Justin Hollins

LB Notes: Broncos, Burfict, Jets, Judon

As we wind down the final week of the 2019 offseason, let’s look at a few of the league’s linebacker situations. The Broncos are one of the two teams opening training camp next week, joining the Falcons, and they’ve had a quietly interesting year at this spot.

  • Denver passed on adding an inside linebacker to replace five-year starter Brandon Marshall, but the report of the team being ready to make a major investment at this spot was accurate. Not only did the Broncos plan to select Devin Bush at No. 10 overall, they wrote the Michigan linebacker’s name on a first-round card, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Broncos VP of player personnel Matt Russell told draft rep Derrick Thomas to write Bush’s name on their card but instructed him not to turn it in, Klis adds. They ended up trading the pick, which became Bush, to the Steelers for additional draft capital.
  • The Broncos plan to use Todd Davis and 2018 fourth-rounder Josey Jewell as their starting inside ‘backers, and while that may leave the team vulnerable in coverage, the coaching staff has hatched an idea to help combat that. Denver drafted Oregon edge rusher Justin Hollins in the fifth round, and instead of hoping he becomes strictly an off-the-bench pass rusher, the Broncos plan to deploy the four-year Duck as a base-set outside ‘backer and an inside player in nickel packages, Klis writes. Hollins ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, leading the team to see if he can be a solution to its problems covering tight ends in recent years.
  • Marshall and Vontaze Burfict will add veteran presences to the Raiders’ long-understaffed linebacking corps, and DC Paul Guenther said (via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair) Burfict’s arrival will free him up to utilize more of his playbook than he did last season. Burfict’s issues will not lie with the former Bengals DC’s playbook but rather staying on the field, which has proved to be a persistent issue for the talented player in his six-year career.
  • Avery Williamson will slide to the Jets‘ weakside linebacker spot to accommodate C.J. Mosley, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. The market-shattering free agent addition will become Gang Green’s defensive play-caller, though both are set to be three-down ‘backers in Gregg Williams‘ defense. In his previous Jets role, Williamson totaled a career-high 120 tackles and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 traditional linebacker last season.
  • The contract Ravens outside ‘backerĀ Matt Judon will likely focus on most in terms of establishing his value is likely Za’Darius Smith‘s Packers deal, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Judon’s 19 sacks in three seasons are more than Smith’s 18.5-sack total in four, the the latter parlayed his impressive contract year into a four-year, $66MM deal. It is not yet known if the Ravens and Judon have begun extension discussions, but both he and third-year inside linebacker starter Patrick Onwuasor are due for 2020 free agency.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/14/19

Here are the latest players to agree to terms on their rookie deals:

  • The Chiefs signed the latter of their two second-round picks, safety Juan Thornhill, on Tuesday. Thornhill, who arrived in Kansas City as the No. 63 overall pick out of Virginia, will attempt to move into the starting lineup alongside Tyrann Mathieu as a rookie. Thornhill intercepted 13 passes over his final three seasons with the Cavaliers. The only member of their six-man class left unsigned is third-rounder Khalen Saunders; third-rounders’ deals can be tricky with the current CBA.
  • Four more Seahawks draftees signed their four-year deals Tuesday. Wide receivers Gary Jennings (Round 4) and John Ursua (Round 7) signed. So did sixth-round picks Demarcus Christmas, a defensive tackle out of Florida State, and Travis Homer, Miami-produced running back. Jennings and Ursua, out of West Virginia and Hawaii, respectively, have better odds at contributing this season after Doug Baldwin‘s retirement. Jennings caught 13 touchdown passes last season, while Ursua snagged 16. D.K. Metcalf remains unsigned.
  • Two of the Broncos‘ Day 3 picks — fifth-round outside linebacker Justin Hollins and sixth-round wide receiver Juwann Winfree — became the team’s first 2019 draftees to sign. Hollins, an Oregon product who combined for 11 sacks across his junior and senior seasons, will likely be in good position to see time behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos lost Shaquil Barrett in free agency and are unlikely to bring back Shane Ray. Winfree will join a young Denver receiving corps, which will likely have four first- or second-year cogs.
  • Only one Lions draft choice remains unsigned after sixth-rounder Travis Fulgham agreed to terms. The Old Dominion-produced wideout will vie for a reserve role behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Third-round safety Will Harris has yet to sign.