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What is the Broncos best move from the first wave of free agency?

Mile High Report weighs in.

NFL Combine
Did Paton do enough to surround Russell Wilson with talent?
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos followed a blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson with an active legal tampering period to set the stage for the rest of their offseason. 11 different players have received a contract offer from George Paton since he stole acquired Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks:

Retained

  • Andrew Beck - FB/TE
  • Calvin Anderson - OT
  • Jonas Griffith - LB
  • Brett Rypien - QB
  • P.J. Locke - S
  • Josey Jewell - LB
  • Malik Reed - ED

Signed

  • Ben Braden - OL
  • D.J. Jones - DL
  • Randy Gregory - ED
  • Eric Tomlinson - TE

What is the deal you’re most excited about so far?

Joe Mahoney: Gregory - he’s an elite pass rusher and those are hard to find and usually very expensive. Yes, his career sack numbers are underwhelming, but fools look only at sacks. Folks who understand football look at pressures first and sacks second. The rate of sacks has been going down year over year. The pressure rate has been relatively constant. I define elite as a pressure rate of 14% or better. Only 16 pass rushers were at 14% or better in 2021. By SISdatahub.com Randy Gregory generated pressure on 15 percent or more of his pass rush snaps in both 2021 and 2020. Gregory had the 9th best pressure rate among volume pass rushers (min 275 pass rushes) in 2021. Most of the guys who had higher rates in 2021 are household names like T.J. Watt, Trey Hendrickson and Micah Parsons. Gregory also rarely gets “shut out” as a pass rusher with only one game in 2021 where he did not record a single QB pressure (game 1 vs Tampa Bay) - according to PFR.

Of the guys in the top 20 in total pressures in 2021, only three guys were not shut out - Hendrickson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Rashan Gary. Data for this is from PFR. Gregory is immediately the best rusher on the Broncos. When healthy and on the field, Bradley Chubb has generated pressure on 14.1-15.6 percent of his pass rush snaps (2018-2020). Chubb was never healthy in 2021.

Now Gregory is not, nor has he ever been an every down OLB. He is not a liability against the run, but he can be overwhelmed by heavy tackles who either beat him with mass or let him use his speed to run himself out of the play. According to SIS, Gregory also never drops into coverage. He has only done that on 13 of the 807 passing plays he has been on the field against in the NFL. On 3rd and long, I am really excited to see what havoc Chubb, Gregory, Jonathan Cooper and Dre’Mont Jones can wreak on opposing QBs in 2022.

Tim Lynch: D.J. Jones would be my pick. While not known as an elite pass rusher, he is absolutely considered an elite run defender. In fact, he might be the best in the league in that regard at his position. He certainly was in 2021 as he piled up the best run-stop percentage in the NFL. If there was one weakness on the defense last season, it was softness against the run inside. Teams were able to consistently get penetration and yards on inside runs in 2021. You would have to figure Jones would be a big part of solving that problem moving forward. Denver probably overpaid slightly for a pure run-stopper type player, but if Jones is able to dominate in the run game like he has in his career then we won’t be sad about his slightly overpaid contract. Overall, this was my favorite signing so far.

Ian St. Clair: I like both the Gregory and Jones signing. Tim laid out why the Jones signing is huge (pun intended) for the middle of the defense. If Gregory can put it all together, he has the potential to be a game-changer and game-wrecker. In an ideal world for this defense, the two play off each other to help the defense get consistent pressure in the running game and on the opposing quarterback that then leads to turnovers to get Wilson more possessions.

Adam Malnati: I think the move that is most exciting is Randall Gregory. He can pair up with Bradley Chubb and wreak havoc on opposing QBs. There is an element of concern with both guys regarding health and availability. Those concerns make Gregory a bit of a gamble, but there is no denying his potential and the possibility for terror that he can bring on the field.

Taylor Kothe: I’m going to go with Josey Jewell. It’s always great to see a home-grown player get a 2nd contract with the team. And, for me at least, there’s an extra slice of vicarious satisfaction when it happens for a guy like Jewell who didn’t come into the league with elite physical traits, but has carved out a place for himself anyway with hard work and dedication to his craft. Jewell’s become the kind of technician whose instincts and learned skills can bridge the gap and allow him to compete at a starting level. He hasn’t gotten faster- no, he gets to the ball on time because his ability to read the play and react lets him start moving earlier.As George Paton noted, Jewell was the “glue” of the defense before his injury last year. That’s a valuable player to have on your roster, beyond even his own production. That’s the kind of guy who can teach a young guy like Baron Browning to see what he sees, helping Browning to develop and potentially become a really special player. Bringing that guy back is a positive move to solidify the middle of the defense, and a positive impact on the locker room as well.

Joe Rowles: My favorite move so far is the Calvin Anderson re-signing. Assuming he’s back to form after a season ending knee and ankle injuries, it’s an extremely team friendly contract for a swing tackle who looked like a viable starter when pressed into action. The deal also meant Paton did not find himself wading into free agency with only one tackle under contract who had experience in the NFL. Rookie tackles typically need time to adjust to the league and the Wilson trade left the Broncos without a premium pick to take one of the top prospects, so it was savvy to retain a “bridge” at the position who has some promise.

Poll

What is the deal you’re most excited about so far?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Extending Andrew Beck
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Extending Calvin Anderson
    (15 votes)
  • 1%
    Re-signing Jonas Griffith
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    Re-signing Brett Rypien
    (28 votes)
  • 0%
    Re-signing P.J. Locke
    (5 votes)
  • 10%
    Re-signing Josey Jewell
    (96 votes)
  • 2%
    Tendering Malik Reed
    (23 votes)
  • 0%
    Signing Ben Braden from free agency
    (5 votes)
  • 45%
    Signing D.J. Jones from the 49ers
    (420 votes)
  • 30%
    Signing Randy Gregory from the Cowboys
    (284 votes)
  • 2%
    Signing Eric Tomlinson from the Ravens
    (24 votes)
920 votes total Vote Now