pectoral injury.

In his return from injury, Jewell finished the season as one of the NFL’s ten highest-graded run defenders at the linebacker position, finished the season top-20 in average depth of tackle, and finished in the top-30 in terms of passer rating allowed when targeted and pass-coverage grade.

One could easily argue that Jewell was outperformed by Alex Singleton, who now looks the part of the team’s best linebacker, but that wasn’t the result of a shaky performance from Jewell at all. He was a strong run defender, who also proved to the Denver Broncos’ fans that they had been greatly underrating his coverage ability.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Denver, Jewell’s two interceptions almost singlehandedly led the Broncos to a successful upset, as he got his revenge against Travis Kelce.

For years, fans have pined for upgraded linebacker play, but it’s hard to imagine we’ll hear those cries much this offseason after what Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton did this season.

Alex Singleton

Of all the things this columnist was wrong about in 2022, and there were plenty, it’s part of the business, no misstep is near as glaring as how underrated Alex Singleton was.

When the Denver Broncos entered camp with Singleton as their No. 3 linebacker, the thought was, ‘the drop-off from Griffith to Singleton is far too steep, so the Broncos might want to look to add some depth.’

That thought is laughably foolish given the benefit of hindsight.

One could very easily argue that Singleton was the best linebacker on the team this season, and that wasn’t a product of Jonas Griffith or Josey Jewell falling on their faces. Singleton was simply just incredible.

Although there was the occaisonal lapse in coverage, that’s just the nature of the beast in the modern NFL. Otherwise, Singleton was near flawless thanks to his lightning-fast reaction speed and his natural instinctiveness. Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero even complimented Singleton as being the most reactive player he had ever been around, whcih is high praise considering the amazing defenses Evero has been around during his nearly two decades in the league.

As a result, Singleton had two games in which he totaled at least 20 tackles.

Singleton also finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ seventh highest-graded linebacker from a run-defense perspective, and led all linebackers in run-stop percentage, with All-Pro Fred Warner finishing in second.

Singleton earned multiple votes from the media as the Denver Broncos’ team MVP for the season, and as an All-Pro candidate and understandably so, as you could count the Broncos on one hand that had a similar week-to-week impact as he did.

The problem for the Denver Broncos is that Singleton’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Broncos will have to pony up financially if they want to keep him around. Considering that Jonas Griffith still needs to prove himself some, and Josey Jewell’s contract expires after 2023, they’d be wise to keep Singleton in Denver.

Jonas Griffith

All in all, 2022 was a fairly disappointing season for Jonas Griffith, although his future does still look bright.

As a result of injury and Singleton’s amazing play, he lost the starting spot after Week 10, but he looked like a solid linebacker nonetheless.

Gaining more comfortability and a greater feel for offensive route combinations should benefit him in the passing game, as he looked relatively uncomfortable there this season. Playing on his heels is an area where he’ll have to grow to re-gain his starting spot, but when able to play downhill, he was impressive.

Griffith continuously uses his impressive strength and speed to stand up running backs in the hole, and wrap them up for negligible gains. It also made him a relatively effective pass-rusher, though he only had 28 pass-rush opportunities on the season. However, on those limited attempts, Griffith pressured the quarterback a jaw-dropping 28.6% of the time.

Hopefully that discovery of Evero’s carries over to whoever is calling plays for the defense next season.

Although Griffth might find himself demoted back to a rotational role in 2023, his exclusive-rights free agent deal makes it very easy for Denver to keep him around and continue to develop his amazing physical gifts, as Singleton and Jewell won’t be around forever.

Justin Strnad

Although he didn’t play a single defensive snap this season, 2022 was a promising year for Justin Strnad, as it showed him finally finding his place on an NFL roster.

Unfortunately, in prior campaigns, he was either injured and unable to play, or bullied in the run game to the point of nearly being unplayable. This year, as we worked his way into a special teams role, he showed signs of blossoming.

He finished the season with just five tackles, but in spite of that, he carved out a starting role on five of the six phases of special teams, with field goal protection being the only one he’s missing, and it would be a rarity to see a linebacker on the field for that.

All that said, the Denver Broncos will certainly be looking to upgrade their paltry special teams unit this offseason. Strnad might have a role moving forward, but he’s going to have to re-prove himself in camp to hold onto what he earned in 2022. The fact he’s one of just two inside linebackers under contract bodes well for him.