With Denver Broncos training camp beginning on July 26, there will be plenty of eyes on the linebacker position — more specifically at inside linebacker.
The Broncos didn’t bring back former starter Alexander Johnson, who remains a free agent. It’s likely that Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell will receive starting roles. General manager George Paton brought in ex-Eagle Singleton via free agency and Jewell is returning from an injury that cost him 15 games last season.
Jonas Griffith will also vie for playing time as he played exceptionally well in 2021, posting 25 total tackles from Week 15 through 17.
That could mean that linebacker Justin Strnad is on the outside looking in.
Sports Illustrated’s Mile High Huddle writer Erick Trickel believes that Strnad could be a longshot to make the 53-man roster.
“Strnad will have to excel on special teams to make the Broncos’ roster as he tries to stave off a couple of undrafted rookies,” Trickel wrote. “Earning a place on special teams isn’t a given, as he struggled there in 2021. If Strnad doesn’t make the roster, he’ll have a chance to make the practice squad, but it could be a situation where the new staff, from top to bottom, may just want to move on.”
Despite entering his third season in 2022, Strnad has just one year of NFL experience due to a season-ending wrist injury in his rookie year.
Strnad played 16 games last season and started five of them with Johnson and Jewell getting hit with injuries. He posted 23 solo tackles and 13 assists, plus one quarterback hit. Unfortunately, Strnad was a disappointment and played only 26 total snaps over the final three games.
He was benched over then-rookie linebacker Baron Browning and Kenny Young. Browning has since moved to the outside and Young signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason.
The Broncos didn’t draft an inside linebacker in 2022. But the team will look at Strnad, Barrington Wade and rookie undrafted free agents Kana’i Mauga and Kadofi Write for depth. It’s likely that at least one of those players can make the 53-man roster and contribute through special teams.
Trickell noted that Strnad was benched because “his play in coverage was lackluster, and as a run defender, he wasn’t anything close to what the Broncos expected from a starting linebacker.”
Broncos.com writer Aric DiLalla believes the team could add a veteran free agent before the season if things don’t look promising at inside linebacker.
“If the Broncos aren’t pleased with what they see after training camp and the preseason, though, this feels like a spot where the team could place a waiver claim to bring in a veteran option,” DiLalla wrote. “The Broncos could also potentially shift Baron Browning back from outside linebacker, though Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said near the end of the offseason program that they’d like to keep Browning at his current position.”
Strnad, a former fifth-round pick, could have his work cut out for him. His missed tackles and rush defense struggles gave him a rating of 32.0 by Pro Football Focus.