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 ‘backer 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.