Broncos Position Outlook: At linebacker, team must enter draft with eye toward 2022 – The Denver Post

Editor’s note: First in a series looking at each Broncos position group heading into the NFL draft (April 29-May 1):

2020 review: OLB Von Miller sustained a season-ending ankle injury days before the Week 1 game vs. Tennessee. … A year removed from his torn ACL, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb played 77% of the defensive snaps, was second on the team with 8 1/2 sacks and had a team-high 27 pass-rush “disruptions.” … OLB Malik Reed took over Miller’s playing time, registered eight sacks and was second on the team with 22 “disruptions.” … At ILB, Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell started all 16 games and were the team’s top two tacklers (124 and 111, respectively).

In-house offseason moves: The Broncos exercised Miller’s contract option and tendered restricted free agent Johnson at a second-round level.

Additions: ILB Natrez Patrick was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 3.

Departures: OLB Jeremiah Attaochu signed with Chicago and ILB Austin Calitro and OLB Anthony Chickillo remain free agents.

Under contract: Miller, Chubb, Jewell, Johnson, Reed, Justin Strnad (ILB), Josh Watson (ILB) and Derrek Tuszka (OLB).

Outlook: Let’s count all of the linebackers who are in the final year of their contracts — Miller, Chubb, Jewell, Johnson, Reed (restricted) and Patrick.

Chubb isn’t going anywhere because the Broncos would be foolish not to exercise his fifth-year option with an eye toward a long-term extension next offseason.

If Miller is healthy, he and Chubb — who have played only four games together the last two years — should approach at least 20 combined sacks.

At inside backer, Strnad was being prepared during training camp to play a sub-package coverage role, but sustained a season-ending wrist injury.

Need scale (1-10) — 7. General manager George Paton needs to add to this position with an eye toward 2022. An edge rusher after trading down from No. 9 overall? A coverage linebacker in the second or third rounds? Both are easy to justify.

Sunday: Defensive backs.

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