The Broncos made a number of moves leading up to their matchup with the Raiders tomorrow afternoon, according to the team’s managing editor Ben Swanson. Denver placed starting linebacker Jonas Griffith on injured reserve, replacing his roster spot with long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer after activating the special teamer from IR. The team signed offensive tackle Quinn Bailey to the active roster from the practice squad and promoted wide receiver Brandon Johnson and linebacker Harvey Langi as standard gameday elevations.
Griffith has earned a place on one of the league’s top defenses after going undrafted in 2020 out of Indiana State. After bouncing between San Francisco and Indianapolis during his rookie season, Griffith was traded to the Broncos due to a stellar preseason before the 2021 season. An impressive first year in Denver with four starts in 13 game appearance led the team to tender him an exclusive-rights free agent offer. In his second season with the team, Griffith has started eight of the Broncos’ nine games. He’s nearly matched his entire production from last season at just past the halfway point of this season.
Unfortunately, that may be all of the season that Griffith sees. After aggravating a foot injury this week in practice, Griffith is headed to IR and expected to stay there for the remainder of the season, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS. His injury piles onto a season-long issue for the Broncos who now have 13 players on IR and have seen missed time from several other contributors. In his absence, Alex Singleton will likely take the starting spot next to Josey Jewell at inside linebacker, possibly getting some help from Langi who could make his Broncos debut after joining the team’s practice squad over a month ago.
Bobenmoyer is set to return after sitting out the four games required before returning from IR. Bobenmoyer found himself on the injured list after suffering an injury to the hand/wrist area in a Week 5 overtime loss to the Colts. Bobenmoyer was replaced by practice squad long snapper Mitchell Fraboni who filled in well during the four weeks Bobenmoyer was out until getting placed on IR himself with a fractured finger. Bobenmoyer’s return comes just in time, helping the Broncos avoid the use of a third long snapper in just one season.
Johnson could make his NFL debut this week as a gameday elevation. The undrafted rookie, who caught 11 touchdowns for UCF last year, started the season on IR before getting waived with an injury settlement shortly after the start of the season. He returned to the practice squad about a month ago and could end up making an impact as starting wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler have been listed as out for tomorrow, Tim Patrick remains on IR, and Kendall Hinton is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. Denver could be operating with a total of four healthy receivers in Courtland Sutton, Jalen Virgil, Montrell Washington, and Johnson if Hinton is not available.
November 18th, 2022 at 10:27am CST by Sam Robinson
One of the league’s most injury-wrecked teams, the Broncos losing a starter is not especially surprising at this point. But they have now lost a regular contributor because of a practice injury/flareup for a second straight week.
This is a familiar development for Griffith as well. He sustained a dislocated elbow during Denver’s preseason slate, knocking him out for several weeks. The young defender recovered in time to start in Week 1, but this latest setback will stall his first season as a regular defensive contributor. A 2021 trade acquisition, Griffith has made 46 tackles and intercepted a pass for the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense.
The team had already begun to use offseason addition Alex Singleton over Griffith more often, but the latter’s issue highlights what has been a regular problem for the struggling squad. It would probably be easier to list the Broncos who have not missed time due to injury this season. The Broncos’ $56MM in cap money on IR leads the league, Klis adds.
AUGUST 25: In a surprising yet encouraging update, head coach Nathaniel Hackett stated (via the team’s website) that the injury is not nearly as significant as originally thought. “Yeah, we’re definitely hoping for Jonas to be [ready for] Week 1, that’s kind of our aiming point ,” Hackett said. “We very much dodged a bullet on that one.” Griffith being ready in time to start the regular season (or at least miss less time than initially feared) would be a significant boost to the Broncos’ defense.
AUGUST 14: 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 Johnson, Kenny 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 inside linebacker Jonas Griffith, who signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in April 2020, was waived before the start of the regular season that year. He had a brief stint with the Colts’ taxi squad in October 2020 and rejoined the Niners as a member of their p-squad after being cut by Indianapolis, and though he did not play a regular season snap, he did enough in practice to earn a reserve/futures deal from San Francisco in January 2021.
Broncos GM George Paton, who was in search of LB depth and who apparently saw something in Griffith’s preseason tape in 2021, swung a minor trade for the Indiana State product just before the 2021 campaign got underway. Griffith was used exclusively on special teams to start the season and suffered a hamstring injury that cost him four games, so he did not take a defensive snap until Week 14. Once he got on the field as a defender, though, he made an impact.
In his last five games (four starts), Griffith compiled 45 tackles, including four for loss, and as Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes, the 25-year-old ‘backer missed just one tackle and was also credited with 5.5. run “stuffs.” Though the sample size was small, the 69.1 overall grade that Pro Football Focus assigned to Griffith was encouraging as well.
Per O’Halloran, Griffith has lined up alongside Jewell with the first-stringers during the OTAs that were open to the media, and he is currently ahead of Singleton on the unofficial depth chart. Even if Griffith holds onto that spot, however, there will still be opportunities for Singleton and other players like Justin Strnad and Barrington Wade, as most of Griffith’s snaps are expected to come in the Broncos’ base 3-4 package. That makes sense given his run-stopping abilities, though the fact that he has some fluidity and moves well suggests that he could be in line for an even larger role if he continues to impress.
Griffith admitted that it’s a “relief” that Denver has not yet done more to address its ILB corps, but he also knows his job is far from secure at this point. “You still have to do the job,” Griffith said. “That’s been my approach since being in the NFL. They can bring anybody in at any moment. … I don’t think anything is solidified. Every day is an opportunity to show this coaching staff what I can do.”
Griffith was retained for the 2022 season via the exclusive rights free agent tender and will earn $825K this year. As a former UDFA, he will be extension-eligible at season’s end, so he has plenty of motivation to fend off his competitors.
Tuesday has marked a two-trade morning for new Broncos GM George Paton. After sending wide receiver Trinity Benson to the Lions, the Broncos are acquiring linebacker Jonas Griffith from the 49ers.
Griffith will head to Denver in exchange for a 2022 sixth-rounder and a seventh in 2023, Mike Klis of 9News notes. San Francisco will also send a 2022 seventh-rounder to Denver in this deal. This trade construction is similar to the deal Paton completed with Detroit, which involved Benson and a pick going to the Lions in exchange for two draft choices.
A 250-pound linebacker out of Indiana State, Griffith arrived in the NFL as a UDFA last year. He spent time on the Colts and 49ers’ practice squads and landed a reserve/futures deal with San Francisco in January. He figures to contribute as a special-teamer in Denver.