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Broncos getting ILB Justin Strnad back on one-year deal, source says, after nearly losing him to Carolina

Home is where the heart is.

Justin Strnad just couldn’t quite venture away to a new one.

The inside linebacker reportedly agreed Tuesday to a deal with the Carolina Panthers, but a source confirmed Tuesday night that he’d changed his mind and is instead returning to the Broncos on a one-year deal.

Strnad, a fifth-round Denver pick in the 2020 draft, had been with the club for his entire first rookie contract. The former Wake Forest linebacker didn’t play a defensive snap for Vance Joseph in 2023 but appeared in all 17 games as one of the Broncos’ most reliable special teams players. He racked up 395 special teams snaps, or 84% of Denver’s work in the third phase. That number led the team, narrowly edging out CB Tremon Smith’s 391.

Now Strnad will be back for another season and figures again to be a core special teams player. The inside linebacker room looks slightly different, with Cody Barton in for Josey Jewell, but he’ll have familiar faces there in Alex Singleton, Jonas Griffith and perhaps Drew Sanders.

Had he taken the deal with Carolina, Strnad would have re-united with Jewell and also former Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and inside linebackers coach Pete Hansen.

Strnad is the second player to have an agreement in place with another team this free agency period and then opt instead to return to Denver. Kicker Wil Lutz had a three-year pact with Jacksonville agreed to on the first day of free agency but then came back to the Broncos on a two-year, $8.4 million deal that included a $3.3 million signing bonus.

The Broncos have so far signed an outside free agent at each level of the defense — Barton, safety Brandon Jones and defensive tackle Malcolm Roach — and returned several of their own free agents, including Lutz, TE Adam Trautman, WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, FB Mike Burton and S P.J. Locke.

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