The Denver Broncos have loaded up on the safety position the past few years by drafting several players and retaining a consistent core of players. This year there are currently seven players under contract fighting for the spots the franchise will allocate to this year’s 53-man roster.
Last year the Broncos kept five safeties, which is what I assume they will role with spot-wise for their upcoming 2023 campaign. One player fighting for a back-end roster spot is P.J. Locke, who has been a consistent cog in the Broncos’ special teams efforts over the past three seasons.
The Broncos didn’t tender him this past off-season which would have cost them roughly $2.63 million dollars. However, the team eventually came to terms and brought him back on one-year deal worth $1.4 million dollars.
What will it take for Locke to make the team? Let’s take a deeper dive and find out.
Height: 5’10” | Weight: 202 pounds | Age: 26 years old
40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds | Broad Jump: 10’
Arm Length: 31 inches | Hands: 9-3/8 inches | Vertical Jump: 36 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.26 seconds | 3-Cone Drill: 7.13 seconds | Bench Press: 22 reps
Locke was active for 16 games in 2023. He had a career high 111 snaps on defense while having 341 (76-percent) of Denver’s special teams snaps.
How does safety P.J. Locke fit with the Denver Broncos?
Locke has been one of the Broncos’ most consistent special teams players over the past three seasons. He has averaged over 80-percent of the team’s snaps in that facet of the game—making him a Top 5 contributor in that regard year in and year out. That’s his main draw and value to the team.
With a handful of injuries in the secondary last year, Locke was able to see a significant uptick in playing time defensively. He was able to notch 10-percent of the team’s defensive snaps and finished the year with a career high 21 tackles, forced two fumbles, and was credited with one pass defended. Coverage-wise he had some issues when the ball came his way and allowed 7 completions on 11 targets in his direction.
I view Locke as a jack-of-all-trades player who offers significant value as a back-end defender given his special teams prowess. Every player in the league wants a guy like him on their roster. It will be interesting to see how Vance Joseph decides to use him on defense and if he can show enough coverage chops to merit a spot on the roster.
So what are the odds he sticks with the Broncos this season given the wealth of talent they have accrued at the position?
The Broncos are sitting seven deep at safety with the aforementioned Locke alongside Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, JL Skinner, Delarrin Turner-Yell and Devon Key.
The competition at safety is going to be fierce and only five of these players will make the final roster. Without question, the back-end spots will undoubtedly be awarded to players who excel on special teams. We all know Locke has that, but there are others in the fold who have that ability as well—and I fully expect recent draft pick Skinner to be one of the key safeties in that rotation this season.
The entire coaching staff on special teams has been revamped and Broncos fans should most certainly perform better as a unit this coming season. Locke will have to impress the new coaches on that side of the ball and prove himself as a capable sub-package defender when his name is called during camp to earn a roster spot.
All things considered, I believe the biggest competition for that fifth spot will come from 2022 draft pick Delarrin Turner-Yell. Whoever shines the most in camp between the two of them is going to secure that final spot. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but if Locke was to be cut, I have no doubt he would be snatched up by another team looking for depth in their secondary.