- As he continues to recover from a torn ACL, Broncos rookie tight end Jake Butt will “almost certainly” begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. If he remains on PUP for the duration of camp, Butt could be transferred to the reserve/PUP list, which would force him to miss the first six weeks of the 2017 campaign. When does regain full health, Butt should be able to contribute, but he’s currently near the bottom of Denver’s tight end depth chart, which also includes Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, A.J. Derby, and Henry Krieger-Coble.
Broncos WR Cody Latimer was already in danger of losing his roster spot, and this probably won’t help. Per TMZ.com, Latimer was attempting to enter the Diamonds Cabaret strip club near Dayton, Ohio, earlier this year when he and the club’s bouncer had a “disagreement” about the club’s dress code. Latimer was accompanied by his uncle and a friend, and after the disagreement, Latimer and his group asked to speak to the club’s manager and then stepped outside.
There is footage of what transpired after the group went outside. It initially appears as if Latimer is attempting to keep the peace between the other members of his party and the bouncer, but then Latimer slaps the bouncer, who retaliates by pepper spraying Latimer. That compelled Latimer’s uncle to lunge in the bouncer’s direction, and the bouncer promptly struck the uncle and knocked him to the ground.
Latimer and his group then left the scene, and the police were never contacted about the incident. Latimer concedes that he was involved, but he said he was simply trying to deescalate the situation. The 24-year-old receiver said that he has moved on and is preparing for training camp.
“It was initially a disagreement (between my uncle and the bouncer) and I was trying to break it up,’’ Latimer said, via Mike Klis of 9News on Sunday. “It happened six months ago. It was February 20. It had nothing to do with a dress code. There’s not much to say about it. There weren’t any cops called. I didn’t want trouble so we got out. That’s it. It happened six months ago.”
Latimer also took to Twitter to discuss the situation, one he said is a bigger story than it should have been. As Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets, the Broncos were already aware of the altercation and have discussed it with Latimer. Per Jhabvala (via Twitter), the league declined to comment on the situation.
As indicated above, the contract-year wideout is going to need to have a strong training camp to crack the Broncos’ roster. Denver is nine deep at the wide receiver position, which means that Latimer, who has totaled just 16 receptions for 158 yards and one score since Denver chose him in the second round of the 2014 draft, could be on the way out. He has become a solid special-teamer for the Broncos, but given his draft status and upside, the club certainly expected him to have accomplished more at this point in his career.
Latimer was arrested last year for failing to pay a year-old traffic ticket.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Broncos and GM John Elway‘s negotiations heated up this week, and Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post notes the team wants to richly reward the exec for his contributions during what’s been one of the franchise’s best stretches in its 57-season history. But the longtime columnist writes the unfortunate battle with Alzheimer’s Pat Bowlen’s encountered makes the Broncos harder to assess from a longer-term perspective, attempting to explain the slowed process for an Elway re-up.
- A decision-making presence the Broncos once extended (before firing him), John Fox is on a hot seat at his most recent job, Michael Rothstein and Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com write. Fox having gone 9-23 in two Bears seasons puts the veteran sideline bastion in danger of being fired for a third time, provided the Bears don’t push for the playoffs, per Dickerson. The writer notes chairman George McCaskey’s lack of patience might lead to another change. Dickerson adds third-year GM Ryan Pace should join Fox on the hot seat, but he’s likely to be safer than the coach is.
The Broncos and GM John Elway have been negotiating a long-term extension, and Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports a deal could be finalized as soon as next week.
Paige notes said agreement should be announced publicly at training camp when the Broncos report on July 27. The longtime Broncos writer adds that Elway is in line to become the league’s highest-paid GM.
“We’re working to get it done,” Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis told The Gazette, noting the negotiations — ones that began in October — resumed July 4. “We’ve had some productive discussions in the last week or so and will keep talking. John’s an important part of our organization, and we want to make sure he’s here for a long time.”
This is the latest we’ve heard about an Elway deal. Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reported earlier this week the sides have engaged in dialogue recently and no discord exists between them despite Elway entering a contract year after what’s been an incredibly successful tenure.
The seventh-year exec and the Broncos “still have work to do” before this is finalized, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). Jhabvala (via Twitter) adds no deal is imminent at this point. So, a slight discrepancy exists regarding how far these talks have advanced. Paige, though, reports the Broncos haven’t delayed the talks, noting the franchise considers keeping Elway a “principal priority.” The hiring of a new coaching staff played a part in these talks having been delayed.
The 57-year-old GM’s contract expires in March, per Paige. Should Elway’s salary indeed be the largest for a pure GM, it would have to exceed the $3.75MM per year that Ozzie Newsome (Ravens) and John Schneider (Seahawks) earn.
