As the Broncos’ 2022 regular season commences today, MarsLineman has a very good post up on sister site Biomechanical Review analyzing Randy Gregory, and here is the ultimate conclusion:
For a team like Denver, which is likely now entering a championship window, Gregory can offer some meaningful playmaking– both in run defense and as a rusher– as long as he is utilized correctly (not as an every down player), and kept healthy. And a deep roster of edges/ pass rushers behind him is a necessity. Thankfully Denver seems to have taken these factors into consideration when building significant depth at OLB.
However, long term expectations should be kept in check. Gregory will be turning 30 this upcoming season, and it’s possible, perhaps probable, that a steep decline in effectiveness is lurking around the corner. Once Gregory starts to enter his 30s, his reliance on sacral area borrowing may significantly limit his effectiveness– once his burst starts to fail, he will be unable to win his matchups with the same combination of raw effort/ strength. Hopefully Gregory can contribute meaningfully in the short term, while managing and maximizing a shrinking pool of ‘burst’ over the longer term.
I’d like to briefly add a few contractual observations that support the findings here, and suggest that the Broncos may be in concurrence with the idea that Gregory’s five year contract on paper may in practice be much shorter.
First, as Mars says, building a very deep edge rusher stable was necessary to go along with Gregory, not just long term but also short term. The Broncos did this so well that they were able to trade one of their edge rushers (Malik Reed) and still have very young talent in Baron Browning and Jonathon Cooper (second seasons) and Nik Bonitto (rookie) on the active roster, as well as fellow rookie Christopher Allen taking a redshirt season on injured reserve. The hope, of course, is that at least one of these four players will emerge not only to keep Gregory’s snap counts reasonable, but also as a potential future starter.
Second, Gregory’s contract is designed to only be a two year commitment at the minimum. Should Gregory’s play significantly decline as Gregory enters his 30s as projected, it will be very reasonable for the Broncos to move on. By 2024, those four young edge rushers will be close to the ends of their contracts, and if any deserve a higher level veteran extension, funding for them may have to be transferred from what’s set aside for Gregory.
And third, Bradley Chubb will be due for his own contract extension after this season is over. Should he bounce back to the top level of play that is expected, his new contract will cost much more than Gregory’s. Having both Chubb and Gregory on high end EDGE contracts in 2023 can likely be practical and sustainable, but from 2024 onward that practicality becomes much more questionable.