The Broncos were able to take a significant step on the injury front yesterday, as they activated edge rusher Randy Gregoryfrom the active/PUP list. When speaking about his surgery and the recovery timetable resulting from it, Denver’s free agent acquisition expressed optimism that he will be available to start the season.
“That’s the plan,” Gregory said, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, when asked if he would be ready to start the campaign on time. “At the end of the day, the plan is to be ready for Week 1.”
The 29-year-old notably backed out of an extension with the Cowboys – with whom he had previously spent his entire career – and then signed with the Broncos on a pact with the same terms (five years, $70MM). He will look to pair with Bradley Chubb(who has dealt with injuries at multiple times in his career as well) in what could be a highly effective pass-rushing duo.
Speaking about the need for the shoulder surgery he had done this offseason, Gregory added, “it got to the point where it was hindering my play, so it was definitely something important to do long-term for the team… I’m still working through some kinks, but I should be ready to go.”
The former second-rounder also said that the injury he was dealing with had lingered for three years, a stretch which included his final two seasons of game action with the Cowboys. Over that span, he totaled 9.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, figures which he should be able to improve upon in Denver. “Pre-surgery, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do that normally,” he said, adding that “the mobility aspect of it and the range of motion has probably been the biggest thing.”
Gregory was expected to be ready in time for the start of the regular season at the time of his surgery, so things continue to be on the right track regarding his recovery. Assuming he is healthy this year, he will have a crucial role on the Broncos’ highly-talented defense.
The Broncos have received some good news with respect to injuries on both sides of the ball. The team announced on Monday that they have activated defensive end Randy Gregoryand offensive lineman Billy Turnerfrom the active/PUP list.
Gregory was initially set to re-sign with the Cowboys on a five-year, $70MM deal, but he instead inked a contract in Denver with the same terms. The 29-year-old represented a unique case in terms of his age when hitting the open market, having missed the 2017 and 2019 seasons due to suspensions. His production last year, though, with six sacks in 12 games, made him an attractive target.
The lack of wear and tear on his body, in spite of his age, helped make Gregory the Broncos’ top priority in the edge rush department, even during an offseason where a reunion with Von Miller was possible. The former second-rounder is projected to be a starter and impact player on the edge in Denver. Shoulder surgery which took place shortly after signing with the Broncos made Gregory’s regular season availability a question mark, but today’s news is an encouraging step that he could be on the field for Week 1.
Likewise, a return to full health for Turner would be a significant development along the offensive line. The 30-year-old rejoined the Broncos on a one-year deal this offseason, after three years spent with Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay. Once he resumes practicing in full, he will compete with Tom Compton, Calvin Andersonand Cameron Fleming for the starting right tackle spot – one which has been in flux for years in Denver. With 68 career starts, and plenty of familiarity with both the new coaching staff and the franchise, Turner should have a solid chance to win the first-team role.
The team’s announcement also confirmed the signing of veteran linebacker Joe Schobert. He, along with Gregory and Turner, should each have significant roles as the Broncos look to end their playoff drought.
The Broncos separated from Von Miller at the trade deadline, moving the top pass rusher in franchise history for second- and third-round picks. That trade helped the Broncos assemble their Russell Wilson package, but Miller was interested in coming back to Denver this offseason.
After alerting the Broncos he would be interested in returning if they were to acquire Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, Miller — long stuck on Denver teams with bottom-tier QBs — did not hear from his longtime team in free agency. That led the future Hall of Famer to Buffalo, after offers emerged from the Rams and Cowboys. Dallas’ edge-rushing plans factored into Denver’s, with Randy Gregory‘s decision to spurn his former team leading the Cowboys to make Miller an offer.
Gregory being nearly four years younger than Miller factored into the Broncos’ approach. Denver was also linked toChandler Jones in free agency, but it made Gregory its top OLB target, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. Jones is 32; Miller is 33. Gregory is not exactly on the young side for a first-time free agent, at 29, but the oft-suspended pass rusher certainly does not have the wear and tear on his body other edge players at his age generally do.
The Broncos gave Gregory a five-year, $70MM deal. While locking down the off-and-on Cowboy is a risk, due to Gregory’s unavailability history and recent injuries, the Broncos have him at $14MM per year. Gregory’s fully guaranteed money ($28MM) ranks just 24th among edge defenders. Gregory staying healthy would likely make Denver’s deal a bargain, but he will not go into training camp at full speed.
Rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery, Gregory will be a limited participant during the first week of Broncos camp, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The team is planning to ease its big-ticket edge acquisition into action, and Klis adds Gregory is not expected to play in the preseason. Teams have become increasingly more willing to sit starters during the preseason, and Gregory being sidelined until the Broncos’ Sept. 12 opener will give him a near-six-month recovery window.
In addition to the shoulder malady, the former Nebraska talent missed 2021 time because of calf injury and underwent knee surgery — to address an underlying problem — shortly after the season ended. As Bradley Chubb‘s 2021 recently illustrated, a two-surgery year is cause for concern. But the Broncos are planning to have Gregory ready to go when they face the Seahawks in Week 1. Gregory, Chubb, Malik Reed, second-rounder Nik Bonittoand relocated inside linebacker Baron Browning represent one of the NFL’s deepest edge-rushing corps. But the team’s top two cogs here are coming off injury-affected seasons and/or offseason surgeries.
Visions of a long-term Von Miller–Bradley 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 Patonidentified 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.
In the midst of his dramatic change of heart in free agency, defensive end Randy Gregoryhas also been facing a lingering shoulder issue. He recently took steps to address the matter, reports Mike Klis of 9News.
As Klis details, the 29-year-old “underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his rotator cuff”. Other options were available, but both he and the Broncos agreed upon his signing that the scope would produce the best long-term benefits. He will rehab the shoulder throughout the offseason, but is expected to be recovered in time for the start of the 2022 campaign.
Gregory, a second-round pick of the Cowboys in 2015, played five seasons in Dallas. Dealing with multiple injury and suspension issues, he grew into his role with the team and began living up to his potential. In 2021, he totalled six sacks and three forced fumbles as part of the Cowboys’ vaunted pass rush.
That led to a new deal being agreed upon for him to remain in the Lone Star State. However, he ultimately pivoted to Denver, inking a contract with the same length (five years) and financial terms ($14MM per season, with $28MM in guaranteed money) as the one he was in line to sign in Dallas.
Now officially a Bronco, Gregory is set up to begin his tenure there with the hopes of putting one of his injury problems to rest. Assuming he is healthy by the start of the regular season, he should have a large role to play on Denver’s defense as he tries to live up to the billing of that new contract.
Gregory, 29, had initially agreed to join the Broncos, but Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes the veteran edge rusher told the Cowboys he would stay if the team matched Denver’s offer (video link). That explains the identical terms. One part in the Cowboys’ proposal looks to have caused Gregory’s second course change.
The Cowboys included language in their contract indicating guaranteed money could be voided or withheld based on fines or a suspension, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. This provision irked Gregory’s camp, with Jane Slater of NFL.com adding the defensive end felt it was inserted “at the 11th hour” (Twitter link). Such a clause is not present in Gregory’s Denver deal, per Slater.
This language was present in Gregory’s rookie contract, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets, but Gregory was incensed at the inclusion this time around. Upon hearing the Cowboys planned to include a forfeiture clause, Gregory apparently responded, “F*** them,” Werder tweets.
However, some Cowboys pushback emerged. The Cowboys, understandably, are not happy with how this all went down, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link). The Cowboys are believed to have included this forfeiture language in every player’s deal save for Dak Prescott, Hill adds, with Werder noting this is not a Cowboys-specific clause (Twitterlinks).
Suspensions frequently cause players’ guarantees to void, and Slater adds the Cowboys were open to adjusting the language (Twitter link). The difference here is a Cowboys clause that would void Gregory’s guarantees in the event of a fine, something Gregory’s agent (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) said he had not seen “in 30 years” in the business. Once the hiccup emerged, Gregory’s agent gave the Cowboys a chance to remove the language. They did not, Florio adds, noting that Jerry Jones involved himself after it became clear the Cowboys were on the verge of losing Gregory.
Contracts cannot be made official for free agents who change teams until the new league year begins Wednesday afternoon, but it appears Gregory is headed out of town after seven rocky years in Dallas. Gregory has been suspended four times, with marijuana-based issues leading to much of the trouble, Mike Klis of 9News notes (on Twitter). The NFL has relaxed its stance on weed over the past several years, and Gregory has not run into trouble since the 2010s.
