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Broncos cut outside linebacker Jake Martin

Former Cherokee Trail High star battled knee issue in Denver
Broncos Ravens Football
Posted at 3:09 PM, May 10, 2023

DENVER — The sobering reality of pro sports reminds us that storybook endings often remain in storybooks.

The Broncos acquired outside linebacker Jake Martin last October from the New York Jets — Denver received Martin and a 2024 fifth-round pick for a 2024 fourth-rounder — to provide depth following the Bradley Chubb deal with the Dolphins.

It brought Martin full circle. He was born in Aurora and starred at Cherokee Trail High School, located a few miles from the Broncos training facility.

Unfortunately, his health betrayed him. Martin registered a sack in his first game for the Broncos — at Tennessee — but dealt with knee pain that required season-ending surgery. The Broncos placed Martin on injured reserve on Dec. 14.

Cutting the 27-year-old on Wednesday comes a mild surprise given the Broncos' lacking depth, but saves the team $3.8 million with a $1 million dead cap hit.

Martin, 27, played in five games for Denver, posting six tackles, two for a loss, and one quarterback hit.

According to The Denver Post, Martin represents the 23rd player who finished last season with the Broncos who are currently no longer with the team, a number that eloquently explains the HGTV makeover under new coach Sean Payton.

Martin's cap number made him vulnerable, but it is also fair to wonder if Denver will add a veteran after June 1 cap casualties or during training camp. As it stands, the Broncos are leaning heavily on health, hope and potential with their outside linebackers.

Randy Gregory and Baron Browning are the projected starters. Gregory, who is in the second season of a five-year, $70-million contract, has missed more games than he has played in his career due to suspensions and injuries. He caused havoc over the first month of the 2022 season — registering two sacks, seven quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and nine tackles in four games. However, he underwent knee surgery and did not return until the final two games, looking nothing like himself and accelerating coach Nathaniel Hackett's firing when he threw a punch at a Rams player following the Christmas Day debacle loss.

Browning aims to add leg strength this offseason as he prepares for his second season outside after playing inside linebacker as a rookie. The former Ohio State star posted five sacks in 14 games.

The backups include Jonathon Cooper and 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto, who posted 1.5 sacks in 15 games, but only exceeded 50 percent of the snaps twice.

The Broncos drafted Arkansas star Drew Sanders in the third round two weeks ago. He played inside and outside for the Razorbacks, and projects to begin rookie minicamp this week at inside. However, Payton views Sanders as a player who can create pressure on the quarterback if employed strategically.