Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Randy Gregory free agency 2022: Russell Wilson helped poach veteran pass rusher from Cowboys to Broncos

Russell Wilson is already having a huge impact on team-building with the Denver Broncos, something that eluded him greatly during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran quarterback is wasting no time helping his new team recruit headline talent in 2022 NFL free agency, and that includes defensive end Randy Gregorywho stunned the entire NFL by reaching an agreement with the Dallas Cowboys on a five-year deal before a contractual implosion fueled by a last-minute clause the team attempted to insert after the fact subsequently thrust him into the arms of the Broncos.

Gregory has now signed a five-year, $70 million deal in Denver that will play him in tandem with former fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb, and achieves a mission set out by the Broncos in free agency when they emerged as the frontrunner to steal Gregory away from the Cowboys, a curveball CBS Sports initially reported Monday. Highly sought after by several teams, it was Gregory’s first actual taste of NFL free agency, and the offers came in hot and ready.

But, with the added help of Wilson, the former second-round pick is now a Bronco. 

“Initially, [free agency] was really hectic,” Gregory said, via the Broncos official website. “Pretty painful, but the Broncos really sweetened it and made it worthwhile — so did Russell — so like I said, I’m really excited to be here. …I’m excited for the future.”

The “painful” part of it all was not only divorcing his beloved Cowboys, but the manner in which the two parted ways. In the end, the Cowboys went back to work trying to smooth things over with Gregory following his change of heart, but the damage had been done in a negotiation that became more and more fractured prior to the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back Tuesday — a whirlwind series of events that even threw All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence for a loop.

That said, despite his disappointment regarding his end in Dallas, Gregory’s ready to turn the page to Denver. 

“Yea, it’s big,” he said. “I’d been [in Dallas] since 2015. They drafted me. I experienced a lot down there. 

“But I grew a lot, and I’m happy about the decision I made. Made a grown-man decision for me and my family. And I’m happy to be here. … It feels great. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a fresh start for me. I’m really excited. 

“There’s a great group of guys here, and I really think I’m going to make a great push this year. I’m excited to get to work. … Fresh start for me. Fresh start for my family — a chance to go out there and put myself on another team, and I’m ready to do that.”

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The 29-year-old matched his career-high sack tally in 2021 (six) while also logging a career-best 11 starts, and is arguably on the verge of having the breakout season he’s been chasing for years now, his career often slowed by suspensions stemming from violation of the league’s marijuana policy (a policy that’s since been wildly revamped in the updated 2020 collective bargaining agreement). His family, including his parents, who moved to Dallas to help build an effective support system for Gregory, are following him to Denver.

“Really big [to have them with me],” he said. ” … Big thing for me is having a support system here, having a good staff here that understands what I need to succeed, and I really feel like I have that here.”

Potentially exploding in 2022 is something the Cowboys and Broncos, and other teams who courted him, believe is likely, but it’s the Mile High City that might be the beneficiary of years of hard work.

“Definitely, I do think [I’m ready to explode],” Gregory said. “I still haven’t put on my full potential yet and I think this staff really saw my film and my tape, and it really speaks for itself. I just gotta go out there and put it on the field, and I’m really confident in myself to do that.”

And, with that, it marks the second time the Broncos have poached a No. 94 from the Cowboys, and the last time it paid off with a Super Bowl ring with the help of future Hall of Fame linebacker DeMarcus Ware. That’s precisely what the front office is again aiming for in 2022, and they can also thank their new quarterback for his early passion in helping to potentially see it materialize. 

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