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Report: Broncos sign free agent linebacker A.J Johnson

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This is an interesting addition.

Tennessee v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

According to 9NEWS Denver’s Mike Klis, the Denver Broncos have signed former Tennessee Volunteers linebacker, A.J Johnson. To make room for Johnson, the Broncos have released backup linebacker Stansly Maponga.

Now, this isn’t a regular signing for the Broncos. Johnson hasn’t played football in three years after being accused of rape. He was acquitted of these charges last month and is now free to continue his NFL career with the Broncos. Klis adds that the Broncos beat out nearly 10 teams for Johnson’s services.

Here is what Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway had to say about A.J. Johnson’s addition to the team.

“A.J. hasn’t had the opportunity to play football for the last three years while resolving a serious legal matter. We’ve had several conversations with him since he’s been cleared and have become very familiar with his background and character. Our organization is confident A.J. is ready to move forward and resume his playing career.”

Johnson who is a 6’2”, 243 lb linebacker played four seasons at Tennessee and put up some impressive numbers from 2011 to 2014. During that span, he totaled 424 tackles, 30.5 career tackles for a loss, three sacks, one interception, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He was also a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection at the University of Tennessee from 2011-14.

Here is a scouting report on Johnson by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

STRENGTHS: One of just four players in Tennessee history to accumulate 400 career tackles. Reads keys and responds. Doesn’t usually overreact to play-fakes. Gives consistent effort and gets the defense lined up. Consistent tackler with a closing burst to the ball. Takes good angles to the ball and doesn’t run under blocks. Recognizes screen passes and flows to the action. Sifts through trash at his feet and avoids it. Can be used as a blitzer and is a core special-teams player.

WEAKNESSES: Linear body and plays upright in space. Long strider -- takes time to hit his top gear. Average lateral movement and has sluggish foot movement in confined spaces. Technique falters while scraping down the line to play the run. Will get shoulders turned and lose leverage against second-level blocks. Doesn’t feature a quick trigger mechanism in his hips. Hand usage needs improvement. Offensive linemen get into his body too easily. Was suspended by Tennessee near the end of the season after he was alleged to have been involved in the rape of a 19-year-old student and was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of aggravated rape in February.

Johnson hasn’t played football in three years so it is hard to take his pre-draft scouting report seriously at this point. He has to prove he is in football shape and still has it despite not playing in a game since 2014.

I also do not see this signing as a tryout. If the Broncos beat out nearly 10 teams for his services, they must have wanted him and probably do not plan on completely parting ways with him in a few weeks. He won’t make the 53-man roster obviously, but he does seem like a prime practice squad candidate for the Broncos.

This is an interesting addition to the Broncos defense and I am intrigued on how it will play out going forward.