Derek Wolfe

Broncos Plan To Keep Emmanuel Sanders

By releasing Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos could create more than $10MM in cap space. However, they would create a major need at wide receiver by doing so. It does not appear they plan to go in this direction.

Vic Fangio said Wednesday (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post) Sanders is expected to have a major role next season. The new Denver HC also said the Broncos are expected to have Sanders back in the lineup by Week 1. This would be significant, considering the Pro Bowl wideout tore an Achilles’ tendon in early December.

John Elway confirmed Wednesday afternoon the team will pick up the options of both Sanders and Derek Wolfe, who has a $1MM option.

Sanders, who will turn 32 next month, recently balked at a potential pay cut. The Broncos, however, have not asked for this. They have Sanders under contract for one more season — at $10.15MM — and have a $1.5MM option to pick up soon. This looks set to happen, and Sanders will continue his rehab with an apparent goal of returning some point during training camp.

Demaryius Thomas‘ longtime running mate is the final skill-position player remaining from the Broncos’ Super Bowl champion team. The Broncos traded Thomas at last year’s deadline, with his contract more expensive than Sanders’ and the latter having surpassed him as the team’s No. 1 option — at least during the 2018 season. Sanders was on pace for more than 1,100 receiving yards before going down in early December. Denver lost Sanders and Chris Harris within a span of four days, and its three-game midseason win streak gave way to a four-game, season-ending skid.

Denver drafted Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton last year, and UDFA Tim Patrick showed promise. But the Broncos are, barring something unexpected, planning to have Sanders around for the start of Joe Flacco‘s tenure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Rumors: Thomas, Sanders, Wolfe

Here’s a quick look at the latest out of Denver:

  • As had been previously reported, the Broncos plan to retain wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, general manager John Elway told reporters, including Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Specifically, Denver will exercise its $4MM option on Thomas, which will lock the 30-year-old pass-catcher into a $8.5MM base salary for the 2018 season. Sanders, meanwhile, is due an $8.15MM base salary next year. While neither receiver performed up to expectations in 2017, the Broncos likely want to keep both veterans around as they search for a new quarterback.
  • Similarly, the Broncos will bring back defensive end Derek Wolfe, who’d been mentioned as a possible cap casualty, tweets Jhabvala. Wolf, 28, signed a four-year, $36.7MM extension prior to the 2016 campaign, forgoing free agency in order to re-sign with Denver. Since that time, Wolfe has been limited by minor injuries, and played on fewer than half of the Broncos’ defensive snaps a season ago. Pro Football Focus ranked Wolfe — who managed two sacks in 2017 — as the No. 58 interior defender among 122 qualifiers. He’ll collect a base salary of $8MM and count for ~$10.769MM on Denver’s cap in 2018.
  • While Thomas, Sanders, and Wolfe appear safe, Elway refused to give the same declaration on cornerback Aqib Talib or running back C.J. Anderson, per Jhabvala (Twitter link). Denver is reportedly attempting to trade Talib (and his $11MM salary), but the club could release the veteran defensive back if no interest is found. Anderson, meanwhile, may also be cut, and the Dolphins — who signed Anderson to a restricted free agent offer sheet in 2016 — are expected to pursue him.

Broncos’ Derek Wolfe Done For Season

Derek Wolfe‘s neck injury will not require surgery, but he says that he will act on his doctor’s advice and sit out for the remainder of the year. Wolfe will be placed on injured reserve, opening up a spot on the roster for another player in the team’s final four games. Derek Wolfe

As much as I’d like to get back out there and keep playing, when a spinal doctor tells you that you can lose use of your right arm if you don’t rest and heal properly, you listen,’’ Wolfe told Mike Klis of 9NEWS. “I don’t want to lose the use of my right arm. I’m happy because he said I wouldn’t need surgery which would have meant all kinds of crazy things. But he said there’s no way you should play football the next two months.’’

