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DENVER — Jurrell Casey isn’t just a five-time Pro Bowler and one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL over the last decade. For the Broncos, he represents an example of how patience and nimbleness can pay off.
At the end of business Tuesday, the Broncos’ efforts to bolster their defensive line had yet to bear fruit. They made pushes for Houston’s D.J. Reader and Seattle’s Quinton Jefferson; both came up short, with Reader jumping to the Cincinnati Bengals and Jefferson signing with the Buffalo Bills.
So the Broncos quickly pivoted. And what they got in Casey has a chance to be better the options they initially pursued.
Consider this: Over the last five years, Casey averaged 2.2 pressures per game and 1.2 quarterback hurries per game, according to SportRadar.com. Even though his pressure and hurry rates haven’t return to their 2013-14 peak — when he averaged 3.4 pressures and 2.2 hurries per game — he remained effective.
In his best season to date — 2019 — Reader averaged 0.75 pressures per game. Pressure isn’t as huge a part of Reader’s game, but his ability to breach the pocket from time to time is what separated him from other potential nose tackles of 325 or more pounds.
Jefferson, meanwhile, had 1.44 pressures per game in his best season, which came in 2018. Casey, meanwhile has never failed to average at least 1.5 pressures and 0.8 hurries per game since his breakthrough 2013 campaign.
Even as he heads into his 10th season, Casey is a more disruptive pass rusher than the other options in front of the Broncos. And he can produce at a lower price on a per-year basis than Reader. He also has three seasons left on a contract that is essentially year-to-year, as the remainder of his prorated signing bonus falls onto the Titans.
Casey is more expensive than Jefferson, who will earn a reported average of $6.75 million per season on his two-year contract from the Bills.
Tennessee’s defense took a hit from losing Casey. It isn’t a trade they would have executed if they didn’t have the massive Ryan Tannehill contract and the Derrick Henry franchise tag on their books for 2020.
Denver’s defensive line, however, looks stout.
Casey, even as he heads into his 10th year, has the versatility to play every down. Casey can play on the nose in the pinch, but he can work as a 3- or 5- technique depending on the snap. His pass-rush punch makes him valuable in sub packages, so he is not merely a base-package player.
There is one final piece of the puzzle: Casey should be a perfect complement to second-year player Dre’Mont Jones.
Last year, Jones was credited with 12 total pressures — averaging one every 18.0 pass snaps he played. Over the last five seasons, Casey averaged one pressure every 15.6 pass snaps, allowing him to sustain his status as a perennial Pro Bowler.
Jones wants to be where Casey has established himself for the last seven seasons. In the short term, the two can take pressure off of each other, and with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the edge, they should have plenty of one-on-one chances to attack opposing quarterbacks.
But if Casey can help Jones maximize his potential, Casey’s presence could give the Broncos the gift of another outstanding young interior pass rusher who could be crucial to the success the Broncos have in the coming decade.
For the present and for the future, Casey is ideal for the Broncos — and at the cost of a seventh-round pick, he’s a steal.