With Bradley Chubb and Von Miller suffering injuries at various points from 2019-21, the Broncos could rarely deploy their ideal edge-rushing combination. That led to extensive Malik Reed work. The 2019 UDFA has made 34 starts over the past three seasons and racked up 13 sacks over the past two. However, the Broncos have since signed Randy Gregory, drafted Nik Bonitto in Round 2 and moved 2021 inside linebacker starter Baron Browning to the edge. This creates a crowded depth chart, which features Chubb in his fifth-year option season. Reed is also going into a contract year, and ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold’s 53-man roster prediction leaves the Nevada product off the team. Reed’s status could depend on Gregory’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, per Legwold, with the Broncos potentially going with a special-teamer over Reed if Gregory is healthy. If the Broncos determine Reed is not on track to make their team, he would be a logical trade candidate. Reed is attached to a $2.43MM salary.
Here is the latest from the AFC West:
- The Raiders were active at defensive tackle this offseason. They re-signed Johnathan Hankins and brought in free agents Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Tyler Lancaster, Kyle Peko and Bilal Nichols. The team also used fourth- and fifth-round picks (Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler) on interior D-linemen. Of this group, Nichols projects as a starter, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed note (subscription required). Hankins, who has been a Raiders first-stringer for the past four seasons, should be ticketed to keep his starter gig under new DC Patrick Graham. Among the host of veterans brought in as free agents, Nichols’ contract (two years, $11MM) would point to him having the clearest starter path. The Raiders have been linked to Ndamukong Suh, but they might not be especially interested in signing him right now.
- Despite the Raiders changing defensive schemes and letting Casey Hayward defect to the Falcons in free agency, they are unlikely to tinker with Nate Hobbs‘ job. The second-year cornerback practiced exclusively in the slot during Las Vegas’ offseason program and will still expected to be the team’s slot defender, per Tafur and Reed. Coming into the league as a fifth-round pick, Hobbs graded as a top-10 corner as a rookie, per Pro Football Focus. Trade acquisition Rock Ya-Sin and free agent signing Anthony Averett worked as Vegas’ slot corners this summer, with starter Trayvon Mullen on the mend after a May foot surgery. Mullen missed 12 games last season, with foot trouble at the root of the absence. The recent surgery makes Mullen’s status something to monitor during camp.
- The Chargers have taken an aggressive approach to filling offensive line needs over the past two offseasons. They gave Corey Linsley a then-record center contract and also signed guard Matt Feiler. Those moves came before the Bolts drafted Rashawn Slater in Round 1. They selected Zion Johnson in this year’s first round, and he is expected to start at right guard. That leaves right tackle vacant, with 2020’s Bryan Bulaga signing not panning out. The Bolts used Storm Norton as their primary 2021 starter, but Trey Pipkins started a game apiece at left and right tackle — due to the starters’ COVID-19 contractions — last year. Those two starts elevated the former third-round pick’s status in the Chargers building, Daniel Popper of The Athletic notes. Pipkins’ progress will be put to the test when he battles Norton for the right tackle gig in camp.