These negotiations are different than they otherwise would be. Longtime owner Pat Bowlen being stricken with Alzheimer’s leaves Ellis as the top presence in place on the other side of these discussions. Before Bowlen brought Elway back after the 2010 season, he offered the Hall of Fame quarterback the chance to acquire a stake in the franchise or an executive position, per Paige, but not both. Elway chose the exec job, and the Broncos’ fortunes changed soon after.
Elway’s returned to the organization coincided with the team mounting five straight playoff runs — two that concluded with Super Bowl berths. Denver has booked seven of its eight Super Bowls with Elway involved (five as a player, two as GM), and the Broncos’ three titles came with Elway in the fold. The Broncos have not had a losing season since Elway took over as GM and have won five of six AFC West championships in that span.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Toward the end of May, Broncos general manager John Elway expressed confidence that he would sign a contract extension by the start of the season. No agreement has come to fruition in the month and a half since, but the Broncos and the contract-year executive “have maintained dialogue recently,” reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Given that there’s no deal yet for Elway, the assumption is that discord or tension exists between the two sides, writes Jhabvala, but a team source shot down that notion.
- Nearing age-30 and coming off a down season (by his standards), Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas finally feels healthy after a hip injury nagged him in 2016, and he feels he can continue playing at a high level even as he enters the twilight of his career. “I got longer than 30 [years],” Thomas told Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com. “I think I’ve got a couple good years [left]. Like I’ve been saying before, this is the best I’ve felt my whole career. I haven’t had the problems I usually have with my hip, because that was one of the things that held me back.” Playing without Peyton Manning for the first time since 2011, Thomas posted 90 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns a season ago.
- In case you missed it, PFR’s Sam Robinson reviewed the Broncos‘ offseason earlier this week, recapping and analyzing the major signings, departures, trades, and other notable offseason events for Denver.
Seeing another team book the AFC West’s mandated January home game last season, the Broncos geared this offseason around patching up holes to augment the nucleus still in place from Super Bowl 50. However, they figure to have stiff competition from arguably the league’s most competitive division.
For the second time in three years, the Broncos will have a new coach and new coordinators. While Denver’s defense posted one of the best pass-deterrence seasons in NFL history, with its DVOA in that department outdoing the Super Bowl defense’s work, its run defense slipped from third to 28th. But the primary obstacle in the way of a sixth Broncos playoff berth in seven years will be what happens at quarterback.
Whoever comes out of the Paxton Lynch/Trevor Siemian competition will need to deliver more if the Broncos are to avoid squandering another season of this defensive core’s apex. John Elway and Co., though, invested heavily in players who could help the franchise avoid back-to-back postseason absences.
- Ronald Leary, G: Four years, $36MM. $18.65MM guaranteed.
- Menelik Watson, T: Three years, $18.75MM. $5.5MM guaranteed.
- Domata Peko, DT: Two years, $7.5MM. $3.8MM guaranteed.
- Zach Kerr, DL: Two years, $3MM. $1.25MM guaranteed.
- Kasim Edebali, LB: One year, $1.2MM. $200K guaranteed.
- Jamaal Charles, RB: One year, $2.5MM. $100K guaranteed.
- Todd Davis, LB: One year, $2.746MM. Signed second-round RFA tender.
- Brandon McManus: One year, $2.746MM. Signed second-round RFA tender.
- Billy Winn, DL: One year, $775K.
- Chris Lewis-Harris, CB: One year, $675K.
Gary Kubiak‘s two-year return to the Mile High City did not bring the kind of impact ground game many assumed his system’s installation would. These struggles largely stemmed from a lack of offensive line productivity. Save for some individual success — Evan Mathis in 2015, Matt Paradis last season — the Broncos’ front was often overmatched. And for a third straight year, major changes are coming to this unit.
After four new starters infiltrated the 2015 Broncos’ O-line, Paradis was the only starter back at his previous position from the Super Bowl unit a year later. This latest overhaul may bring three new starters. Only Paradis and Max Garcia are in line to reclaim their roles. But the team will pivot back to OC Mike McCoy‘s power-based scheme after two years in Kubiak’s zone system. Elway made two UFA signings expected to start in Leary and Watson.
Both bring questions, but after patching up their front with bargain free agent buys or later-round draft picks the past two years, the Broncos deviated and spent in their latest attempt to improve up front.
