BRONCOS

Broncos expected to hire Jim Leonhard for defensive staff

Feb 11, 2024, 4:43 PM

LAS VEGAS — Jim Leonhard potentially joining the Broncos’ coaching staff might get lost in the hubbub around Super Bowl LVIII. But make no mistake, this is a significant move for the team as it heads into 2024.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported just before Sunday’s championship kickoff that Leonhard is expected to join Denver’s staff as its secondary coach.

A former Broncos safety who played for the team as a sub-package safety and occasional punt returner during its 13-3 season in 2012, Leonhard is arguably the most accomplished defensive coach in college football in recent years.

The Broncos hired him after a season serving as a senior football analyst at Illinois under Bret Bielema. That followed seven seasons at the University of Wisconsin, including six as the Badgers’ defensive coordinator.

In those six seasons, Leonhard guided Wisconsin to top-5 total-defense rankings five times. In 2021, Wisconsin not only led FBS in total defense, but their total-yardage allowed on a per-game basis was the best for any FBS team in a decade.

His time at Wisconsin ended with a 7-game stint as interim-head coach after UW sacked Paul Chryst following a disappointing start to the season. The Badgers went 4-3 under Leonhard and subsequently hired former University of Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who eventually decided not to retain Leonhard.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Leonhard actually played for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints in the 2013 offseason and preseason. The Saints released him; he subsequently signed with the Buffalo Bills.

Jim Leonhard is expected to step in for Christian Parker, who departed for the Philadelphia Eagles’ staff to work under former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. Fangio hired Parker to join the Broncos’ staff in 2021.

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