At the past two trade deadlines, the Broncos have bailed on a second Von Miller extension and an initial Bradley Chubb re-up, trading Miller in 2021 and dealing Chubb to the Dolphins on Tuesday. But the team has an eye on extending one of its inside pass rushers.
Dre’Mont Jones joined Chubb in a contract year, and with Chubb out of the picture, the Broncos appear set to focus their attention on retaining the former third-round pick. With Chubb gone, the fourth-year defensive lineman leads the team with 5.5 sacks. Broncos GM George Paton called Jones one of the team’s core players and indicated (via Denver7’s Troy Renck) the team wants to have him in Denver for “a long time.”
Although the Broncos’ edge rush has garnered more attention this season — one that has produced a top-two defense despite the team losing key players to injury — Jones has three sacks over the past two games and is now one shy of his single-season high (established in 2020). After not topping the 65% play barrier in 2020 or ’21, Jones is playing 79% of the Broncos’ defensive snaps and is working as a full-time starter for the first time. The most recent AFC Defensive Player of the Week will be an interesting extension candidate, with the price tag likely rising this season.
Denver selected Jones out of Ohio State during John Elway‘s penultimate draft in the GM chair. The Broncos have moved on from their top two picks in the 2019 draft, including both Noah Fant and Drew Lock in the Russell Wilson trade. But Jones, 25, and second-round pick Dalton Risner are in contract years. Paton’s comments following the Chubb trade would seem to point to Jones as the higher priority.
Paton’s regime kept both Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick off the 2022 market, signing each to extensions midway through last season. Sutton’s $15MM-per-year deal now looks team-friendly, given where the receiver market went this year, so it will be interesting to see if the Broncos enter serious talks with Jones before the season concludes. One of Paton’s first acts as Broncos GM was to give D-lineman Shelby Harris a three-year, $27MM deal in 2021. With Harris also part of the Wilson trade, the Broncos signed D.J. Jones this year. But the team has relied on both its D-tackle Joneses this season.
It is a bit early to speculate on what Dre’Mont Jones could fetch on a long-term deal, but the upper echelon for inside rushers starts with Cameron Heyward‘s $16MM-per-year contract. Seven players reside between there and the Aaron Donald-only tier ($31.6MM AAV). The franchise tag might be a bit steep at this point, as it cost $17.4MM to tag a D-tackle this year. That would, however, be the surefire way for the Broncos to keep Jones off the market. While the Broncos are now a team with a franchise-quarterback salary on their books, Wilson’s cap numbers do not rise too high until 2024. That would make a tag more palatable for the Broncos, though it is still early to determine if Jones’ contract year will make him a worthy tag recipient.