Broncos Rumors

Broncos Eyeing Javonte Williams Training Camp Return

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.

Broncos Sign XFL QB Ben DiNucci

After hosting the Seattle Sea Dragons quarterback for rookie minicamp, the Broncos have officially signed Ben DiNucci to their offseason roster, according to JL Sports agency. The XFL’s passing yards leader returns to the NFL after a year in the alternative league.

DiNucci was a seventh-round pick for the Cowboys in 2020 out of James Madison, after transferring over from Pitt. He played and started in relief of Andy Dalton that year to discouraging results, completing only 53.3 percent of his passes for 219 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions in three game appearances.

Garrett Gilbert, a more experienced backup passer, overcame him on the depth chart, leading to DiNucci’s release in the final roster cuts leading into the 2021 season. He remained on the team’s practice squad for that year and was finally released for good in final roster cuts leading into the 2022 season.

Being drafted by the Sea Dragons in the XFL’s draft, DiNucci joined former Bengals, Raiders, and Texans quarterback A.J. McCarron as the only XFL quarterbacks with NFL experience. He would go on to lead the fledgling league in passing yards in 2023 with 2,671 while throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over 10 starts.

It’s unclear where DiNucci will fit into the pecking order at quarterback after nailing his audition in Denver. Behind starter Russell Wilson, the Broncos have two relievers in Jarrett Stidham and Jarrett Guarantano. Stidham started the final two games of the season for the Raiders last year against two teams that would make conference championship games, including a three-point loss to the 49ers. In those two starts, he completed 64.29 percent of his passes for 584 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also added 84 yards on the ground on 14 rush attempts. Guarantano doesn’t have any NFL time after a disappointing end to his college career.

Likely, DiNucci will battle with Guarantano for the QB3 role, but DiNucci’s recent experience as a starter may give him a chance to push Stidham for QB2. We’ll be able to glean more once all the quarterbacks are in town for OTAs, but DiNucci should have a strong opportunity at winning a roster spot in Denver.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/12/23

Today’s minor moves heading into the weekend:

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Washington Commanders

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/23

Rookie minicamps started today and more rookies put the names on the dotted line of their four-year contracts. Here are the mid- to late-round picks who signed today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Commanders

Broncos Sign 15 Undrafted Free Agents

As more teams’ rookie minicamps commence, UDFA classes are emerging. The Broncos brought in 15 post-draft free agents. Here is how Denver’s group looks:

  • TE Nate Adkins (South Carolina)
  • ILB Seth Benson (Iowa)
  • G Henry Boyd (Princeton)
  • WR Dallas Daniels (Jackson State)
  • CB Darrious Gaines (Western Colorado)
  • CB Art Green (Houston)
  • WR Taylor Grimes (Incarnate Word)
  • OLB Marcus Haynes (Old Dominion)
  • OLB Thomas Incoom (Central Michigan)
  • T Demontrey Jacobs (South Florida)
  • TE Kris Leach (Kent State)
  • RB Jaleel McLaughlin (Youngstown State)
  • DT P.J. Mustipher (Penn State)
  • T Alex Palczewski (Illinois)
  • RB Emanuel Wilson (Fort Valley State)

Green received a nice $180K salary guarantee to sign, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The 6-foot-2 cover man earned second-team All-American Athletic Conference acclaim last season and finished his career with a Most Valuable Defender honor in the Independence Bowl. The Broncos have seen a number of UDFAs make significant impacts for their team over the past several years, from Chris Harris to Shaq Barrett to Phillip Lindsay. Green’s guarantee suggests he is a good bet to challenge for a 53-man roster spot.

Palczewski received $80K to sign, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. He will join the Broncos with more starter experience than just about any college player has accumulated in the sport’s history, having made a Big Ten-record 65 starts for the Fighting Illini. The additional eligibility year the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic boosted this total, but Palczewski received All-American acclaim from several publications last season. He spent six years in college and, while logging nearly 20 starts at guard — some of which as a true freshman back in 2017 — worked as Illinois’ primary right tackle over the past several years.

