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'We needed to add a difference-maker': OLB Randy Gregory brings explosive rush to Denver, crucial to Broncos' defensive hopes

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In a division that includes Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, it's a necessity to keep up at the quarterback position.

The Broncos drastically shifted their potential at that potential this week, as they traded for Russell Wilson from the Seahawks.

Equally critical, though, may be the ability to make those great quarterbacks uncomfortable.

"We really wanted to improve our pass-rush and really the front seven as a whole," General Manager George Paton said Friday. "As you know, with the quarterbacks in our division, we really needed to add."

The Broncos did that, as they officially signed outside linebacker Randy Gregory on Friday. In Gregory, Paton said the Broncos added one of their "top free-agent priorities."

They also added a dynamic player, whose frame and athleticism helped him record six sacks and three forced fumbles in 12 games in 2021. No player forced more turnovers from pressure than Gregory did last season, and he also recorded the most sacks in less than three seconds.

"We needed to add a difference-maker," Paton said during Gregory's introductory presser. "I feel like we have in Randy Gregory. We feel like Randy's an impact-type player. When you look at the free-agent class, he stood out. Just the way he plays the game. We played Dallas this year, and he's a guy we had to game plan for. He puts the fear into offensive coordinators, because he can impact the game at any time. When you watch Randy on tape, the thing that really sticks out is his passion for the game — how hard he plays every down. In the run game, very disruptive. He can set the edge with his length. He plays with strength, he plays with leverage. Very active on the move, he's disruptive. He chases every play, every down. The passion, when you watch on tape, just sticks out. And then as a rusher, he's a prototypical rusher. He has size, he has length. Explosive get off. He has burst, he can bend, he can flatten. He can win with speed, he can win with quickness, he can win with power. He has an arsenal.

"He played 38 percent of the snaps and he was top 10 in pressures in the league. We feel with him and [Bradley] Chubb and the group we have and the secondary, that he's going to be even that much better here as a Bronco."

Paton also believes in the way that Gregory will fit with the Broncos' culture.

"We did a lot of homework on Randy like we do with all the free agents," Paton said. "He's beloved in the Cowboys' building. For everything he's come through, the hard work, the perseverance, the grit that he showed. We all go through stuff, and he went through it and he came through the other side and look at him today."

Gregory also noted that he's "done a lot of growing up over the last few years."

On the field, Gregory and Chubb will aim to form a pass-rush duo that can help the Broncos improve their production after ranking just 18th in sacks last season. Gregory said he's "been a fan" of Chubb's since the NC State product entered the league, and the two have already spoken since Gregory first agreed to terms with the Broncos.

"[I] really think he's a good player and think he's going to make a big splash for us this year, hopefully with me also," Gregory said.

Gregory undoubtedly figures in to that plan, and he's had a knack for not just making plays, but making plays that alter games. In 36 games over the last three seasons, Gregory has recorded eight forced fumbles and an interception.

"For me, [it's about] just impacting the passer," Gregory said. "Not only getting there, but hitting him as hard as you can and taking swipes at the ball and being in pursuit. I've been lucky that I've been coached by some good d-line coaches, some good d-coordinators that have instilled in me that mentality as far as getting to the football and running to the football and always having a pursuit. If you're always around the football, you've always got a chance to get the ball and cause a turnover.

"My main goal as a pass rusher obviously is to do that and get the ball back to the offense."

On offense, the Broncos now have a star quarterback in Wilson. As the Broncos look to compete in the AFC West, though, the addition of Gregory may loom quite large, as well.

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