The Broncos on Friday traded benched pass rusher Randy Gregory to the San Francisco 49ers in a deal that also includes the exchange of 2024 draft picks, with Denver sending over a seventh-round selection for a sixth-round choice.
Broncos coach Sean Payton confirmed the trade following Friday’s practice. Earlier in the week, he said the team felt it was best to give more playing time to younger players.
As part of the deal, the Broncos (1-3) are picking up the bulk of the $10.9 million remaining on Gregory’s salary this season.
The Broncos decided this week to move on from Gregory 18 months after signing him to a five-year, $70 million contract. He ended up playing in 10 of a possible 21 games for Denver, collecting three sacks and undergoing two surgeries.
He was benched last week at Chicago in favor of second-year outside linebacker Nik Bonitto, who had 2½ sacks, including a strip-sack of Justin Fields that led to the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 31-28 comeback win over the Bears, their first victory under Payton.
Gregory’s benching came a week after he was shut out at Miami, where he failed to register a single tackle and had no sacks or pressures of Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Dolphins’ 70-20 onslaught in one of the biggest blowouts in NFL history.
Gregory was close to re-signing with Dallas last year before Broncos general manager George Paton offered him a contract that included $28 million in guarantees.
Gregory has stayed out of trouble since being activated from the commissioner’s exempt list on Oct. 20, 2020, the last of his four substance-abuse suspensions including one that sidelined him for the entire 2019 season.
Gregory, however, was limited to a half-dozen games in 2022 because of a knee injury after he missed all of training camp following shoulder surgery. He had two sacks last year and one this season.
Although Gregory didn’t have any off-the-field issues in Denver like he did during his suspension-filled seven-year stint in Dallas, his production on the field never lived up to his lofty contract.
The Broncos’ pass rush is expected to get a boost with Frank Clark (hip) and Baron Browning (knee) close to returning to action.
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