Leary thrived when on the field in Dallas, paving the way for monster seasons from DeMarco Murray in 2014 and Ezekiel Elliott last season. But Leary, who despite being a first-time UFA is 29, won’t have the luxury of lining up in between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick this season. He’ll be asked to be a key component on Denver’s front as opposed to a supporting-caster, and the Broncos gave the ex-Cowboy the most money they’ve ever paid a guard. Leary graded well as a blocker in both 2014 and ’16, but La’el Collins usurped him for most of 2015.
The Raiders continually tried to install Watson as their right tackle, but rampant injury troubles intervened. An ex-second-rounder from Great Britain, Watson played in only 27 of a possible 64 regular-season games. There’s still potential attached to the 28-year-old blocker, but Watson will have to stay on the field to justify the somewhat surprising financial commitment. He’s the latest player the Broncos are trying at right tackle.
Since moving Orlando Franklin to left guard prior to the 2014 season, the Broncos have used seven starters on the right edge. Denver drafted Ty Sambrailo to play there in 2015 and signed Donald Stephenson to do the same last year. It’s been the most fluid position on an evolving O-line over the past few seasons.
Many of the Broncos’ defenders are already signed to high-value deals, so the team did not throw much money at help here. But in bringing in Peko and Kerr, the Broncos addressed a defensive line that no longer boasted much depth. That helped lead to the porous run defense which allowed opposing offenses to largely avoid challenging Denver’s elite cornerbacks in key games.
Beyond Derek Wolfe, none of Denver’s D-linemen were especially reliable last season. The Broncos will at least have more options in 2017 after adding Peko, a 10-year starter with the Bengals, and Kerr.
Despite being non-tendered as an RFA by the Saints, Edebali might be the team’s top off-the-bench pass rusher come Week 1. Shaquil Barrett‘s uncertain status after an offseason hip injury clouds the team’s once-formidable depth at outside linebacker.
Charles became the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher despite being a full-time starter in just four of his nine seasons. Knee injuries derailed the 30-year-old All-Pro’s final two Kansas City slates, and having undergone three surgeries since October 2015, Charles is not a lock to be part of the Broncos this season. But he remains on schedule to return to the field come camp. As one of the best backs of his era, Charles would be overqualified for the Broncos’ complementary ball-carrying role if he’s healthy. But Denver having this kind of talent to pair with C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker would add much-needed elusiveness to an offense that’s lacked it in recent years.
- Receiver looks to be the most competitive position on the Broncos’ depth chart, observes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Given that the Broncos are nine deep at wideout, head coach Vance Joseph has described the position as “crowded.” That could spell doom for Cody Latimer, who has totaled just 16 receptions since Denver chose him in the second round of the 2014 draft. While Latimer has emerged as a reliable special teamer for the Broncos, his roster spot is in jeopardy suggests Legwold.
“I never was that worried,’’ said Paradis. “I might have been worried about quality. And that’s something we’re still going to have to work out. But man, they’re feeling great. I guess I never realized how much pain I was in previously and now it’s like, “You mean I’m not supposed to be in pain all day, every day?’’
Paradis dealt with pain all season and didn’t practice at all over the last ten weeks of the year, according to Klis, but he still managed to start all 16 games for the second consecutive campaign while grading as the league’s No. 1 center, per Pro Football Focus. The 27-year-old Paradis earned a 90.7 overall mark, a score that included a league-high 90.6 run-blocking grade.
A former sixth-round pick, Paradis will earn $615K during the upcoming season before becoming a restricted free agent in 2018.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The 49ers acquired 2018 third- and seventh-round picks during draft weekend, the first in the Mitch Trubisky deal with the Bears, and traded a 2018 fourth-rounder to the Broncos for running back Kapri Bibbs.
- A player the Broncos selected hours after making that Bibbs trade, Chad Kelly remains in recovery from right wrist surgery. The former Ole Miss quarterback did not throw during Denver’s offseason program but is targeting a return to making passes in two weeks, the rookie said during an NFL Network appearance. This year’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” Kelly comes to Denver with a higher pedigree than most such seventh-round picks but will be behind Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch going into camp. This will likely be a developmental year for Kelly.
- While the Broncos are set to hold a quarterback competition, the Vikings have a long-term dilemma at the position. None of the three ESPN.com reporters surveyed believe the Vikes should offer Sam Bradford a long-term extension. Bradford’s two-year deal he signed with the Eagles expires at season’s end. Jeff Dickerson and Rob Demovsky would encourage a franchise tag scenario similar to Washington’s Kirk Cousins course of action, while Michael Rothstein said a Bradford deal makes sense only if the 29-year-old signal-caller would be amenable to a one- or two-year pact. Teddy Bridgewater re-emerged to do some on-field work in late May, although the recovering passer has yet to return to official Vikings practice. He has a complex contract situation, but the Vikings did not pick up his fifth-year option.