ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos’ starting outside linebacker Baron Browning underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus, a source told 9NEWS.
While there is hope Browning could return some time during training camp that may be optimistic as the start of the regular season could be in question. (Note: The timeline on Browning's return has been updated.)
Browning, 24, has not been seen participating during the media-attended Broncos’ OTA practices the past three weeks.
Realizing they need not only depth at their edge rusher position, but starter-quality depth, the Broncos reached agreement with veteran edge rusher Frank Clark on a one-year, $5.5 million deal, a source confirmed to 9NEWS.
Clark, who has 58.5 sacks in his previous eight seasons with Seattle and Kansas City, is expected to fly into Denver to take his physical and sign his contract in the next day or two. He can make another $2 million in incentives.
Browning was moved from inside to outside linebacker last year and was impressive when healthy, posting 5.0 sacks in 14 games. The current knee injury is a setback after he spent part of his offseason working in San Francisco with famed trainer Frank Matrisciano, who also trained Von Miller in previous offseasons. Matrisciano, nicknamed “Hell’s Trainer,” is big on running hills, outdoor steps and on sand, a unique method of strengthening core and leg muscles.
Browning was in great shape as he prepared to take another step toward becoming an elite NFL pass rusher in 2023. He showed flashes last year. Beginning the season as the Broncos’ No. 3 outside linebacker behind Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb, Browning became a starter after Gregory went down in game 4 at Las Vegas with a knee injury. Browning’s starter status was solidified after Chubb was traded to Miami midseason.
A rare 5-star recruit coming out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Browning played four years for Ohio State, where he lined up in several different linebacker spots. The Broncos selected him with the final pick of the third round, No. 105 overall, in 2021, with head coach and defensive guru Vic Fangio deciding to use Browning as an inside linebacker.
Injuries plagued Browning from the start as he suffered a lower leg fracture in rookie minicamp, which caused him to sit out his first training camp. He rebounded to play in 14 games with 9 starts, showing impressive range in pass coverage and making 58 tackles.
Shifted to outside linebacker by general manager George Paton and defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero last year, Browning had 5.0 sacks in 14 games. He especially looked good in back to back early games against the Colts and Chargers, recording 2.5 combined sacks against Matt Ryan and Justin Herbert.
But just as Browning was beginning to come on as a pass-rushing force, he missed two games with a strained hip and another with back spasms.
With Browning not participating in OTAs and next week’s minicamp, the Broncos have been lining up Gregory, Nick Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper as their top three outside linebackers.
Clark, who turns 30 on Wednesday, has 58.5 career sacks with the Seahawks and Chiefs. He had 10.0 sacks for the Seahawks in 2016 and a career-best 13.0 sacks in 2018.
That got him a whopping five-year, $104 million contract as a free agent in 2019 with the Chiefs. Although Clark had just 23.5 sacks in his four seasons in Kansas City, he added 2.5 sacks during their postseason run to the Super Bowl championship last year.
Clark has ran into legal trouble. He was dismissed from the University of Michigan football team during the 2014 season because of a domestic situation that resulted in a three-day jail sentence.
Two years ago he was arrested on a felony firearm possession charge and after pleading no contest he received one year probation and 40 hours of community service.
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