The general consensus outside of Broncos headquarters entering the NFL draft was that Denver had a glaring need for inside linebackers. Seven rounds came and went. Denver didn’t find their pick.
The Broncos’ lone linebacker selection, Oregon’s Justin Hollins in the fifth round (No. 156), thrived as an outside rusher for the Ducks. The 6-41/2, 242-pound Hollins had 13 sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss over four seasons.
But Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Hollins is not just an outside linebacker.
“I like his versatility,” Fangio said. “He’s played primarily outside linebacker, but he has played a little bit of inside linebacker, particularly in one of the All-Star games. We’re going to try him at both spots and see where he’s got the best future at and the best fit at this time.”
The Broncos return inside linebackers Todd Davis and Josey Jewell next season, but Brandon Marshall’s departure to Oakland leaves a void. Might Hollins help fill it?
“I’m going to play anywhere they need me,” Hollins said. “I’m one of those guys who is just going to get in and play where ever I am needed, whether that is special teams, inside, outside — it doesn’t matter. I am here to compete. I am here to play as hard as I can and provide the team with some type of impact.”
Watson returns via trade. The Broncos were scheduled to pick at No. 148 in the fifth round, but they flipped that to San Francisco for 31-year old linebacker Dekoda Watson and pick No. 212, which they traded again to move up and select CU wide receiver Juwann Winfree.
It will be Watson’s second tour with the Broncos — he played in all 16 games in 2016 (six tackles). He is expected to fill a special teams role for coordinator Tom McMahon.
Watson started his career in Tampa Bay before playing for Jacksonville and Dallas in 2014, New England in 2015 and, after his year with the Broncos, San Francisco in 2017-18. He has started only seven of his 107 career regular season games. Watson is entering the final year of his contract and counts $1.88 million on the salary cap.
Undrafted free agency. Elway estimated the Broncos started the post-draft signing period with 15-17 slots for rookies. Kansas announced that linebacker Joe Dineen had agreed to terms with the Broncos. Dineen had 386 tackles in 39 career games and was a second-team All-America selection in 2018.
A source confirmed an NFL Network report that Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien will be signing with the Broncos. Rypien threw 90 touchdowns and 29 interceptions for the Broncos and is the nephew of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien.