Denver Broncos Sign ER Randy Gregory
NFL Offseason - Every year, we get at least one free agent who changes his mind. A deal gets announced during tampering period, and then the free agent decides to take a different deal and go elsewhere. This year, that player is Randy Gregory. The former Dallas edge rusher was going to re-sign with the Cowboys but changed his mind and will be taking a five-year, $70-million deal with the Denver Broncos instead, featuring $28 million guaranteed. These are apparently the same terms that he was going to take from the Cowboys.
$28 million guaranteed is a lot of money for a player who has never played a full season and has never had more than six sacks in any one year. Gregory is hugely talented, we've known this since his days at Nebraska. He was a SackSEER favorite back in 2015. Last year, Gregory had 6.0 sacks and 24 hurries in 12 games. Prorated to a full 17 games, that would put him in the top 20 for the year in both sacks and hurries.
The problem is that Gregory can't stay on the field. First off, he has a tendency to self-medicate his mental health issues with marijuana. That's fine in a lot of places in America, including his new home of Denver, but it's still not fine by NFL rules. So Gregory has faced multiple suspensions over the course of his career including three violations of the league's substance abuse policy. He missed the entire 2019 season and part of 2020 due to suspension. Second, Gregory can't stay healthy. He had a calf injury that cost him multiple weeks last season and faced knee surgery after the season was over. He's had other knee and ankle injuries in the past.
The Denver Broncos could definitely use a healthy season from Gregory. They ranked 18th in adjusted sack rate last year but 27th in pressure rate according to Sports Info Solutions charting. I've written multiple times this offseason about how the Broncos defense was not as good as their rank in points allowed (third) would indicate. Their offense played at a very slow pace, leading to games with fewer plays overall, leading to the defense giving up fewer points because they were on the field less. Plus, the Broncos ranked second in the league in the best opposing starting field position on defense. Overall, the Broncos were only 20th in defensive DVOA. But that doesn't mean they'll be 20th again next year. They could add to the defense, and this move does. Combined with getting (hopefully) a full year out of Bradley Chubb and improvement in Year 2 from the already strong Patrick Surtain, the Broncos are counting on improved defense in 2021 that is closer to that rank in points allowed from last season than it is to that rank in DVOA.
Overall Randy Gregory Impact: This is a high-risk, high-reward signing, giving a lot of money to a very talented player who creates havoc when he's on the field but has an unfortunate habit of not being on the field. The Broncos are counting on Gregory putting his substance abuse behind him and playing, finally, a full season. There's no doubt that a healthy Gregory improves the Denver pass rush. You can't double both Gregory and Chubb. This also shuts the doors on a Von Miller return to Denver.
Fantasy Randy Gregory Impact: Negligible. A couple extra sacks on Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Justin Herbert won't hurt their fantasy numbers and playing those quarterbacks for six games, you aren't going to want to be drafting Denver as a team defense.