Denver Broncos: Can Malik Reed be what Shaq Barrett was?

Denver Broncos outside linebacker Malik Reed will be entering his second year in the league.

Like most undrafted free agents, Malik Reed was considered a longshot to make the roster last summer but he shined in training camp and preseason games. By the time it came to putting together the 53-man roster, he was a no-brainer to be on it.

Signed out of Nevada after going undrafted, Reed got pressure often in preseason games and his effort was on full display each time he was on the field. During the team’s five-game preseason, he ended up with four sacks.

That’s exactly what the Broncos were looking for after losing Shaquil Barrett to free agency. Barrett was looking for a starting job, something he never would have gotten in Denver as long as Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are there, so he signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Barrett absolutely crushed it in Tampa, leading the NFL with 19.5 sacks while being selected to the Pro Bowl. Broncos fans had to be sad to see him do so well somewhere else.

Barrett took a similar path to the NFL. After playing at Colorado State in college, Barrett went undrafted and was signed by the Broncos. Behind Miller and DeMarcus Ware, he became a terrific rotational pass rusher and finished his career in Denver with 14 sacks while playing in 61 of a possible 64 regular-season games.

The Broncos hope that Reed can be that guy behind Miller and Chubb. He was pressed into extra action last season when Chubb went down with a season-ending injury in Week 4 and finished the year with just two sacks.

It might not be Reed’s role to be an every-down guy but he can come onto the field in certain situations and wreak havoc when needed.

That’s how the Broncos should view Reed only when it comes time to sign him to a new deal, hopefully, they can keep him around.

Whether or not Reed can be as effective as Barrett remains to be seen. At this point in his career, he’s not a guy who could go to another team and have a nearly 20-sack season. But in year two, Barrett wasn’t that guy either. If Reed continues his development and learns what he can from elite pass-rush specialists like Miller and Chubb, he can become a key defensive player for the Broncos for many years to come.