Alexander Johnson

Broncos LB Jonas Griffith Dislocates Elbow

Broncos linebacker Jonas Griffith sustained a dislocated elbow during the team’s preseason victory over the Cowboys on Saturday, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets. Griffith is expected to miss the next four to six weeks, so his availability for the first several games of the regular season is in doubt.

The 25-year-old ‘backer entered the league as a UDFA with the 49ers and joined the Broncos via minor trade last August. He saw his first professional defensive snap in Week 14 of the 2021 season and performed quite well down the stretch, compiling 45 tackles — including four for loss and 5.5 run “stuffs” — in the final five games of the year.

He carried that momentum into spring work in 2022, taking first-team reps during OTAs and training camp. He and Josey Jewell have been viewed as the starting ILB tandem for months.

GM George Paton did not do much to address his team’s inside linebacker position this offseason, aside from re-signing Jewell and signing former Eagles LB Alex Singleton to a modest contract. He did not draft an ILB, and he did not retain players like Alexander JohnsonKenny Young, and Micah Kiser (perhaps due to his confidence in Griffith).

Singleton, however, was Philadelphia’s leading tackler over the past two seasons, and he is the most likely Griffith replacement. While Singleton’s work in coverage is generally poor, he should be effective in Denver’s base packages, which is where Griffith is expected to see most of his action anyway.

Klis also names 2020 fifth-rounder Justin Strnad, who started fives games last year, as a candidate to see more snaps in Griffith’s absence, and he suggests that the Broncos could explore a reunion with Johnson (Twitter link). Singleton, whose contract includes a playtime incentive, may now have a better chance to cash in on that incentive.

Broncos To Re-Sign LB Josey Jewell

The Broncos continue to fill starting spots along their defense. They are bringing back multiyear linebacker starter Josey Jewell, Mike Klis of 9News reports.

Jewell is staying in Denver on a two-year deal worth $11MM. This comes a few weeks after the Broncos were connected to another Jewell contract. Denver had both its long-term linebacker starters — Jewell and Alexander Johnson — on track for free agency.

Both Jewell and Johnson missed most of last season; the former went down in Week 2 with a torn pectoral muscle. Denver selected Jewell in the 2018 fourth round and continued to use the Iowa product in a prominent role, giving him 30 starts in four seasons on his rookie deal. Jewell, 27, made 113 tackles in 16 starts during the 2020 season.

While Johnson was the slightly higher-regarded linebacker during the duo’s time together in Denver, he is three years older. Denver is not expected to re-sign Johnson, per Klis, who adds 2021 third-round pick Baron Browning is ticketed to play alongside Jewell as an off-ball linebacker starter. Jewell also stands to be a relatively low-cost signing, given his recent injury. The Broncos now have Jewell, D.J. Jones and Randy Gregory in the fold on their front seven.

Broncos LB Alexander Johnson Done For Year

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.

Alexander Johnson Signs RFA Tender

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 Browning in 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.

Broncos Tender LB Alexander Johnson At Round 2 Level

The Broncos’ Phillip Lindsay RFA tender opens the door to his Denver exit. The franchise gave a higher-priority tender to one of its three-down linebackers.

Denver will tender Alexander Johnson at the second-round level, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post (on Twitter). Johnson and wide receiver Tim Patrick received second-round tenders, which come out to $3.4MM this 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.

Broncos RFAs Expected To Draw Interest

Preparing to use their franchise tag on Justin Simmons for 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.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/2/19

Here are Wednesday’s reserve/futures contract moves:

Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Redskins

 

* = part of the NFL’s International Player Development Program

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/3/18

Here are Monday’s practice squad decisions:

Denver Broncos

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Broncos Waive LB A.J. Johnson

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.

Extra Points: Falcons, Giants, Eagles, Bucs

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.