Measurables: 6-foot-1, 237 pounds.
2014 stats: seven starts, 22 combined tackles, half sack, one fumble recovery.
Steven Johnson is yet another success story from the ranks of the undrafted. He was a productive starter throughout his four-year career at the University of Kansas. He led the Jayhawks in tackles in each of his last two seasons and led the Big 12 Conference his senior season with 124 stops, while serving as a team captain.
Alas, it wasn’t enough for the 32 NFL teams to expend a draft pick on Johnson in 2012. But John Elway and the Denver Broncos signed him as a college free agent. Johnson slowly built up momentum as a rookie with the Broncos and it culminated in him earning a spot on the team’s final 53-man roster.
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Another UDFA makes good in Denver. As a rookie, Johnson led the Broncos in special teams stops and chipped in a little on defense late in the season. Each year, Johnson has fought against the odds and earned a place at the table in Denver.
His big break came last season. With injuries to Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall and Nate Irving, Johnson was thrust into the mix, starting seven regular season games for the Broncos, and one playoff game.
Now in his fourth season, Johnson is looking to build on what he’s accomplished thus far. The Broncos chose not to tender him as a restricted free agent this past spring, instead choosing to waive that right and sign him to a one-year deal.
With three NFL training camps now under his belt, Johnson is well-accustomed to pro-level competition. But unless one of the inside linebackers from the bottom of the roster just lights it up in training camp, Johnson will be on the final roster again.
And the Broncos need him. Their projected starting duo at inside linebacker, Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall, are both recovering from offseason surgery and have yet be cleared for full contact, although they expect to get the green light in the early stages of training camp.
If either player struggles to return to form, or suffers a setback in his recovery, Johnson will be called upon to stop the gap and start. With Trevathan and Marshall out during OTAs, Johnson and Todd Davis ran with the first-team defense and both earned positive marks from the coaches.
Johnson represents a nice veteran failsafe for Wade Phillips. The former Jayhawk is playing in a contract year. He likely didn’t expect to play as many snaps as he did in 2014, which goes to show that an NFL depth player never knows when his number will be called.
Steven Johnson will be ready.
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