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Randy Gregory chooses Broncos because he felt 'valued, wanted'

Edge rusher aims to meet expectations; Broncos add LB, backup QB
Randy Gregory
Posted at 7:08 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 21:23:59-04

DENVER — Randy Gregory remains the headline.

The Broncos signed linebacker Alex Singleton, the Eagles' leading tackler the past two seasons, to compete for a starting job. They added backup quarterback Josh Johnson, the 35-year-old joining his 14th team as an in-case-of-emergency break glass if Russell Wilson needs a breather (He has only missed three games in 10 years).

Gregory, though, is the story. The Broncos officially signed Gregory to a five-year, $70-million contract with $28 million guaranteed. He is a dynamic pass rusher, and in the 12 games he played last season the Cowboys had more takeaways (17) than touchdowns allowed (14).

The former Arizona Western College and Nebraska star represents the centerpiece of the Broncos' nuanced defensive makeover.

"There was a point in time I didn't think I would be here," Gregory admitted, sticking to candor about his checkered past that included five suspensions and more missed games than games played. "There was a point in time I didn’t think I would be in the league and be here. It's a big deal the Broncos believed in me."

The Broncos paid Gregory to be an impact player, if not a leader, which he became "organically" last season in Dallas. It has been quite the journey.

The 29-year-old did not quit when he failed marijuana tests early in his career. He did not quit when his suspensions led to apathy and strife in his family, leaving him sleeping in his car. He did not quit when he battled social anxiety.

So Friday when he was introduced to the Denver media, he embraced the idea of a new challenge, a new environment and his first fresh start in the NFL after spending his first five seasons in Dallas.

"I have a well-documented history publicly. For me, I have a lot of time here for the fan base and staff to get to know me. The public perception isn’t always right on me," Gregory said. "Some things have worked. Some things haven’t sustained. I have tried and kept trying. My parents lived in Texas with me the last three years. I think it works with a smaller inner circle. I’ve done a lot of growing up the last couple of years. And I had to want it myself."

Gregory loves football, he's been playing since he was 7. He enjoys the physicality, the one-on-one battles that provide instant referendums on performance. When that was taken away, he yearned for it.

He's really good at football when he plays.

He appeared in only 38 percent of his team's defensive snaps last season, but ranked in the top 10 in quarterback pressers. He posted six sacks. That number should grow when paired with Bradley Chubb, if both can remain available.

General manager George Paton is rolling the dice, but believes the pair can be counted on. Gregory is the type of player who creates turnovers and ends drives, which can't be overstated in an AFC West that has become an arms race with the Chiefs the class of the division, the Chargers adding edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson and the Raiders signing Chandler Jones and acquiring All-Pro receiver Davante Adams.

"We really wanted to improve our pass rush and front seven as a whole with the quarterbacks in our division. We needed to add a difference maker, and I feel like we have in Randy Gregory," Paton said. "What sticks out is his passion for the game. He's disruptive... and the reason why this is such a special day is everything that Randy has gone through. The hard work he showed. He’s going to fit in great with our building and our culture."

Quarterback Russell Wilson, the overnight face of the franchise with the NFL's most popular selling jersey, became a selling point for Gregory and a recruiter. He called and texted Gregory no fewer than eight times. The pitch, the place, it all came together for Gregory to continue his inspirational story.

"They made me feel wanted," Gregory said. "And valued."

The second wave of free agency began crashing across the NFL on Friday. The Broncos made a pair of moves. They signed Singleton to a one-year deal for a guaranteed $1.1 million. He is considered a strong run stuffer, but is limited in coverage. The Broncos' linebacking crew includes Baron Browning, Josey Jewell, Singleton and Jonas Griffith.

Also, Denver found a backup for Wilson, though one is rarely needed. The Broncos signed Johnson, who played with the Jets and Ravens last season. Wilson went nine straight years without missing a game until last season.

Paton made it clear he's not done yet, even as the cap is becoming tighter. Receiver Tim Patrick reworked his deal to add roughly $4.5 million in space.

Paton remains interested in bringing back safety Kareem Jackson — Caden Sterns is available to start if not — and cornerback Bryce Callahan. Callahan is terrific when on the field, but has never played a full season because of foot and knee injuries. Even if Callahan returns, the Broncos are likely to add at least one more corner. And the Broncos are not done at right tackle even with adding Tom Compton and keeping Calvin Anderson, though they could look to address the need in the draft.