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Free Agent Profile: Linebacker Jayon Brown

The Denver Broncos need to add some speed to the linebacker position and Jayon Brown would add just that.

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Chicago Bears v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

One area of need that the Broncos have going into this offseason is at the off the linebacker position. They do have two solid players in Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson already on the roster, but neither of them are known for their athleticism or coverage ability. So adding a player who can fill that role and potentially take over as a full-time starter in the Broncos defense.

The Broncos showed their desire at adding a linebacker with these traits by nearly trading up back into the first-round of the 2020 draft to select LSU’s Patrick Queen. He ended up being selected by the Baltimore Ravens and the Broncos drafted Justin Strnad later in the draft. However, they could look at Brown as a linebacker that would excel and fit well into Broncos Head Coach Fangio’s defense.

Player Profile

Height: 6-0
Weight: 226 pounds
Age: 25 years old
Experience: 4 years

Jayon Brown played four seasons of college ball at UCLA before entering the 2017 NFL Draft. He wasn’t viewed as a high-end prospect and ended up sliding into the fifth-round where the Tennessee Titans selected him with their 155th overall selection.

In four NFL seasons, Brown totaled 329 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 18 quarterback hits, 3 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns, 26 pass deflections, and 4 forced fumbles. This past season for the Titans, Brown played in 10 games for the Titans and totaled 72 tackles, 1 sack, 8 pass deflections, and 1 interception.

Why it makes sense

It’s clear that the Broncos and Fangio would like to add speed, athleticism, and coverage ability at linebacker and Brown is all of that. Out of all of the linebackers in the NFL, Brown had the 11th best coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus and he graded out as the 20th best linebacker according to Pro Football Focus as well.

Brown also made Pro Football Focus’s top 150 free agents this offseason where he ranked as their 54th best free agent. Here’s what they had to say about the speedy linebacker.

Another undersized, modern-day linebacker, Brown has earned the 10th-best coverage grade in the league since 2018. His profile is eerily similar to Matt Milano’s — they’re plus coverage players, below-average run defenders and both have a fifth-round pedigree.

The one difference is stylistic, as Milano has done his best work when lined up in single coverage while Brown has performed best in zone. Brown also has the fourth-best forced incompletion percentage since 2017, so he will get his hands on the ball in the middle of the field.

Contract Analysis: Tennessee also has to make a decision on the fifth-year option for 2018 first-round LB Rashaan Evans this offseason, which may influence whether the Titans keep Brown around. Brown is a bright spot on a defense that struggles mightily in coverage, but, unfortunately, a dislocated and fractured elbow suffered in Week 11 against the Baltimore Ravens could impact his negotiations. While no two players are the same, Chicago Bears LB Danny Trevathan suffered the same injury to the same elbow in Week 10 of 2019 and he was ready to go by Week 1 of 2020 with a new contract extension of his own.

Also, being in the AFC West where the Chiefs will likely reign as the top team for awhile, you will need speed and athleticism at the linebacker position if you want to compete. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved that having speed at linebacker can help slow down their explosive offense.

Now, while I think Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson played well last season, I think an athletic upgrade is needed and desired by the Broncos. So, this is why I think a player like Jayon Brown would be an excellent fit in the Broncos defense.

Why it doesn’t make sense

You already have two solid starting linebackers in Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson. Jewell is still on his rookie contract and Johnson is a restricted free agent who won’t cost more than a few million against the cap. So you have two starting linebackers who are fairly cheap and who also graded out as the 13th(Jewell) and the 22nd(Johnson) best linebackers according to Pro Football Focus. So is paying likely 10+ million dollars for a linebacker really that smart of an idea?

I say probably not.

While I am a big fan of Jayon Brown, paying top dollar for an off-the-ball linebacker probably isn’t the best way to spend your resources. That money should be spent at cornerback and/or on a defensive lineman.

Final Thoughts

I’m on the fence with this one. While I think adding a linebacker with the skill set of Brown would be beneficial to this defense, I’m not sure it’s the best use of resources. However, in the past, the Bears signed Danny Trevathan to a big deal and the 49ers had quite the commitment to inside linebackers as well and both of those teams had Fangio coaching their defenses. His influence likely led to these additions so it’s possible it could happen again.

This isn’t a knock on Jewell or Johnson, but Brown offers more in the coverage game than either of them and also adds some much-needed speed to the position. So, I’m definitely interested in Brown, but can understand why people would be against this or rather just draft a linebacker instead

In the end, I think Brown is going to have a healthy market and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos be interested. I am not sure that they will go above and beyond what it will likely take to get him, but we shall see how it will play out.


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