Cody Barton, Jonas Griffith Competing For Broncos ILB Job

The Broncos’ separations from Russell Wilson, Justin Simmons and Jerry Jeudy drew more attention this offseason, but the team also said goodbye to starting linebacker Josey Jewell. The six-year Denver defender left to rejoin Ejiro Evero with Carolina.

Alex Singleton remains tied to the three-year, $18MM contract he signed last year; the prolific tackler will enter training camp a surefire starter on Denver’s defensive second level. Jewell’s old post remains unfilled; a camp position battle will determine who will be Singleton’s ILB wingman to start this season.

[RELATED: Broncos Lose Drew Sanders To Achilles Tear]

Days after Jewell’s defection to the Panthers, the Broncos signed Cody Barton. The latter has been a starter in back-to-back seasons, working in that capacity with the Seahawks and Commanders. The team also re-signed Jonas Griffith, who has logged fill-in starter duty while maintaining a regular role on special teams. This shapes up as a head-to-head matchup for the other three-down LB role in Denver,’s Jeff Legwold notes.

Griffth’s re-emergence reflects his progress with the current coaching staff, which was not in place when the Broncos traded for him in 2021, and from the ACL tear he sustained last summer. Griffith, who made eight starts for the Broncos in 2022, also suffered two significant injuries that limited him two seasons ago. Elbow and foot issues shelved the former UDFA in 2022, when he had played alongside Jewell and Singleton in base sets. The fifth-year defender, whom the Broncos re-signed to bypass the RFA tender process this offseason, has not played since that November 2022 foot flareup.

Given the keys to a three-down role after the Seahawks released Bobby Wagner in 2022, Barton has since seen Wagner circle back to replace him in Washington. Dan Quinn‘s run of reunions included Wagner, whom he coached as Seahawks DC from 2013-14. Wagner’s Washington commitment followed Frankie Luvu‘s. With former first-rounder Jamin Davis still on the roster, Barton saw the new Commanders regime move on during the first days of free agency. This preceded a one-year, $2.5MM Broncos agreement. That deal includes $2.33MM guaranteed; Griffith’s contract does not feature any guarantees.

Barton, 27, made 24 starts over the past two seasons, filling up the stat sheet in that time. The former third-round pick totaled 136 tackles, two interceptions and six passes defensed in 2022 while adding 121 stops and one pick last season. Pro Football Focus, however, viewed Barton as a liability against the run and ranked him as a bottom-10 LB regular last season. Griffith, 27, intercepted a pass during his injury-shortened 2022 season.

Singleton’s new sidekick will emerge as a low-cost solution after Jewell’s two-year, $11MM contract came off the books. With Wilson carrying a record-smashing dead money sum, the Broncos have needed to cut costs elsewhere. Linebacker will be one such place, with rookie deals (Justin Strnad, Drew Sanders) and a vet-minimum Andre Smith contract rounding out the position. Denver did not draft an inside linebacker this year.

Barton’s contract would indicate a slight edge, though Sean Payton said Griffith has shown himself to be a viable competitor for a starting post. After the Broncos’ Jewell talks did not produce a third contract agreement, he inked a three-year, $18.75MM Panthers pact. DC Vance Joseph, having lost the last two defenders left over from his HC stay (Simmons and Jewell), will need to select a less established replacement soon.

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