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Broncos acquire LB Griffith from 49ers, ship Benson to Lions

Paton aims to reinforce special teams with final roster spots
Chiefs 49ers Football
Posted at 8:02 AM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 10:20:40-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Focused on reinforcing special teams and acquiring draft capital, Broncos general manager George Paton finalized two trades Tuesday morning.

With the 53-man roster deadline at 2 p.m., Paton acquired linebacker Jonas Griffith and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the 49ers for a sixth rounder in 2022 and a seventh-rounder in 2023. Paton added draft inventory by dealing speedy receiver Trinity Benson and a sixth-round pick in 2023 to the Lions for two selections in 2022, a fifth and seventh-rounder, per sources.

Griffith, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder, provides depth at inside linebacker, but was sought for his special teams acumen. He will be counted on to be a core player on special teams, where the Broncos have struggled in the preseason, leading coach Vic Fangio to express concern. Griffith signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana State in 2020. He received his first game action this preseason, flashing rush skills, while still finding his fit in the run game.

He was not going to make the 49ers' final roster, but will receive a shot to contribute with Denver.

For Benson, it's likely been a turbulent 24 hours. When the Broncos waived former draft picks Seth Williams and Tyrie Cleveland, it appeared Benson had made the team as the sixth receiver. Now it appears, Denver will go with five wideouts, leaving Diontae Spencer as the return man. With Benson lacking a true role on special teams coverage teams -- he can return punts -- the Broncos moved him for draft picks. It represents good value for an undrafted player, but the Broncos lose insurance for K.J. Hamler, who battled hamstring issues as a rookie.

Paton, in his first season as general manager, makes no secret that he prefers to collect second and third day picks. He was active in May at the end of the draft and the moves Tuesday reflect this strategy, while attempting to address the gnawing issues on special teams.

A reminder that while the 53-man roster must be set by 2 p.m., there will be wrinkles and possible late additions through deals or waiver-wire claims leading up the first game on Sept. 12 at the New York Giants. The Broncos must make a decision on running back Mike Boone (quadriceps). If they place him on the short-term injured rezserve, he must be included on the 53-man roster, but would be sidelined for the first three weeks.