Grimes finished his college career with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, while Incoom totaled 11.5 sacks as a senior. McLaughlin finished his career with consecutive 1,100-plus-yard rushing seasons at Youngstown State, while Wilson totaled 1,371 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 2022. The Broncos signed Samaje Perine but have a fairly unclear backfield pecking order, given the uncertainty surrounding starter Javonte Williams‘ return from an October ACL tear.

Browns, Ravens, Vikings Interested In OLB Trent Harris; Broncos On Radar

Houston Roughnecks outside linebacker Trent Harris recently received reported interest from the Broncos in the form of a rookie minicamp invitation. The report also indicated that other teams were showing interest, as well, and we now have the names of teams we can tie to Harris, thanks to Chris Tomasson of the Denver Gazette.

According to Tomasson, some of the other teams that extended an invitation to Harris include the Vikings, Ravens, and Browns. The Browns and the Vikings make sense as both teams finished last season in the bottom half of the NFL in sacks. Cleveland was only able to get consistent pressure out of star defensive end Myles Garrett. Behind Garrett’s 16.0 sacks, the Browns’ next highest sack total came from defensive tackle Taven Bryan, who had three.

Minnesota had a much more balanced attack, getting double-digit sack totals out of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. They were even able to get eight more combined sacks out of backups D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones. All are under contract through at least this year, with Hunter and Wonnum entering contract years. Perhaps the Vikings’ interest in Harris is as an eventual replacement for one of the two.

While Baltimore tied with the Saints for fifth in the league in sacks last year, their sack numbers did not consistently come from the outside linebacker position. Aside from Justin Houston, who is no longer with the team, the Ravens’ top sack-getters were defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (5.5), defensive tackle Calais Campbell (5.5) (also no longer with the Ravens), inside linebacker Patrick Queen (5.0), and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (3.0). New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald seemingly took a page out of former defensive coordinator Don Martindale‘s playbook by manufacturing a pass rush from all over the field.

Landing a strong pass-rushing outside linebacker like Harris could add to the production of a Ravens outside linebacker group that contains Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and David Ojabo. Harris spent almost two weeks in camp with Baltimore last year, spending all but three days on injured reserve before being released prior to the start of the regular season.

Despite the additional interest, Tomasson reports that the “ball looks as if it will be in (the Broncos’) court.” With XFL players eligible to sign NFL deals this coming Monday, May 15, Harris seemed to say that, if Denver wants him, he’ll be a Bronco. In reference to his Broncos tryout, Harris told the media, “I would assume that if I have a good workout and they want to sign me, I’d stay there.”

Broncos Release OLB Jacob Martin

Two months after cutting Chase Edmonds, the Broncos have parted ways with the other player they acquired at last year’s trade deadline. They released Jacob Martin on Wednesday, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets.

While Edmonds came over in the Bradley Chubb trade — a deal that also included the first-rounder sent to the Saints for Sean Payton — Martin was part of the team’s post-Chubb edge-rushing contingent. The Jets dealt Martin to the Broncos in a pick-swap trade, which sent a 2024 fourth-rounder to New York and a 2024 fifth to Denver.

A Denver-area native, Martin played in five games with his hometown team. The outside linebacker recorded a sack and two tackles for loss as a Bronco. Knee trouble limited Martin last season, and he finished his Denver cameo on IR.

As a vested veteran, Martin will skip the waiver process and pass through to free agency. The Jets gave Martin a three-year, $13.5MM deal in 2022. The Broncos will save $3.8MM by shedding the through-2024 contract from their cap sheet. This will bump Denver’s cap-space figure just past $10MM. Denver had created $5.9MM in cap space by cutting Edmonds in March.

Last season, the Broncos dealt with injuries to most of their edge rushers. Randy Gregory went down in October and did not return until mid-December. Both he and Martin finished the season on IR, with the Broncos moving Martin off their 53-man roster in December. Denver also played without Baron Browning for a stretch. These maladies and Chubb’s midseason exit certainly affected the Broncos’ pass rush.

Martin had tallied at least three sacks from 2018-21, totaling four with the Texans during his ’21 platform year. Also part of the 2019 trade that sent Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle, Martin played three seasons for the Texans before commanding that Jets free agency deal. Gang Green guaranteed the former sixth-round pick $6MM via the 2022 agreement, but the Broncos’ Wednesday decision closes the book on that contract.

