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Contract Extension Examination: Josey Jewell

As I continue to take a look at Broncos with expiring contracts, next up from players who are contributing remarkably over the course of the 2023 season is Josey Jewell. He’s a player that I think poses a conundrum due to the previous contract that he signed to stay in Denver.

How the past may dictate the present

When Jewell first became a vested veteran and entered unrestricted free agency, he signed a two year, $11 million contract that even at the time was a cut below top veteran linebacker pay. He may have not have had much of a better option elsewhere at the time, and could have felt comfortable just staying in Denver. However, the nature of his contract length of two seasons now leaves him heading to free agency again when he will be 29. Fairly or unfairly, teams may worry whether age will catch up to Jewell soon, and if that’s the case, his market could be suppressed again.

A similar player that was in Jewell’s position beforehand was De’Vondre Campbell. When he entered unrestricted free agency, he had to deal with a pair of one year deals–first with the Cardinals and then the Packers–before he took off considerably in Green Bay. That earned him, also at age 29, a much better contract–but also one that was still off the top tier of linebacker pay, at $10 million APY and $15 million in full guarantees. When I look for comparables for Jewell’s next contract, Campbell stands out brightly.

Building a contract off the De’Vondre Campbell precedent

Base SalaryProrated BonusRoster BonusCap NumberCash DueRunning Cash

italics – fully guaranteed salary

This is a three year, $31.5 million contract that is just a cut above Campbell’s contract with $10.5 million APY and $17 million guaranteed, entirely contained in a signing bonus of $15.875 million and a minimum base salary in 2024. Like with Campbell’s contract, due to the lack of guarantees after the first season a pair of roster bonuses due near the start of the league year are placed to force an early decision from the team. As was seen with the contract drafted for Lloyd Cushenberry yesterday, three void years are added if the Broncos want to restructure his future salaries. With Campbell, the Packers elected to do so, but added a void year after the fact; here, it’s ready to go if needed. Campbell’s contract runs five seasons, but this contract goes with three for Jewell here, similar to Alex Singleton–but if Jewell is willing to agree to a longer contract at the same APY, then that is fine.

Is there a succession plan at linebacker?

When the Broncos drafted Drew Sanders in the 3rd round of the 2023 NFL Draft, I speculated at the time that he might end up replacing Jewell at linebacker. But instead, Sanders appears to be taking the Baron Browning path and getting more time at edge rusher instead. That is good news if it works out, as you can never have enough reliable edge rushers. But the tradeoff is that it makes Jewell less expendable, especially as he continues to play solidly, and how all the backups in Jonas Griffith, Justin Strnad, and Ben Niemann are set to be free agents as well. The Broncos could look externally for a linebacker in 2024 next to Singleton, but it would require doing so with less information than they have on Jewell.