Bradley Chubb

How Will Broncos Proceed With Crowded OLB Corps?

Visions of a long-term Von MillerBradley Chubb edge partnership mostly proved fleeting for the Broncos, who saw injuries sideline at least one member of this tandem for most of its three-plus-season tenure. The 2018 season, when Miller and his then-rookie sidekick combined for 26.5 sacks, turned into a mirage.

The Broncos’ 2022 contingent of edge rushers presents intrigue, even if it is the first in 12 years not to include the best pass rusher in franchise history. Denver’s Miller trade allowed the team to finish stockpiling its cast of pass rushers, bringing second- and third-round 2022 picks, but with only Randy Gregory locked in as a long-term starter (and given Gregory’s history, that classification might be premature), how the team proceeds with this crew will be interesting ahead of what promises to be a high-profile division race.

Gregory signed a five-year, $70MM deal in March, backing out of a Cowboys agreement at the last minute due to contract language. Suspended four times as a pro, Gregory showed considerable promise during his final Dallas season. If that form is a true indicator of the former second-rounder’s form, the Broncos having him signed to a $14MM-per-year deal will age well as the salary cap’s rise has pushed edge rusher salaries toward the $30MM-AAV mark. Gregory, whose drug suspensions could give him a “young 29” presence, carries boom-or-bust potential. From a roster-building standpoint, more questions surround his supporting cast.

Chubb made the Pro Bowl in 2020, despite accumulating just 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble, and racked up 12 sacks as a rookie. But the two ankle surgeries he underwent last year brought limitations and questions about his future in Denver. (Chubb also sustained an ACL tear in 2019.) George Paton identified the former top-five pick as a core player, and while those comments came before the ankle trouble limited Chubb to seven games in a zero-sack season, the second-year GM expressed Chubb confidence again this year. Paton did extend 2018 second-round pick Courtland Sutton, whom he also called a core talent last year, after an ACL tear. Chubb, 26 later this month, will enter a high-stakes contract year, with Paton reorganizing the team’s edge-rushing stable after the February vote of confidence.

An extension path may still exist for Chubb. Gregory’s AAV checks in just 22nd among edge defenders, and the Chargers and Raiders each have two edges earning north of $17MM per year. But that prospect is murkier than it was last year at this time. Had Chubb not been a first-round pick, he may already be signed to a lucrative deal. The fifth-year option allowed the Broncos to wait, and the team will have cheaper options to flank Gregory beyond 2022 — when Russell Wilson will be playing on a top-market contract.

Denver rosters Malik Reed, a former UDFA who has seen extensive run (34 starts) due to Chubb and Miller’s injuries, and used its top draft choice on Oklahoma edge Nik Bonitto (64th overall). The team also has ex-Ohio State teammates Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning. Cooper fell to Round 7 because of a heart issue (one that did not keep him out of games last season) and flashed a bit after the Miller trade. The Broncos curiously moved Browning from inside linebacker — where they are much thinner. A 2021 third-rounder, Browning started nine games inside as a rookie.

It will be difficult for the team to roster all six, and its recent penchant for UDFA edge success (Reed, Shaq Barrett) creates a path for Christopher Allen, a 2020 Alabama contributor who missed last season due to a foot injury. The Broncos gave Allen $180K to sign after the draft.

Also in a contract year, Reed has registered 13 sacks over the past two seasons. Though lesser-known than Chubb, Reed profiles as an extension candidate himself. The Broncos would probably stand to save by extending Reed over Chubb, who also looms as a 2023 franchise tag option. Chubb staying healthy this season could create a clear value gap between the two. Denver also has defensive end starter Dre’Mont Jones going into a walk year, creating an unsettled post-2022 mix beyond Gregory and Bonitto.

