BRONCOS

Broncos continue free-agency binge by signing former Cardinals DE Zach Allen

Mar 13, 2023, 7:16 PM | Updated: 8:21 pm

Even as the Broncos made moves Monday, the status of Dre’Mont Jones hung in the air.

By Monday night, the answer came in — because the Broncos’ first big defensive import is on the defensive line: ex-Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen. Denver agreed to terms with Allen, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The deal includes $32.5 million guaranteed and pays Allen $45.75 million over three years — a robust $15.25 million per year.

It also makes Allen the highest-paid defensive player on the Broncos’ roster in terms of average annual value, a distinction he shares with Justin Simmons.

In the comparison with Jones, there are some numbers that favor Allen, particularly from last year. Take the number of times that each player made contact with the opposing quarterback, for example. Last year, Allen had 34 total hits on the quarterback — 6 from his 5.5 sacks and 20 hits that didn’t result in sacks.

That gave Allen a rate of one hit every 20.6 pass-rush snaps. According to the data compiled by Pro Football Focus, that was the fifth-best rate among 68 interior defensive linemen with at least 250 pass-rush snaps last year.

In that same metric, Jones ranked 33rd, with one hit every 35.3 pass-rush snaps.

Allen also flourished as a run-blocker, too:

Allen saw his playing time steadily increase after breaking into the NFL as a third-round pick in 2019 — six selections before Jones. He played in just four games as a rookie, starting one of them. He started seven games in 2020, then became a full-time starter in 2021, when the Cardinals made the postseason.

Now, one thing that helped Allen last year was the presence of J.J. Watt, who retired after the season. Denver’s front seven — as presently constituted — does not offer the same kind of proven production from anyone else. So, Allen could attract more attention from opposing blocking schemes.

But given his steady improvement over the course of the year, the Broncos believe he’s ready for it.

Allen will now reunite with Vance Joseph, the only defensive coordinator he knew during his Cardinals years. Now Joseph has his man.

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