ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos added a host of talented players during last week's 2021 NFL Draft, but Denver also made a move to retain one of their existing core pieces amid the selection of Pat Surtain II, Javonte Williams and Co.
Denver exercised the fifth-year option on linebacker Bradley Chubb on Friday, which will keep the 2018 fifth-overall pick in Denver through at least 2022. Chubb, who will enter his fourth season in the league, said the team's decision to pick up the option was "huge."
"It felt really good, because I know how special this team can be," Chubb told DenverBroncos.com on Tuesday. "For them to believe in me and have me be a part of what we can do here, it's special. So I'm excited to be around those guys for another couple years and hopefully more years beyond that. I'm just going to continue to do what it takes to help this team win, and I'm just happy for the opportunity."
Following the conclusion of the draft, General Manager George Paton called the choice to exercise Chubb's option one of the "easier decisions" he'd made that day, and he previously referred to Chubb as one of the Broncos' core players.
"It means the team that took me and believed in me coming out of college still believes in me now and just wants me to continue to do the things I'm doing," Chubb said of Paton's confidence in him. "It's huge for me because it gives me that confidence, especially after the year I went through last year with the whole emotional roller coaster with the knee. Just to know I still have those leadership qualities for the team and that people want to build upon that, it's huge. It makes me feel good and it makes me ready and more hungry to win games and prove everybody right."
In three seasons with the Broncos, Chubb has been among the more productive rushers in the team's history. He started his career with a franchise rookie record 12 sacks and an NFL All-Rookie team selection in 2018, and he rebounded from a torn ACL he suffered in 2019 to post 7.5 sacks and earn a Pro Bowl bid in 2020.
Chubb's 20.5 sacks rank third in franchise history for the most quarterback takedowns within the first 34 games of a player's career, trailing only Von Miller (32.0) and Elvis Dumervil (22.0). In 2021, Head Coach Vic Fangio believes Chubb could take another step forward and enjoy a true breakout season.
"We're expecting Bradley to have his best season that he has had in pro football thus far," Fangio said Saturday. "Last year, coming off of the injury was a lot to deal with. He wasn't truly himself until some point midway through the season, but he was still playing good. Then he got nicked up there a little bit at the end, nothing serious. I think that he should have a really good season for us this year."
Chubb said he "100 percent" feels poised for the type of season that Fangio described, and he is ready to take his place among the game's best. The NC State product said he's motivated to join other young stars like T.J. Watt and Shaquil Barrett near the top of the NFL's sack chart.
"That's where I want to be," Chubb said. "I want to be at the top of that list year in and year out. That's what I strive for and that's what I'm working toward. I'm going to do whatever it takes on the field. The tenacity, the intensity is going to lead to more sacks and more plays for me, so I'm just going to be out there doing whatever it takes to help the team win. I feel like [the sacks] are going to come with it."
Chubb should benefit from the return of Von Miller, who missed the 2020 season after suffering an ankle injury ahead of Week 1. Chubb said he was "ecstatic" that the Broncos decided to exercise Miller's team option earlier this offseason, which ensured his return to Denver for 2021. In their one full season together, Miller and Chubb combined for 26.5 sacks, which was among the best totals in the league by a pair of teammates.
"I feel like being back on the field — both of us healthy — is going to be huge," Chubb said. "Me not being a rookie anymore and actually knowing the ins and outs of the game and him being Von Miller, the best pass-rusher to play this game, it's going to be fun."
Chubb and the Broncos' defense should also benefit from the addition of Surtain and the six other defensive players the team added during the draft.
"To be honest with you, I had no idea who we were going to pick, so when we picked Surtain, I was ecstatic," Chubb said of the team's first-round pick. "A guy like that is going to come in and be huge for us. He might need some time to develop, but he might come in and play Day 1. It's going to be cool to see him. I know he was a great player at Alabama. … I know he's going to be technically sound and come in and be ready to work."
Chubb will be joined in the outside linebacking room by seventh-round pick Jonathon Cooper, and Chubb said he and Miller would be "right there teaching him everything we know." Chubb's welcoming attitude wasn't limited to Cooper, as he reached out to many of the Broncos' new picks regardless of which unit they'll join.
"I just wanted to welcome those guys to the team like I was welcomed to the team when I first came out here," Chubb said. "We're going to to go war with each other for 17 weeks, so we've just got to be on the same page with everything. I just wanted to let those guys know that they were welcome here and I'm excited for them to be here. It's time to get to work."