Malik Reed

AFC West Notes: Reed, Raiders, Chargers

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.

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.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 4/11/22

Here’s a look at the latest tender decisions from around the NFL:

RFAs

Signed:

ERFAs

Signed:

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/16/22

Here’s a look at the latest tender decisions from around the NFL:

RFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

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 List Updates: 12/22/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list today. In some instances (including Christian McCaffrey and Travis Etienne), players activated from the list remain on IR:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Placed on list: T Le’Raven Clark

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Broncos Activate Bryce Callahan From IR

The Broncos will have their slot cornerback in uniform Sunday. After battling another injury, Bryce Callahan is back on Denver’s active roster.

This marks an ahead-of-schedule return for Callahan, per 9News’ Mike Klis (on Twitter). The veteran slot defender has missed extensive time since coming to Denver but will attempt to make a final impression ahead of another free agency bid.

Given a three-year, $21MM deal in 2019, Callahan missed all of that season with a lingering foot injury from his Bears days. He then missed six games last season, ending the year on IR. While Callahan’s October knee hyperextension loomed as a potential season-ender, he will be back to help the Broncos, who have seen a few players return from injury recently.

This gives the Broncos a fully healthy cornerback contingent, which has been a rare occurrence this season. Both Callahan and Ronald Darby have missed chunks of the season. Bradley Chubb, Garett Bolles, Bobby Massie and Shelby Harris have recently come back from injury for the 6-6 team.

However, the team’s defense — plagued by unavailability for most of the season — will be without outside linebacker starter Malik Reed. The Broncos placed Reed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Reed leads the Broncos with five sacks this season.

AFC Notes: Kelly, Colts, Titans, Bates, Broncos, Reed

Chad Kelly could be back on an NFL roster soon. The former Ole Miss standout passer and nephew of legendary Bills quarterback Jim Kelly has had a tumultuous road. He was kicked off the team at Clemson during his college days, and was arrested last season in a bizarre incident following Von Miller‘s Halloween party that caused the Broncos to release him. Last week we heard that he could be nearing a deal with the Colts, and we have a new development there.

Kelly hasn’t officially been signed yet, but he is attending the team’s rookie minicamp as a tryout player this week, per Mike Chappell of CBS4 (Twitter link). Kelly has struggled with injuries in addition to his off-field issues, but he managed to open the 2018 season as Case Keenum‘s backup. He played well in the preseason and had a ton of support from the team’s fanbase, and for a while it looked like he might’ve been on the verge of replacing Keenum before he was arrested. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Colts sign him as a developmental option considering current backup Jacoby Brissett is likely to pursue a starting job next offseason.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Speaking of off-field issues, Titans linebacker Daren Bates was recently charged with marijuana possession, per Terry McCormick of Titansinsider.com. The charge doesn’t sound too serious in McCormick’s recap, but he still could potentially face league discipline. Originally signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn back in 2013, Bates has been able to stick in the league thanks to his special teams prowess. Bates, who has been with the Titans since the 2017 season, played only 40 defensive snaps last year but he played 83 percent of the team’s special teams snaps. He’s heading into the final year of a three-year, $6MM deal.
  • Mike Klis of Denver9News “like(s) the chances” of undrafted pass-rusher Malik Reed to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster, he tweets. Klis is very plugged in with John Elway and Denver’s front office, so this is worth noting. The Broncos gave him a $15K signing bonus, so they definitely think highly of him. Reed was very productive in college, and he had 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks with Nevada last year. With Miller and Bradley Chubb, the Broncos already have a very solid pass-rushing nucleus.
  • In case you missed it, the Patriots signed ten undrafted free agents, and we broke down the class here.

Broncos Sign 17 UDFAs

The Broncos UDFA list is up to 17 players, and it now officially includes quarterback Brett Rypien, whom the club agreed to sign several days ago. Today, Denver waived Garrett Grayson to make room for Rypien. Here’s the updated list (Mike Klis of 9News.com passes along the signing bonuses for all of the players for whom that information is available).

The Broncos have been consistent in identifying UDFA talent during John Elway‘s tenure, with Chris Harris becoming a perennial Pro Bowler and C.J. Anderson and Phillip Lindsay each making the Pro Bowl during their initial years as starters.

Lindsay’s late-season injury may create a chance for Jackson, who rushed for 1,385 yards and 12 touchdowns last season at the Division II school. The 5-foot-7 ball carrier will give the Broncos a two-Devontae running back room, with Devontae Booker entering a contract year.

Denver lost two offensive linemen in free agency and only drafted one, Dalton Risner, pointing to an opportunity for its quartet of UDFA blockers.