Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson will miss the rest of the year with a torn pectoral muscle, per a club announcement. He’ll be placed on injured reserve today, opening up a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Broncos are already without fellow starting ‘backer Josey Jewell, who also suffered a torn pec. It’s a bad blow to Vic Fangio‘s front seven and especially poor timing for Johnson. The middle linebacker is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the spring, after he wraps his one-year, $3.384MM tender.
Johnson, 30 in December, joined the Broncos in 2018 and found his way to the starting lineup in October of 2019. He immediately improved the team’s run defense and kept his first-string gig throughout 2020. Johnson made 124 tackles and forced two fumbles last season while Pro Football Focus rated the 255-pound defender as a top-25 off-ball linebacker. In his six games this year, Johnson recorded 32 stops, two sacks, and three passes defensed.
Meanwhile, the Broncos also say that wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is unlikely to play on Thursday night when they face the Browns.
Days after Tim Patrick signed his restricted free agent tender, the other RFA the Broncos tendered at the second-round level followed suit. Alexander Johnson signed his tender Thursday.
Like Patrick, the middle linebacker is set to earn $3.384MM on the tender. Only one restricted free agent received a first-round tender this year — Rams cornerback Darious Williams — but several commanded the second-round price. Johnson is now signed for the 2021 season. Barring an extension, he will play for the tender amount. He is due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
An unusual RFA, seeing as he will turn 30 later this year, Johnson has been a starter in Denver for most of Vic Fangio‘s two-season tenure. The Broncos signed the ex-Tennessee Volunteer in 2018 but did not deploy him as a starter until October 2019. Johnson immediately impacted the team’s run defense and kept the first-string gig throughout 2020 as well. Johnson made 124 tackles and forced two fumbles last season. Pro Football Focus viewed the 255-pound defender as a top-25 off-ball linebacker in 2020.
This figures to be a notable stretch for the Broncos at linebacker. After parting ways with Brandon Marshall in 2019, the Broncos have made Johnson and Josey Jewell their primary off-ball ‘backers. Both are going into contract years. The team also drafted Ohio State’s Baron Browningin Round 3 this year, but it would make sense if either Jewell or Johnson emerged on the team’s extension radar.
Johnson’s late NFL start may well work against him regarding earning potential, but a solid 2021 season would put him in line for at least a decent medium-length deal — be it via a Broncos extension or as an unrestricted free agent next year.
An unusual RFA, Johnson will turn 30 this year. A legal issue delayed his NFL career, but the former Tennessee Volunteer has thrived after receiving his opportunity in Denver. The Broncos turned to Johnson as their starting middle linebacker early in the 2019 season, and he has become one of the league’s better off-ball ‘backers. Joining Josey Jewell as Denver starting linebackers going into contract years, Johnson led the 2020 team in tackles with 124.
Given his age, Johnson may not be a candidate for a long-term deal. But he could be in the mix for either a medium-length Broncos extension before the mid-June RFA deadline or draw interest for a similarly structured pact in unrestricted free agency next year.
Both Johnson and Patrick were expected to draw interest from other teams, had the Broncos tendered them at the right-of-first-refusal level. The Broncos did place the low-end tender on Linsday, whose profile exceeds both Johnson and Patrick’s. It will be interesting to see if the Pro Bowl running back draws an offer sheet. Any offer sheet that comes for Patrick or Johnson would require the signing team to send a second-round pick to the Broncos, should they fail to match. This scenario seems unlikely, pointing both players back to Denver for the 2021 season.
Preparing to use their franchise tag on Justin Simmonsfor a second straight year, the Broncos do not have a high number of unrestricted free agents that would seemingly factor prominently into their big picture. (Though, defensive lineman Shelby Harris would qualify as such a player.)
But Denver does have a few intriguing restricted free agents, and teams are believed to be monitoring a couple of those players’ statuses. Should the Broncos fail to place at least a second-round tender on RFAs Alexander Johnson or Tim Patrick, interest in those contributors will develop quickly, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes.
An unusual RFA due to his age, the 29-year-old Johnson has worked as a three-down linebacker with Denver for most of Vic Fangio‘s two seasons. Pro Football Focus has graded Johnson as a top-25 off-ball ‘backer in each of those seasons. Johnson made 124 tackles last season, teaming with Josey Jewell in Denver’s sub-packages. Jewell is going into a contract year.
Despite the Broncos becoming the first team since the 2003 Cardinals to use first- and second-round picks on wideouts in the same draft — in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler — Patrick led the team with six receiving touchdowns and amassed a career-high 742 receiving yards. The Broncos leaned on their 6-foot-4 ex-UDFA in key spots after Courtland Sutton‘s season-ending injury. Sutton is going into a contract year in 2021.
Should the Broncos place second-round RFA tenders on Johnson and Patrick, they would have the right to match an offer sheet. A refusal to do so would mean a second-round pick coming Denver’s way. Round 2 RFA tenders are expected to come in around $3.3MM, per OverTheCap. The rarely used first-round tender is expected to cost around $4.8MM.
Interestingly, Phillip Lindsay‘s status may be murkier. The Broncos paused extension talks with their Pro Bowl running back last year, giving Melvin Gordon an $8MM-AAV contract instead. It is unclear if Lindsay will receive a second-round tender, per Legwold, or if the Broncos will give the two-time 1,000-yard rusher the right-of-first-refusal tender. The latter scenario would mean the team would receive no compensation if it refused to match a Lindsay offer sheet. A similar situation unfolded five years ago, when the Broncos gave C.J. Anderson the low-end tender but matched a Dolphins offer sheet. Gordon is under contract for 2021, but his DUI arrest and expected suspension leaves the six-year veteran’s $8.9MM cap number vulnerable.