With Paton-era OLB investments behind Reed, would the Broncos consider trading the frequent fill-in starter ahead of his contract year? They only gave Reed the low-end RFA tender ($2.4MM) in March. That price and Reed’s recent production could be attractive for teams with thinner edge cadres. Chubb is tied to a $12.7MM option salary. A mix of Gregory, Chubb and Reed would limit Bonitto’s rookie-year time. But injuries could obviously change that.

The Broncos faced a surplus situation at cornerback last year but refrained from dealing into it, despite teams showing interest. Chubb’s injury history could prompt Denver to carry an extra outside linebacker on its 53-man roster. Browning’s ability to play on the inside would seemingly represent insurance for an iffy group of inside ‘backers as well. But carrying six edges is on the high end for 3-4 teams.

However the Broncos decide to proceed here, their moving parts on the edge should be a situation to monitor as the revitalized team attempts to compete against high-powered offenses. How that effort goes, particularly from the John Elway-era holdover rushers, will determine how the franchise chooses to complement Gregory beyond 2022.

Latest On Bradley Chubb

The Broncos have had a busy offseason so far, but they face an important decision in the near future. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb is set to play on his fifth-year option this season, which will likely play a large role in determining his future. As noted by Nick Kosmider of the Athletic, the 25-year-old isn’t concerned with his contract status. 

“I know I didn’t put my best foot forward last year on the field” he said. “My goal is to play 17 games and win as many as possible. That [contract] stuff is gonna come… my thing is tunnel vision, looking forward and just trying to help this team win.”

The fifth-overall pick in the 2018 draft, Chubb had a promising start to his NFL career. He posted 12 sacks – the most in franchise history for a rookie – during his inaugural campaign. That remains the only year in which he was available for every game in a season, however, as injuries have prevented him from following-up on that initial success.

Chubb underwent a second ankle surgery during the past season, after an offseason procedure wasn’t sufficient to correct the issue. As a result, he was limited to seven games. The lack of production during that span (he was held without a sack) adds to the uncertainty surrounding the 2022 campaign. The NC State product has alternated between effective and injury-riddled years so far.

Chubb will have plenty of opportunities to return to form. He is projected to not only enter the coming season healthier than any of the past three, but with his starting spot assured. He will join with free agent signee Randy Gregory as the team’s top pass rushers, as the Broncos move forward in the post-Von Miller era. A productive campaign could earn him a sizeable long-term deal, or at least a highly-valued franchise tag. More injury troubles, on the other hand, would leave his future much murkier; Chubb’s play will thus be a key storyline to watch.

Jaguars Looking At OL Ekwonu With Top Pick

We wrote a bit in January about NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu potentially being the best offensive lineman in the draft. Well, he certainly thinks so, as he told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday that he’d “definitely deserve” to be drafted No. 1 overall, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com

He’s not totally off base in his thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked Ekwonu to Jacksonville in his latest mock draft just before the Combine. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, many at the Combine, including ESPN’s Todd McShay, expected Ekwonu to blow up in Indianapolis.

There’s already been a bit of talk connecting Ekwonu to the Jaguars. General manager Trent Baalke has a tendency to prefer explosive linemen and Ekwonu demonstrated his explosiveness in field drills including an impressive sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash. Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson will be looking to put together a group at offensive line that can protect former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and create holes for running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne.

Jawaan Taylor is expected to compete with Walker Little for the right tackle job. Captain Brandon Linder should return to form at center after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 NFL season. Andrew Norwell is expected to hit the free agent market and Cam Robinson could join him if the team decides not to utilize their franchise tag on Robinson for the second straight year. Veteran sixth-man Tyler Shatley was recently re-signed and Ben Bartch could help out at guard. So the versatility of Ekwonu could line him up as the perfect choice for Jacksonville’s current situation, where lots of question marks surround the depth chart. Even so, the Jaguars could also fall in love with Evan Neal, who is largely seen as the top pure tackle in the draft.