Gregory, Browning and 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto reside as the Broncos’ top edge players. The team did not draft an outside ‘backer nor did it make a notable investment at the position in free agency. Though, third-round linebacker Drew Sanders recorded 9.5 sacks at Arkansas last season and may be set for a hybrid role of sorts.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/9/23

Teams are moving quickly on inking their Day 3 draftees to their four-year rookie deals, with this process involving a slot system that does not feature many complications for late-round players. Here are the latest such agreements to commence:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • OL Colby Sorsdal (fifth round, William & Mary)

Jacksonville Jaguars

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

An additional quintet of fifth-round picks is now under contract. Last year, the slot system pegged Round 5’s contracts between $4.1MM and $3.9MM over four years, with full guarantees ranging from $361K to $243K.

Brown finished his Fighting Illini tenure with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,643-yard slate as a senior. He joins a Bengals team that did not outbid the Broncos for Samaje Perine and had been expected to ask Joe Mixon for a pay cut. Post-draft, Zac Taylor issued a vote of confidence for Mixon to be back. Abdullah combined to tally 19.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Louisville.

Broncos To Re-Sign S Kareem Jackson

6:04pm: Jackson is set to earn slightly more than his 2022 salary on this deal, with 9News’ Mike Klis indicating the experienced defender will collect $2.67MM on the one-year pact (Twitter link).

3:56pm: Less than two weeks after a reported offer came out, the Broncos have managed to retain Kareem Jackson. The veteran safety is re-signing in Denver on a one-year deal, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

This marks the third straight offseason in which Jackson has agreed to a one-year contract with the Broncos, though the cornerback-turned-safety is now set for his fifth season in Denver. After initially giving Jackson a three-year, $33MM deal in 2019, the Broncos have continued to use the veteran alongside Justin Simmons.

The Broncos and Jackson had been in talks for a bit now, and the team extended another offer to the 14th-year veteran recently. Jackson has played for less money in each of the past three seasons, coming back for $5MM in 2021 and $2MM last season. While the Broncos are moving to a third head coach in three years, Sean Payton is signing off on retaining the experienced defender. GM George Paton, who released Jackson from his above-referenced three-year deal in 2021, said in March the team still had the veteran on its radar. Paton has now authorized three Jackson one-year accords.

Although the Broncos first signed Jackson a few weeks after firing Vance Joseph from his HC post, the returning Denver DC has coached the former first-round pick previously. While working under then-Texans DC Wade Phillips from 2011-13, Joseph was the Houston defensive backs coach. Joseph joins Simmons, linebacker Josey Jewell and free agency import Zach Allen as those with experience under Joseph on Denver’s defense. Jackson, 35, and Simmons, 29, form one of the NFL’s longest-tenured safety duos in recent years.

Denver’s defense maintained top-10 form despite Vic Fangio‘s departure last year, and Jackson ended the season as one of its most consistent components. As injuries ransacked the unit throughout the slate, Jackson played 17 games, a team-most 1,139 snaps and finished with a career-high 94 tackles. Pro Football Focus ranked Jackson just outside the top 50 among safeties last season.

A physical presence at corner, Jackson moved to safety full-time when he joined Fangio’s defense in 2019. Among safeties, Simmons and Jackson each rank in the top 11 in solo tackles since joining forces four years ago. Jackson signing on for another year points to the Broncos keeping third-year safety Caden Sterns as their top backup. The primary Jackson or Simmons injury fill-in since arriving as a 2021 fifth-round pick, Sterns is coming off season-ending hip surgery and is not a lock to be ready for training camp.

The Broncos obviously have spent another offseason making sweeping changes, with Payton now in charge. But the team now has all five of its primary DB starters under contract and re-signed linebacker Alex Singleton to continue his partnership with Jewell. Denver’s starting defense has only lost Dre’Mont Jones this offseason, and Allen — who played four years under Joseph in Arizona — is ticketed to replace him, furthering the familiarity on the defensive side.