November 29th, 2018 at 4:20pm CST by Zachary Links
The Broncos waived linebacker Alexander Johnson, as Mike Klis of 9News tweets. To take his place, the club promoted outside linebacker Jeff Holland from the practice squad to active roster.
Johnson, a Tennessee product, signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in the offseason. The talented ‘backer hadn’t played football in more than four years before landing signing with Denver, thanks to a rape charge of which he was later acquitted. Despite his potential and the $50K guarantee on his contract, he was active for just one game this year.
The soon-to-be 27-year-old recently plead guilty to simple possession and failure to exercise due care while driving, but prosecutors dropped the DUI charge stemming from his 2017 arrest. With no present legal troubles, it’s possible that another team will claim him on waivers, but it’s more likely that he’ll hit the workout circuit as a free agent next week.
Holland, meanwhile, will serve as a pass rusher while Shaquil Barrett is out with a hip flexor issue. Holland received a $15K signing bonus on his UDFA deal, just like standout running back Phillip Lindsay, so the Broncos are excited to see what he can do.
October 10th, 2018 at 9:46pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The 1-4 Falcons could face the Buccaneers without running back Devonta Freeman, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Freeman, who missed three games with an MCL sprain, is actually dealing with a new injury, as Rapoport indicates it’s a bone bruise that’s threatening to keep Freeman out of Sunday’s action. While Freeman didn’t practice today, he did work on the side, although his status for Week 6 is “in doubt, per Rapoport. Without Freeman, Atlanta would deploy a Tevin Coleman/Ito Smith combination that was used in Weeks 2-5.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
Speaking of injury news, the Giants have already ruled out tight end Evan Engram for Thursday night’s game against the Eagles, meaning Rhett Ellison, who has shouldered the load since Week 3, will take over at tight end once again. Edge rusher Oliver Vernon, who’s missed the entire season to this point with an ankle issue, will make his 2018 debut. On the other side of the field, the Eagles have listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Corey Graham, and running back Darren Sproles as out. The latter two are especially concerning, as Philadelphia recent placed defensive back Rodney McLeod and running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve.
Although Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said he’d make changes following a loss to the Jets on Sunday, defensive coordinator Joe Woods will not be relieved of his play-calling duties, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Denver gave up 512 yards of offense against New York, including a whopping 334 on the ground. Joseph, a former defensive coordinator himself, could potentially take over play-calling, but that’s not a move that will happen this week. Joseph also indicated that cornerback Bradley Roby, who was burned by Jets receiver Robby Anderson in Week 5, is still a starter “for now.” Adam Jones, who’s played on roughly a third of the Broncos’ defensive snaps thus far, could see more snaps if Roby is benched.
Under the terms of his five-year extension with the Buccaneers, guard Ali Marpet will earn $12.365MM through one year, $23.25MM through two years, and $33.5MM through three years, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Among left guards, Marpet’s $11MM annual average now ranks third, behind only Andrew Norwell and Kelechi Osemele, while his $27.125MM in guarantees ranks second. Marpet, who has started 44 games during his time in the NFL, has displayed exceptional versatility, as he’s played both guard spots and center in his career.
Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson pleaded guilty to simple possession and failure to exercise due care while driving but subsequently had a DUI charge against him dismissed, per a report from the Associated Press. Johnson’s original arrest occurred in the summer of 2017, more than a year before Denver gave him $50K in guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent. A Tennessee product, Johnson hadn’t played football in more than four years before landing with the Broncos, in part due to a rape charge of which he was later acquitted. He’s been inactive for every game in 2018.
The Packers selected Washington State offensive guard Cole Madison in the fifth round of this past year’s draft. However, the rookie has sat on the did not report list and hasn’t attended training camp. While his absence isn’t encouraging, general manager BrianGutekunst is confident that he’ll be able to contribute eventually.
“We’re fully supportive of what’s going on,” Gutekunst told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “He’s dealing with a [personal] issue, when that issue is resolved we’ll get back to the football part of it.”
Gutekunst added that he believes Madison wants to continue playing, and he even hinted that the rookie could end up returning to the team at some point during the preseason.
Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…
The Cowboys received some good news today. Howard Balzer tweets that Maliek Collins has passed his physical and been activated from the physically unable to perform list. The 23-year-old has undergone a pair of surgeries over the past four months to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. With several weeks to go before the end of the preseason, the Cowboys are confident Collins can return for the start of the regular season. “He’s just progressing,” Cowboys coach JasonGarrett said earlier this week (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “He’s done a really good job with his rehab, and we’re taking him day-by-day, we’ll see if he’s available at some point to come practice here in the next week or so.” Collins finished last season with 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The BroncossignedAlexander Johnson earlier today, and it sounds like the organization has high hopes for the embattled linebacker. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that the organization is giving the rookie $50K in guaranteed money, more than they gave to any of their other undrafted rookies. The former Tennessee star, who has dealt with his share of off-field issues, hasn’t played organized football in more than four years.
Denver wasn’t the only suitor for Johnson. Volin tweets that the Dolphins (along with a “couple other teams”) had expressed interest in the rookie linebacker before he joined the Broncos.
Former Southern Miss wide receiver Allenzae Staggers worked out for the Redskins today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Following a breakout 2016 campaign where he hauled in 63 receptions for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns, the wideout took a step back in 2017, finishing with 44 catches for 471 yards.