Still, the redshirt sophomore out of Raleigh is a young, talented prospect with the ability to dominate at tackle or guard. Even if he slips past Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, don’t expect him to be available after both New York teams get a chance to draft. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive lineman in history to be picked in the first round, the highest-drafted Wolfpack prospect since Bradley Chubb in 2018, and, above that, the first top overall pick out of NC State since Mario Williams in 2006.

Denver Emerging As Premier QB Destination

We wrote a bit earlier today on the Broncos being among multiple AFC teams who “have trade compensation lined up with the Packers,” in relation to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Well, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver has emerged as a prime location for many of the league’s veteran quarterbacks looking for a potential change of scenery.

The Broncos recently hired former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio, who failed to accomplish a winning season in three years with the Broncos. The former Green Bay staffer represents an obvious and strong connection for Rodgers. Should Rodgers decide to move on from the Packers, having a play-caller that he’s familiar with could add some allure to the Mile High City. Another intriguing aspect that could bring a star quarterback to Denver is the addition of former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Kubiak just helped Kirk Cousins turn in one of his best seasons in Minnesota.

Hackett and company inherit an impressive roster posed to perform. The defense is comprised of veterans like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, safety Justin Simmons, defensive end Shelby Harris, and cornerback Ronald Darby. There are a number of free agents that Denver would like to bring back like cornerbacks Bryce Callahan & Kyle Fuller, defensive back Kareem Jackson, inside linebacker Josey Jewell, and outside linebacker Malik Reed. Even if they fail to bring some of those names back, the Broncos saw impressive seasons last year for youngsters like cornerback Patrick Surtain II, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, and safety Caden Sterns. The list of defensive players above may not overwhelm you with stardom, but, together, the Broncos defense ranked third in the league in points allowed and eighth in the league in yards allowed.

In addition to a brand new offense and stacked defense, Denver boasts a nice array of young offensive weapons. An impressive receiving corps is led by veteran 26-year-old Courtland Sutton, young star Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick, who has broken out a bit over the past two seasons. The Broncos also have two talented, young receiving tight ends in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. Any quarterback looking to join in on the fun would potentially have the benefit of a two-headed rushing attack that was 79 yards short of a combined 2,000-yard rushing season. Running back Javonte Williams enjoyed a healthy dose of carries in his rookie season, and there is mutual interest in bringing back Melvin Gordon.

Rodgers is obviously a name to keep an eye on as the decision on his future in Green Bay looms on the horizon. He has said that he will let the Packers know of his intentions before the franchise tag deadline so they can figure out how to deal with free agent wide receiver Davante Adams. In addition to Rodgers, though, keep an eye out for Denver to make moves on other quarterbacks searching for greener pastures. Russell Wilson has long been rumored to be interested in moving on from Seattle, and Deshaun Watson is still searching for a new home.

Whether Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, or some other under-the-radar name, look for the Broncos to make a move for a star quarterback. If they are able to find the right fit, the move could bring them into contention for what could easily turn into the toughest division in football.

Update On Broncos’ Fant, Chubb, Gordon

With a new head coach in place, the Broncos now face a number of key decisions on their roster. In a recent conversation with the team’s website, general manager George Paton outlined his views on a number of players and position groups, including tight end Noah Fant, edge rusher Bradley Chubb and running back Melvin Gordon

The team needs to decide by May whether or not to pick up Fant’s fifth year option. Considering Paton waited until after the draft to make that same decision with Chubb, it may be a while before the former 20th-overall pick learns his fate. When asked about Fant, Paton said, “he probably wasn’t as productive as he would have liked… He needs to work in the run game, and he knows that”, while still acknowledging his pass-catching ability. Fant has put up almost identical numbers the past two seasons, averaging 65 catches for just over 630 yards and seven total touchdowns in that span.

As for Chubb, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, Paton remains optimistic that he can recover from the ankle surgery that cut his 2021 season short. Even though Chubb was held without a sack in seven games, Paton said “I expect great things from him”. More work will be done with the team’s pass rushers, though, as Malik Reed and Stephen Weatherly are pending restricted and unrestricted free agents, respectively. Paton made clear his desire to add a “mismatch-type rusher”, especially given the void left by Von Miller.