The Cowboys have now set their sights on Miller, with Werder adding the team has a strong interest in bringing the Dallas-area native back home. However, this depends on Miller’s asking price. After the Super Bowl 50 MVP played a key role in the Rams’ run to Super Bowl LVI — a game in which Miller sacked Joe Burrow twice — the soon-to-be 33-year-old moved near the top of this year’s free agency crop. Although the Cowboys are believed to hold considerable appeal for Miller, they will need to pay up to secure his services. The Rams are interested in bringing back both Miller and Odell Beckham Jr.
Plot twist! Randy Gregory will be signing with the Broncos, rather than re-signing with the Cowboys, as reported by Vic Lombardi of 92.5 in Denver (Twitter link).
Earlier today, it was reported that the edge rusher would return to Dallas on a five-year, $70MM deal. Instead, Gregory has chosen to join the Broncos for the same terms. Gregory will receive $28MM guaranteed, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com reports, adding that the Broncos and Gregory negotiated throughout Monday.
It’s not exactly clear when, why, or how the Cowboys agreement fell apart, but this is a fairly common occurrence during the NFL’s legal tampering period. At least one star player per year seems to reach handshake deals — or near-deals — only to pivot to a different team.
Gregory has dealt with injuries and off-the-field issues throughout his career. However, owner Jerry Jones stood by the 2015 second-round pick and he was rewarded with a huge 2021. Last year, Gregory notched six sacks and three forced fumbles, bolstering the Cowboys’ pass rush.
Gregory will turn 30 in November, but due to all of the hiccups in his career, this marked his first foray into free agency. Now, he’s taking full advantage and perhaps giving the Cowboys deja vu of DeMarcus Ware‘s departure.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — who helped guide Gregory to a career year — said that he wanted to see Gregory in Dallas for “years to come.” Now, he’ll have to settle for watching him on TV.
The Cowboys will indeed be able to keep their three-headed pass-rushing monster from last season. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cowboys are set to re-sign Randy Gregoryto a five-year, $70MM deal (Twitter link). He adds that $28MM of the total is guaranteed.
The Cowboys had already made the expected move of placing the franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz. Gregory was named as the only other viable candidate for the one-year pact, but the team’s preference was always a long-term deal. Despite being 29, this offseason would have been his first foray into free agency, but instead he will now remain with the only team he’s played for in the NFL.
A second round pick in 2015, suspensions and injuries have been a constant in his tenure with the Cowboys. However, the team has remained committed to the talented edge rusher. He rewarded the team for their patience, recording six sacks and three forced fumbles in 2021. Alongside fellow defensive end DeMarcus Lawrenceand Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons, the Nebraska product was an integral part of the Cowboys’ pass rush in particular, and their takeaway-prone defense in general.
Through a number of cost-cutting moves – including, most notably, trading away Amari Cooper – the Cowboys have been able to make enough room financially to keep the bulk of last season’s division-winning team intact. While this deal’s $14MM per-year average value will eat up most of the remaining space for 2022, the team’s defense will look very similar to the one which ranked seventh in the league in scoring in 2021.
The Cowboys will avoid letting wide receiver Michael Gallup hit the free agent market after to a five-year, $57.5MM deal, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (on Twitter). After trading awayAmari Cooper earlier this week, this moves cements that Dallas’s other three top pass catchers will be returning for the 2022 NFL season.
Gallup, 26, will collect $23MM in guarantees, with Pelissero noting this contract will max out at $62.5MM. A nice payday for Cooper’s former sidekick, whom the Cowboys have chosen over their four-year WR1.
A third-round pick out of Colorado State in 2018, Gallup broke out for 1,107 yards in 2019 alongside Cooper. The arrival of CeeDee Lamb in 2020 limited his production to a still impressive 843 yards as a number three receiver. Even in an injury-plagued 2021 season, Gallup enjoyed glimpses of success.
This news has been in the works for a while now with estimates that the Cowboys were aiming for a five-year pact with an annual average value around $10MM, but that Gallup’s camp may possibly having been pushing for a shorter commitment. Either the rumors about Gallup’s camp have been proven untrue or an annual average value of nearly $12MM was too enticing to turn down.
Regardless, the long-term, decently priced deal is a strong commitment to Gallup after he only played in nine games of his contract year due to a Week 1 calf injury and a season-ending ACL tear in Week 16. The contract seems to indicate that the Cowboys are confident in the medical information they are receiving on Gallup’s recovery.