The loss of Wolfe takes Denver’s best defensive end off of the field, but this final month doesn’t mean a whole lot for the 3-9 Broncos. By resting up, Wolfe will avoid the potential of a much more serious injury and, hopefully, allow himself to be ready for Week 1 of the 2018 season.

Wolfe, 28 in February, finishes out the year with two sacks and 31 total tackles. He has 24.5 sacks to his credit over six seasons and the Broncos are banking on that same kind of production for years to come. The four-year, $37.6MM contract signed by Wolfe in 2016 is scheduled to keep him in place through the 2019 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Wolfe, Downing

The Broncos have lost some key auxiliary performers in recent weeks. Outside linebackers Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett could both be sidelined past Week 1, and defensive line rotation cog Billy Winn is out for the season after tearing an ACL. Denver’s offense received some bad news as well. Third-round pick Carlos Henderson will undergo thumb surgery that will shelve him for at least the remainder of the preseason and possibly into the regular season, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Henderson suffered the injury during the Broncos’ August opener against the Bears.

The Louisiana Tech standout was vying to become Denver’s No. 3 wide receiver but was struggling during camp. The Broncos were using Henderson at kick returner in Chicago. Henderson’s injury will create openings for incumbent pass-catchers Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor in the coming weeks while potentially limiting the rookie’s assimilation.

Here’s the latest out of Denver and other AFC West cities.

  • It doesn’t look like Derek Wolfe will be undergoing surgery, but the sixth-year defensive end will likely be out for a few weeks. An ankle injury forced Wolfe to be carted off the practice field Saturday, but Wolfe informed’s Josina Anderson (Twitter link) he should be good to go for Week 1. That said, Denver’s left defensive end told Anderson his ankle is badly sprained and has a “slight tear.” Pending further examination, the Broncos do not believe this is a serious injury, Adam Schefter of ESPN tweets. Wolfe tweeted a picture of the afflicted ankle as well.
  • New Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing received the backing of mentor Mike Tice when it came time for Jack Del Rio to choose between Downing and previous OC Bill Musgrave. Tice helped bring Del Rio and Musgrave — who worked together for two years in Jacksonville — back together in 2015. But the Oakland offensive line coach agreed with Del Rio that losing Downing to a team that wanted him as OC wouldn’t be a smart move, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Tice oversaw Downing’s work when he was the Vikings’ head coach during the 2000s, eventually giving Downing his first coaching job in 2005. Musgrave’s contract was not renewed, and the longtime assistant is coaching the Broncos’ quarterbacks.
  • Tafur adds the close relationship between Downing and Derek Carr helped influence the decision and previously dictated the Sunday arrangements last season. Downing coached Carr on the sidelines while Musgrave operated from the booth. Carr said, via Tafur, he will have more freedom to improvise under Downing than he did in two seasons under Musgrave. However, this season will be the 37-year-old Downing’s first time calling plays at any level since he helped coach a Minneapolis-area ninth-grade team in 2002, Tafur adds.
  • Recently added offensive lineman Allen Barbre is competing with Max Garcia for the Broncos‘ starting left guard position, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post notes. Barbre has played both guard and tackle in his career but worked with the first unit in practice and could see time with the starters in Denver’s second preseason game, per Jhabvala. Garcia and Michael Schofield were the Broncos’ starters last season. Ronald Leary is the new right guard.
  • Ray’s target date for a return from wrist surgery is Week 3, when the Broncos make their first road trip of the season in a venture to Buffalo, Jhabvala reports. Former Saints edge defender Kasim Edebali and Vontarrius Dora are the top candidates to start opposite Von Miller come Week 1, should Barrett not make it back by then.
  • Chargers rookie Mike Williams is “running” and “doing well,” per Anthony Lynn, but remains without a firm timetable.

West Notes: Kelly, Rams, Broncos, Talib, Wolfe

In the midst of a dreadful season, 49ers coach Chip Kelly says he hasn’t discussed his future with team brass.

No,” Kelly said, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We haven’t had any conversations about that at all. About anybody’s job security.”