Finally, Paton seemed to open the door to Gordon returning. The 28-year-old signed with Denver two years ago, but is now a pending UFA. While he topped 1,100 scrimmage yards in both seasons with the Broncos, the presence of 2021 second round pick Javonte Williams has many feeling the veteran will need to find a new home. Paton said, though, that Gordon “had a heck of a year”, adding ” I like Melvin a lot”.

The decisions made with those three players – and within their respective position groups – will go a long way to shaping the rest of the team’s offseason moves, and in turn, their attempt to return to the postseason.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Broncos Place Bradley Chubb, Jerry Jeudy On Reserve/COVID-19 List

Already favored before the Broncos’ run of positive COVID-19 tests, the Chargers keep learning of more Denver starters who will miss Sunday’s game.

The Broncos will be down Bradley Chubb, Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Baron Browning on Sunday due to positive coronavirus tests. They also placed rotational edge rusher Jonathan Cooper and backup defensive lineman McTelvin Agim on their reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

[RELATED: Broncos To Start Drew Lock In Week 17]

Additionally, the Broncos could also be without Courtland Sutton. Vic Fangio said the recently extended wideout could soon be moved to the team’s virus list, though that has not happened as of Friday afternoon (Twitter links via 9News’ Mike Klis). If Sutton ends up being shelved, the Broncos will likely be down to Kendall Hinton as their top wide receiver in Los Angeles. The team placed Tim Patrick on its virus list Wednesday.

Thirteen Broncos have been placed on the virus list over the past three days. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar also will miss Sunday’s game after a positive test. Chubb and Jeudy have each missed extensive time this season. A second 2021 ankle surgery sidelined Chubb for much of the year, while Jeudy missed most of the season’s first half because of a high ankle sprain sustained in Week 1.

The NFL moved three Week 15 games to new dates but has since altered its protocols twice in order to limit player unavailability. No games have been moved since, with the NFL playing Dolphins-Saints as scheduled despite New Orleans’ run of positive tests, and it should be expected the Broncos-Chargers rematch will be played Sunday.

While the Broncos are not technically eliminated, their losses to the Bengals and Raiders all but buried them in the AFC wild-card race. The Chargers have a 35% chance to qualify for the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.

Bradley Chubb To Return In Week 12

The Broncos will have their top pass rusher back Sunday. After a two-plus-month absence, Bradley Chubb is set to return, with Mike Klis of 9News tweeting the Pro Bowl outside linebacker will be activated off IR.

Chubb’s progress slowed late this week, due to a setback in practice, per Klis (on Twitter). Vic Fangio declared him “50-50” to suit up against the Chargers. It appears the fourth-year defender has shown enough to return, a development that represents big news for a Broncos team that has seen much change at the linebacker spot since Chubb’s lone 2021 cameo — in Week 2.

Two ankle surgeries marred Chubb’s 2021. The second knocked him out for a lengthy stretch, providing the former top-five pick’s second extended absence of his career. In the time since Chubb last played, the Broncos saw inside starters Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson suffer season-ending injuries. The team also ended the Chubb-Von Miller partnership, one that saw injuries prevent it from making much of an impact over the past three seasons, by trading the future Hall of Famer to the Rams.

After recovering from the ACL tear that ended his 2019 season early, Chubb recorded 7.5 sacks and 19 QB hits last season. The North Carolina State product registered 12 as a rookie. New GM George Paton, after picking up Chubb’s fifth-year option, called him a core player. Given Chubb’s injury issues, this upcoming stretch run stands to be pivotal for his future — and the Broncos’ hopes at making a late playoff push.

Broncos’ Bradley Chubb Returns To Practice

Broncos pass rusher Bradley Chubb has been designated for return from injured reserve, according to head coach Vic Fangio (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Chubb, who has missed all but one game this year, will be eligible to return inside of the next 21 days. 

