Denver Broncos 2022 NFL Free Agent Signings: Randy Gregory and DJ Jones Strengthen Defense – Denver Broncos Blog

The free NFL agency is rolling, and we’re tracking every major signing, trade, and release of the 2022 offseason with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year begins March 16 at 4:00 p.m. ET, which means free agents can officially sign after that. The first round of the 2022 NFL draft begins April 28 on ESPN.

The Broncos missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season, resulting in the firing of coach Vic Fangio and the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos made their biggest showing off the season before the free hand even began, trading for former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Now it’s about getting all the parts around Wilson right in an already young, talented squad.

Here’s a breakdown of all of the Denver Broncos’ NFL free agent signings in 2022 and how they will impact the upcoming season:

Gregory agreed to a five-year, $70 million ($28 million guaranteed) deal with the Broncos just hours after agreeing to a similar deal to return to the Dallas Cowboys.

What it means: The Broncos, and General Manager George Paton in particular, have kept their promise to be aggressive on all fronts this offseason. Gregory was believed to have agreed to a deal to stay in Dallas — the team posted it on their social media accounts — but the Broncos got Gregory for much the same deal the Cowboys had offered him. The Broncos are getting a 29-year pass rusher pairing in their 3-4 scheme with Bradley Chubb as an outside linebacker. They are banking on the belief that Gregory’s best football lies ahead after a rocky start to his career that included multiple suspensions.

What is the risk: Gregory was suspended multiple times during his career for violating the league’s substance abuse policy — a total of 54 games, including missing the 2017 and 2019 seasons. He never had more than six sacks in a season and never started more than 11 games in a season. The Broncos signed him as an elite edge rusher, and for him to be a success, Gregory needs to be on the field and play like an elite edge rusher. He was on the Cowboys leadership council last season, which indicates his standing on the team, and publicly admitted last season that he has “a lot to prove.”

The Broncos have signed DJ Jones, former defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, to a three-year deal.

What it means: With a coaching change come some personnel changes, and one of the Broncos’ many needs on defense is a more physical presence down the middle. Jones, who posted a career-best 56 tackles last season, should provide that. He’s played at least 40% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps in each of the past three years (51% last season). The Broncos are thin on the defensive — they’re expected to play a three-man front most of the time under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero — after adding Shelby Harris to the trade with quarterback Russell Wilson. Too often last season the Broncos failed to hold the point of attack on their run defense, especially at moments when they needed a stop or two in the fourth quarter.

What is the risk: Jones has been handed a three-year, $30 million deal that’s expected to have $20 million guaranteed, so the Broncos want to be right. He needs to be the long-lived, productive player he was last season as he started every game and surpassed 500 snaps for the season. The Broncos only had two Top 500 snaps from defensive linemen last season — Harris and Dre’Mont Jones — and with Harris now with the Seahawks, Jones needs to have an early presence. He’s got seven career sacks, so he probably won’t make that kind of impact, but if he gives the Broncos the kind of season he had for the 49ers in 2021, it will be a quality addition.

What it means: Both of the Broncos’ inside linebackers – Jewell and Alexander Johnson – were unrestricted free agents, so in a perfect world they wanted to keep at least one of them. Jewell missed all but two of his games last season with a pectoral muscle tear, but general manager George Paton said at the Combine earlier this month that Jewell is “ready to go immediately.” Jewell is an active, productive linebacker who does some of his best pre-snap work in keeping the Broncos’ front seven in line, something that was sorely missed when he wasn’t in the lineup. The team’s former coaching staff have consistently praised his importance on defense and the new defense staff seem to agree.

What is the risk: A low-risk endeavor for the Broncos given Jewell’s production. The quibble would be that the league is a pass-first operation on offense and Jewell can sometimes become isolated in passing coverage, particularly in the middle parts of the field. But he can often make up for this disadvantage with his anticipation. He’s not at his best against opposing tight ends. If the Broncos are smart about how they use him, he can be a consistently productive player. His teammates say he’s the player they turn to when they need an answer to a question.

Compton has signed a one-year contract with the Broncos, the team announced.

What it means: Compton, who has played 123 games in 44 starts during his NFL career, can play both tackle and guard. He’s also experienced in the same type of out-of-zone running play that Nathaniel Hackett plans to use with the Broncos. Compton has spent the last two seasons in a similar system with Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. Compton also played a season with Butch Barry, the current Broncos offense coach, in 2021 when Barry was the assistant offense coach with the 49ers. Compton will likely get an early glimpse of proper tackle training in the offseason.

What is the risk: Very little. Compton is a versatile player with offensive experience for the Broncos. His experience in a similar system dates back to his 2013 Washington rookie season when Kyle Shanahan was the team’s offensive coordinator and Mike Shanahan was the team’s head coach.

The Broncos signed the former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker to a one-year deal.

What it means: Singleton has been the Eagles’ leading tackler in each of the last two seasons — he’s surpassed 100 tackles in both years — so he has the potential to carve out a spot as an inside linebacker in the Broncos’ defense. But he was also a high-profile player on the Eagles’ special teams (he was the Eagles’ special teams captain), and Broncos general manager George Paton has made no secret that he wants a significant upgrade there, too. The Broncos have struggled mightily on special teams at times during the current six-year playoff drought.

What is the risk: Singleton is obviously banking on himself with a one-year, $1.1 million deal that includes an additional $750,000 in incentives if he hits all the benchmarks. The Broncos have such a great need for special teams that this is a quality signing, although for some reason Singleton doesn’t play nearly as much defense for the Broncos as he has the Eagles the last two seasons.

What it means: The Broncos have two other offensive tackles — Bobby Massie and Cam Fleming — who are unrestricted free agents. Keeping Anderson, who was a restricted free agent, gives them some flexibility since he started playing both left tackle and right tackle games during his time with the Broncos. To that end, the Broncos also added guard Ben Braden, who played four seasons for the Packers during Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure with the team, as well as Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten. Braden has gone 16 games without starts in his career. The Broncos also re-signed restricted free agent tight end/fullback Andrew Beck.

What is the risk: Anderson’s $1.5 million deal carries little risk. He is a reliable player with versatility, athleticism and improving season after season. He can also, if he hits all the escalators in the contract, get up to $2.5 million if he gets into the lineup with the right tackle, where the Broncos will look to name a starter once practice outside of the season begins.

The Broncos signed the veteran quarterback, who is now with his 14th team, to a one-year deal.

What it means: When the Broncos included Drew Lock in the trade for Russell Wilson, they needed a backup quarterback. You’ve certainly walked the veteran path with the well-travelled Johnson. The 35-year-old has played time with 13 different NFL franchises before the Broncos and has appeared in regular-season games on six of those teams. Wilson was one of the league’s longest-lived players. So if all goes as the Broncos hope, Johnson won’t see much action in the regular season.

What is the risk: Johnson knows the job, knows how to prepare, will practice against the team’s defense like he cares – all must-haves on the job. His in-depth knowledge of coaching, offensive plans, and a knack for fitting in with his teammates make him a safe bet for the Broncos.

The Broncos have agreed a one-year deal with Tomlinson, who played with the Baltimore Ravens last season.

What it means: Tomlinson is mostly a blocker – he has three receptions combined over the last three seasons – and is likely to replace the role Eric Saubert had on the team’s offense last season. He played in every game for the Ravens last season.

What is the risk: Low-risk deal for the Broncos for a player who fills a specific need on the new offense.

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