Javonte Williams suffered a torn ACL in the Broncos’ Week 4 loss to the Raiders. This preceded a number of key Broncos going down during a dismal season. Williams news has been scarce this offseason, but rumblings of the third-year running back’s recovery time lasting into the season have surfaced.
Attempting to provide a bit more clarity on Williams’ situation, Sean Payton gave an optimistic timetable regarding the hard-charging runner’s health. Williams has a chance to return by training camp.
“Our current starter’s doing extremely well,” Payton said of Williams. “I would tell you that we expect him to be ready for the start of training camp, and that’s good news.”
Payton also said he is “hopeful” Williams will avoid the PUP list going into camp. The active/PUP list does not carry the importance the reserve/PUP list does, seeing as the former is a training camp designation that does not mandate regular-season absences. Players can be moved off the active/PUP list at any point; anyone who ends the preseason on the reserve/PUP list must miss at least four games. But Williams being ready to go without restrictions by the time the Broncos break for camp in late July would represent a surprising development, considering the uncertainty surrounding this situation.
GM George Paton did not attach a recovery timetable for Williams in April, indicating the team was hopeful he would return “this season.” That put the prospect of essentially two lost seasons for the 2021 second-round pick into play. Considering Williams’ rookie contract runs through the 2024 season, his setback — one that also included LCL and posterolateral corner damage — threatened to derail much of his early-career run. Training camp comes 10-plus months out from Williams’ knee injury. That is well within range for a player to return from this common NFL malady, though more complicated injuries — like Chase Young‘s — can require longer recovery periods.
The Broncos signed Samaje Perine, who rejected a similar offer from the Bengals due to the prospect of more work in Denver, but did not draft a running back. (Perine signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal that includes $3MM guaranteed.) The team did not retain Mike Boone but did add ex-Payton Saints charge Tony Jones Jr. Former Ravens draftee Tyler Badie remains rostered as well. Still, the Broncos’ running back depth chart would be one of the league’s thinnest if Williams is forced to miss more time. The North Carolina alum being ready in time for the regular season would be a boon for the Broncos’ prospects, as they added Ben Powers and high-end run-blocking tackle Mike McGlinchey in free agency.
An “Angry Runs” regular as a rookie, Williams totaled 1,219 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. That performance came as the Broncos employed Melvin Gordon as their starter that year. Amid more fumbling trouble, the team cut Gordon late last season. Perine stands to give the Broncos insurance and will be the starter if Williams is not ready, but Payton’s update provides a rosier outlook.