ENGLEWOOD | The injury-riddled Denver Broncos acquired inside linebacker Kenny Young from the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, four days after they were gouged by third-string Cleveland running back D’Ernest Johnson.
The teams also exchanged 2024 late-round draft picks with the Rams (6-1) receiving a sixth-round selection and the Broncos (3-4) getting back a seventh-rounder.
Young is in the final year of his rookie contract that’s paying him $2.183 million this year, and his departure means more playing time for third-round rookie Ernest Jones from South Carolina, who’s only played 45 defensive snaps so far.
Still, the Rams are getting a minimal return for a key defensive playmaker. Young has started all seven games, a career high, and ranked second on the Rams roster with 46 tackles, including a team-leading six tackles for loss in his breakthrough fourth NFL season.
“Really tough decision,” Rams coach Sean McVay said a couple of hours after the deal was completed. “Really for us, they had a need at linebacker, and really it was an opportunity to free up some space from some financials.
“Guys are going to be asked to step up. Very grateful for the contributions Kenny has made to our team over the last couple of years. He has been our guy that’s played in a lot of single-backer defenses, whether it’s Troy Reeder or Ernest Jones, they’re going to be asked to step up and fill that void or that vacancy.”
McVay called the cost savings the primary driver of the deal for the Rams.
“What it does is it gives you the opportunity to make decisions if opportunities present themselves, and just a little bit more flexibility. Even something as simple as flexing guys up from the practice squad. That costs money,” McVay said. “There’s a lot of layers to it, but being able to save some of that money was something that was beneficial.
“And also there’s an investment in some of these younger backers. There’s a lot of layers, but the main reason the decision was made is that it was financially driven for us.”
Broncos coach Vic Fangio wasn’t available Monday. He’ll meet with the media Tuesday, when players return from a four-day break.
The Broncos, losers of four straight, have been hit hard at inside linebacker with both starters, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, done for the season with torn chest muscles.
Johnson’s replacement, Micah Kiser, went out in the first half at Cleveland on Thursday night with a groin injury, and his replacement, undrafted rookie and practice squad call-up Curtis Robinson is dealing with wrist and thumb injuries sustained in the Broncos’ 17-14 loss to the Browns. Kiser was placed on IR the next day.
The Rams deal is the second in three days for Broncos first-year general manager George Paton, who acquired pass rusher Stephen Weatherly in a trade Saturday with the Minnesota Vikings, his former employer.
The Rams acquired Young, a UCLA product, from Baltimore in October 2019 in the trade that sent Marcus Peters to the Ravens to clear space for Jalen Ramsey. Los Angeles general manager Les Snead also might be clearing cap space for a bigger move with the surprising trade with Denver.
In 53 career NFL games, Young has collected 157 total tackles, including 16 for loss, 13 QB hits, 5 1/2 sacks, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception.
His 46 tackles this year are five shy of his career high set last year. His best game came last month against Tampa Bay in which he had 10 tackles, eight of them solo, three tackles for loss, a sack of Tom Brady, a forced fumble and an additional quarterback hit.
He was a fourth-round selection of the Ravens in 2018.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed from Los Angeles.