The Denver Broncos were reportedly set to release veteran pass rusher Randy Gregory unless a trade partner emerged in the eleventh hour. According to CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, that trade partner is the San Francisco 49ers, who agreed to send a 2024 sixth-round pick to Denver for Gregory and a 2024 seventh-rounder, per ESPN.
The 30-year-old outside linebacker signed a five-year deal worth up to $70 million with the Broncos during the 2022 offseason, and it was a decision general manager George Paton likely regrets. In 10 games with Denver, Gregory recorded 21 combined tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Per ESPN, the Broncos will pay Gregory roughly $10 million for the remainder of the 2023 season. The 49ers will pay Gregory the veteran minimum. Something else to note is that while Gregory has three years remaining on his current deal, none of it is guaranteed beyond 2023. When it came to the decision to release the pass rusher, ESPN reported that the Broncos wanted, “to focus on its young players.”
In 60 career NFL games, Gregory has recorded 106 combined tackles and 19.5 sacks. Now, the former second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys gets a change of scenery — and it’s a pretty good one at that. Gregory joins a pass-rush rotation that includes the likes of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, Clelin Ferrell and Drake Jackson. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league, and allow 14.5 points per game through four weeks. That is tied for third-best in the NFL.
Let’s attempt to grade this trade:
On one hand, the Broncos got a sixth-round pick for a seventh-round pick for a player they were going to release. But this transaction is more about money. It’s hard to ignore the fact that this original signing was a mistake for Denver.
Back in March of 2022, Gregory walked away from a five-year deal in Dallas that was worth upward of $70 million with $28 million guaranteed. Why? There was language included in the contract that Gregory’s camp did not like. So, the pass rusher was off to Denver on what was virtually an identical deal. After just 10 games played for the Broncos, he’s gone.
The five-year contract was viewed as a risk from the jump, and now, the Broncos will be paying Gregory $10 million to rush the passer for arguably the best team in the NFL.
A low-risk, high-reward move for San Francisco. Gregory, at the very least, can be a rotational spark plug brought off the bench for the 49ers, and they don’t have to 1) pay him big money in 2023, and 2) commit to him past this season. A solid get for general manager John Lynch as he continues to chase a Super Bowl.