It’s time for another free agency profile. Let’s talk about safeties for a minute, specifically the New Jersey native and strong safety Jabrill Peppers.
Of course, the Broncos have a talented pair of starters in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. Behind them are Caden Sterns, as well as P.J. Locke and Jamar Johnson, respectively (not a bad set of backups).
Jackson signed a one-year contract with the Broncos last year after they declined his option, but now that the 2021 season is over, his future as a Bronco remains unclear.
Simmons, on the other hand, had a franchise tag placed on him yet again last year and he signed a four-year contract with Denver last March. He won’t be leaving Denver anytime soon.
Strong safety Jabrill Peppers went 25th overall in the 2017 Draft, the third safety picked that year. At the NFL combine he’d entered as a linebacker AND a safety, hitting the fastest 40 (4.46) out of any other linebacker there, and ahead of the draft he ranked with multiple analysts as the third best option at safety.
As a Cleveland Brown (2017-2018), Peppers recorded a total of eight pass deflections (3, 5), two interceptions (1, 1), six tackles for loss (1, 5), and a total of 97 solo tackles (45, 52). There was also a game-winning sack on fourth down, vs the Broncos of all teams.
Here’s that clip, in case you need a refresher...
The only time Jabrill Peppers murdered anyone: pic.twitter.com/fRHOtlHvYh— HuntSZN: Beating Ohio State Supporter (@GO_BLUE_13) February 28, 2019
In 2019 Peppers was traded to the New York Giants. A transverse process fracture ended his 2019 season in December, but he still managed a defensive touchdown, an interception, three forced fumbles, five passes deflected, and 76 combined sacks in 11 games.
His 2020 season saw even more action, with 11 passes defended, another interception, a forced fumble, 2.5 sacks, and 91 combined tackles. He followed that up in 2021 with a sack and a pass deflected, but he suffered a season-ending ACL injury vs Panthers (25-3 win) after six games played.
At Michigan, Peppers was the Big-Ten Freshman of the Year and Second-team All-American in 2015. Then in 2016, he received the Lott Trophy, Paul Hornung Award, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, and Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year recognitions. Peppers was also in the running for the Heisman Trophy that year, but the award ultimately went to QB Lamar Jackson.
Player at a glance
Weight: 215 pounds
Years in NFL: 5
Why to pursue him
Despite Jabrill Peppers being a strong safety, he lined up as a free safety on multiple occasions when he played for the Cleveland Browns, particularly in the 2018 season.
He is impactful against the running game, able to read and respond quickly to various formations. He’s also done a lot of punt returning on special teams, and in that position he’s been quick and effective at fielding off tacklers. Honestly, he’s almost built like a running back.
In other words, Peppers is versatile. He’s nicknamed the Swiss Army Knife because he can line up any and everywhere he’s needed. He could be what the Broncos need in safety.
Jabrill Peppers appreciation post. This was the play he was first banged up on Sunday. Effort !!! pic.twitter.com/YIhhXEOIZJ— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) October 26, 2021
Why not to pursue him
I think it all comes down to where George Paton is trying to invest the Bronocs’ money. Peppers’ rookie contract is up this year and he’s bound to make a lot more money. One of the things to consider is that he’s had some struggle in pass coverage, and his aggressive play style has cost him before.
I wouldn’t consider his time on the injury reserve to be a red flag really, considering he produces at a high level when he’s on the field and he’s spent more time playing than not.
Peppers is a guy who can probably do anything the Broncos ask him to do. Ultimately with his rookie contract at an end, he’s in a position to ask for a lot more money and the Giants will have to decide whether they have the ability to keep him on. It’s possible that he’ll be on the market for 2022.
Should the Broncos pursue Jabrill Peppers in free agency?
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