Linebacker Steven Johnson was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2012—out of Kansas. With guys ahead of him on the linebacker depth chart, like D.J. Williams, Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving and Joe Mays, it was a long shot that Johnson would make the team. But following training camp and the preseason, Johnson’s name was on the list of the final 53-man roster. Against long odds, he made the club.
Since that time, Johnson has been a stalwart on special teams and a viable depth option at weakside and middle linebacker. Last season, he saw a career high in snaps on defense, with 251. He came in handy as the second or third option, when Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan were both lost for the season.
Before today, Johnson was set to hit the market as a restricted free agent. However, Mike Klis of the Denver Post is reporting that the Broncos have chosen not to tender Johnson, which will make him an unrestricted free agent and free to negotiate with any team in the league.
The factor that held the Broncos back from pulling the trigger on a tender, was that it would have guaranteed Johnson $1.542M, which is way more than most NFL teams are willing to pay for a third-string linebacker, including John Elway. Johnson’s story is a unique one and in three short years, he’s accomplished a lot. But now, he’s free to pursue whatever type of career the market will bear.
Klis thinks he could end up back in Denver.
The Broncos have not dismissed the possibility of re-signing Johnson at a lesser salary for the 2015 season but he will first have a chance to shop his services to other teams.
Johnson could find a market for his services, as the reputation of his former team will likely open more doors than if he was hitting the market coming from Cleveland or Oakland. Rahim Moore is benefiting from the Mile High Magic himself, and his production over the last four years is nothing to write home about.
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