With Josey Jewell inked up with a shiny new two-year contract, one of the starting linebacker vacancies have been filled. However, that still leaves one spot up for grabs and the Broncos have a plethora of options.
Jewel showed himself to be a very effective starter to begin last season. The sample size was very small but his ability to just be around the ball and play with consistency and control allowed his teammates to bring an additional layer of aggressiveness.
Now George Paton has to decided who to pair with the man nicknamed “Red Beard” by Von Miller.
It will be fascinating to see if this is an area that Paton will pour additional money into, seeing as the position overall has not been highly valued leaguewide. Paton moves to the beat of his own drum though, and an increased investment in the front-seven may be in the cards.
With the recent signings of D.J Jones and Randy Gregory and the trade for Russell Wilson, the Broncos are now having to measure their future acquisitions more carefully against the salary cap. Prior to those moves the Broncos had a very healthy $39 million in cap space but that has now shrunk to just over $13 million.
Thirteen million is still a nice chunk of change to finesse and with some smooth cap management can still allow the Broncos to pursue a player of Bobby Wagner’s caliber.
Wagner could demand upwards of $10-plus million a year due to his production. Still playing at an elite level, he is inarguably the best interior linebacker available in free agency and deserves to be paid as such.
For the legendary veteran to join Denver he would likely have to take a very cap friendly deal, meaning a discount. The likelihood of this occurring is slim but perhaps the allure of playing with his longtime Seattle quarterback and friend is enough to tip the scales in the Broncos favor. Again, it is far from likely but I wouldn’t put it past George Paton to try.
Last October, after a fantastic start to the regular season, Alexander Johnson’s 2021 campaign ended due to a torn right pectoral. Up until that point he was terrorizing his opponents and unleashing his inner dinosaur.
Cost again, is a contributing factor in seeing a possible return to the orange and blue. Having underrated production the last fee seasons, it would not be surprising to see a team take a risk on Johnson to the tune of $7 to $8 million a year. Then the cost valuation becomes key.
The biggest obstacles in front of Johnson have to be his previous injury history combined with his age. Also, in a new defensive scheme his fit may not be ideal in Denver.
For the right price the Broncos would be silly not to consider bringing him back but if he is able to get a payday and a multi-year deal, he would be remiss to pass on that opportunity elsewhere. With such limited cap space remaining, it would be difficult to see a pathway forward with Johnson in a Denver Broncos uniform.
If we have learned anything about George Paton, it is that he loves the draft. He had made his living in the NFL as an elite talent evaluator and arguably had one of the best Denver Broncos draft classes in 2021.
One of those strong additions was Baron Browning, a late third-round selection out of Ohio State University.
Browning’s season began with injury, slowing his progress but once he was healthy he found himself thrust into a starting position playing quite well.
His play was not perfect but what he lacks in polish he more than makes up for with pure speed. Browning showed versatility and had highlights in both stopping the run and disrupting the passing game. Browning needs to improve his ability to quickly diagnose his assignment on a play-to-play basis, but that is an area that he has already shown improvement in.
Browning’s impromptu audition as a starter went extremely well and may have been enough to land him the gig alongside Jewel. The duo may experience some growing pains initially but if given the opportunity, could also be extremely dynamic.
Browning will have to compete with Jonas Griffith who was retained by the team, but should have the inside track in a head-to-head competition if health is not a factor.