[RELATED: Broncos, Courtland Sutton Agree To Extension]

The fourth-year linebacker has battled multiple ankle issues in recent years. His latest setback emerged in Week 2, prompting arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur. At long last, his left ankle is back to normal — or at least closer to it.

Injuries have hampered Chubb throughout his career; his medical chart includes trouble with his other ankle and a 2019 ACL tear that limited him to just four games. Still, the Broncos picked up Chubb’s fifth-year option in May, and new GM George Paton cited the former top-five pick as a cornerstone talent.

Chubb has proven to be an impact player when healthy. In 2018, his 12 sacks threatened Jevon Kearse‘s all-time rookie sack record. And, just last year, he earned a Pro Bowl nod while notching 7.5 sacks.

Much has changed since Chubb’s last time out on the field. Now at the .500 mark in the sardine-packed AFC West, the Broncos are just clinging to Wild Card chances. Meanwhile, his longtime partner Von Miller is out in Los Angeles.

If all goes well for Chubb, he could re-debut as soon as Sunday when the Broncos host the Chargers.

Broncos GM: Two Other Teams Called On Von Miller

The Broncos’ post-Peyton Manning decline led to Von Miller landing in trade rumors ahead of recent trade deadlines, and first-year GM George Paton pulled the trigger this year by sending the future Hall of Fame edge rusher to the Rams on Monday. Other teams showed interest, but the Rams won out.

Two other teams called the Broncos on Miller, Paton said Tuesday (via The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones, on Twitter). However, the Rams are believed to have made by far the best offer. The other interested franchises did not offer the Broncos anything of substance for Miller, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. This essentially put Paton to a decision on keeping the decorated sack artist for the stretch run and considering another extension or taking Los Angeles’ offer of two 2022 Day 2 picks — which came after the Broncos agreed to pay most of Miller’s prorated base salary.

Trade discussions began in earnest Friday and wrapped up Sunday night, Paton said (via The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider, on Twitter). Miller met with Paton, John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis on Monday morning. Paton said he wanted to “do right by” Miller, the Broncos’ all-time sack leader and by far the team’s longest-tenured player.

The eight-time Pro Bowler will now join Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd on the Rams’ front seven and catch on with a 7-1 team. Miller missed the Broncos’ Week 8 game against Washington, which featured the team’s second-string edge rushers faring well, but is not believed to have suffered a serious injury in Denver’s Week 7 loss in Cleveland.

Miller, 32, is in the final months of the six-year, $114.1MM extension he signed with the Broncos at the 2016 franchise tag deadline. The Rams will have exclusive negotiating rights with Miller ahead of free agency, but they already have Donald and Floyd signed to big-ticket contracts. Being cuffed via the fifth-year option in 2015 and franchise-tagged in ’16, Miller has never been a free agent. His upcoming Rams performance will go a long way in shaping his 2022 market. Miller has 4.5 sacks this season, though none have come since Week 4.

After acquiring Miller and Matthew Stafford, the Rams now are without first- and second-round picks in 2022. While the Rams dealt the Broncos a third as well, the Lions hiring previous Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes as GM brought Los Angeles back an additional third-rounder in next year’s draft.

As for the Broncos, the 4-4 team is still without Bradley Chubb. Miller and Chubb each ran into significant injuries during their three-plus seasons together, and the duo last finished a game together in September 2019. Paton hopes Chubb can return after Denver’s Week 11 bye, NFL.com’s James Palmer adds (on Twitter). Chubb, who missed most of the 2019 season with an ACL tear, has undergone two ankle surgeries this year. Denver, which has lost both starting inside linebackers for the season, used Malik Reed and seventh-round rookie Jonathon Cooper as outside linebacker starters in Week 8. Recent trade acquisition Stephen Weatherly collected a sack in rotational duty.