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Why the 49ers should be interested in Randy Gregory

The Denver Broncos released Randy Gregory Wednesday morning after he signed a $70 million contract in 2022

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos, a season after signing Gregory to a five-year, $70 million contract, released him Wednesday morning.

According to the Broncos media, Gregory saw his playing time reduced, lost his starting job, and met with the coaching staff as both parties agreed it was time to move on.

Gregory was coming off an injury and needed surgery when Denver signed him. If you go down his game log, Gregory has never played more than 14 games. Gregory was limited to 33 snaps last week, although he did have a quarterback hit. Gregory hadn’t played north of 65 percent of the Broncos snaps in any game this year.

He only appeared in six games last year after suffering a knee injury in Week 4. Between injuries and violations of the league’s rules, we’ve yet to see Gregory in a full season.

Buy low

San Francisco: Where defensive lineman go to resurrect their careers. We have countless examples of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek turning water into wine and that wine end up going for double or tripled the price it was the season prior.

Well, 49ers, can I interest you in a slightly used Randy Gregory?

This would be the ultimate buy low spot for a player who could undoubtedly help the Niners. You can never have enough pass rushers. Here’s a look at the pressure percentage the 49ers edge rushers are generating so far this season and how many times they’ve hit the quarterback.

49ers edge production

Player Pass rush snaps Pressure % QB Hits
Player Pass rush snaps Pressure % QB Hits
Randy Gregory 73 8.8 4
Drake Jackson 109 10.5 3
Clelin Ferrell 89 7.2 5
Kerry Hyder 45 4.9 0
Nick Bosa 129 14.8 14

It’s worth noting that no player in the NFL faces a double team more than Bosa, who gets doubled one out of every three plays. Bosa producing despite that shouldn’t surprise, but it makes the need for a quality and competent pass rusher opposite of him even more necessary.

Jackson got off to a strong start to the season, but nine of his 11 pressures came in the first two games. He’s still learning how to play against the run, too. Last week, the Cardinals ran at Jackson with a couple of gap scheme runs, and took full advantage of the second-year pro.

Ferrell, a preseason darling, and effectively been shut out as a pass rusher for the past two weeks, while Hyder is more of a veteran presence and locker room leader.

There’s a need for Gregory, and snaps for him to take. But the question is whether he’s a culture fit for the 49ers. Gregory was suspended for 14 games in 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He was suspended for the entire ‘17 season, two games in ‘18, and the full ‘19 season for multiple violations. Plus, the first six games of 2020. So that’s why he’s never played a full season.

If anything, you’d think he’d be fresh. The 49ers may be willing to overlook Gregory’s pass in favor of his talent.

Adding picks

Since Gregory is a vested veteran, Denver is on the hook for his contract and he’s free to sign with any team. So, presumably, the 49ers could sign Gregory to a 1-year prove-it deal that’s heavily incentivized. San Francisco has north of $41 million in cap space, so money isn’t an issue.

If the team is comfortable with Gregory as a fit in the locker room, adding his talent for the duration of the season is worth the reward. Go back to the table above and look at Bosa’s pressure percentage. For the past three seasons, Gregory has been north of 15 percent. If I’m John Lynch, that’s who I’m betting on when I offer Gregory a contract.

You don’t have to sell Gregory on being a championship contender, recent history and the 49ers current record will do all of the talking. I’d bring him into the building, get a better feel for Gregory on a personal level, and see if he has the mindset to mesh with the defense.

If so, we’re talking about a player who could help immediately, take pressure off Bosa, and, theoretically, put you in a position at the end of the year when you’re staring at a decent comp pick if Gregory stays healthy, out of trouble, and flourishes alongside a defensive line.