After losing 30-17 to New England, the Niners are now 1-9 and their nine-game losing streak ties a 38-year-old franchise worst. Still, Kelly is in his first year with the team and he did not inherit a great roster. It would be a bit surprising if Kelly was jettisoned so soon, but then again, coaches are often on a short leash in the NFL.

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • In the middle of the 2015 season, the Rams canned Frank Cignetti and installed Rob Boras as the team’s offensive coordinator. Will they make a similar move this year? “Not given it any consideration,” Fisher said (link via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times). “I did that last year. I have confidence in Rob and the offense has confidence in Rob. And the offense right now knows they’re not doing what they should be doing.” The Rams currently rank 31st in total offense, 28th in passing, and 29th in rushing.
  • The Broncos expect to have cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Derek Wolfe back for Sunday night’s game against Kansas City, as Andrew Mason of writes. Talib has missed three games with a back injury and Wolfe was absent in Week 10 as he dealt with an elbow issue.
  • The Chiefs worked out long snappers Thomas Gafford and Clint Gresham, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star tweets.

AFC Notes: Browns, Jets, Broncos

Cleveland fell to 0-10 on Thursday when it dropped a 28-7 decision in Baltimore, but first-year Browns head coach Hue Jackson hasn’t lost any support from ownership. “Jimmy Haslam and Dee Haslam have been outstanding,” Jackson said Friday (via Mary Kay Cabot of “Obviously, they don’t like to lose, either, but they understand the plan and what we’re trying to accomplish.” Considering the Browns are in a full rebuild and have “the youngest team in the league with the most rookies,” as Jackson pointed out, it’s no surprise he’s safe.

Here’s more on Cleveland two other AFC clubs:

  • While Jackson’s not in jeopardy of losing his job, he did make a head-scratching choice against the Ravens. During a 13-7 game in the third quarter, Jackson pulled rookie quarterback Cody Kessler in favor of Josh McCown. The veteran completed just 6 of 13 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions, making Kessler’s 11-of-18, 91-yard, one-touchdown performance look great in comparison. Jackson opened up about the QB switch Friday, saying (per Nate Ulrich of, “At the time, it was the right decision to make for our football team because I was looking for a spark, and I didn’t get it. I am not going to be perfect in everything I do, and I am not going to do what everybody thinks that I should do. I am going to do what I think is best for our football team. Last night, I made the choice, and it did not work out. I will take the heat.” The Browns will give the reins back to Kessler against the Steelers in Week 11.
  • Jets coach Todd Bowles announced that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a game-time decision on Sunday (Twitter link via the team). If Fitzpatrick’s knee injury prevents him from playing against the Rams, the Jets will turn to second-year man Bryce Petty for his first-ever NFL start.
  • Defensive end Derek Wolfe and cornerback Aqib Talib will miss the Broncos’ game against the high-flying Saints on Sunday, but head coach Gary Kubiak is optimistic the banged-up pair will return after the team’s Week 11 bye. “I think we’re lucky with Derek, and Aqib has kind of been trending in that direction that whole time,” said Kubiak (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post). “He’s been out there all week. He’s been a part of what we’re doing, but just not ready to get turned loose yet.” Talib’s back injury also kept him out last week for the Broncos’ 30-20 loss to the Raiders, while Wolfe suffered a hairline fracture in his right elbow.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Broncos, Goff

Some assorted notes from around the NFL as we wrap up this Wednesday evening…

  • Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph attributes defensive end Andre Branch‘s production to the player’s impending free agency. Joseph told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that Branch is hoping to get “paid,” thus explaining the uptick in production (Twitter link). Through eight games, the 27-year-old has 20 tackles and three sacks.
  • The Broncos worked out fullback Sione Houma today, reports Nick Underhill of The Advocate (via Twitter). The undrafted rookie was cut by the Saints in late August. The Broncos lone fullback, rookie Andy Janovich, has four carries for 33 yards and a touchdown this season.
  • Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe will be out at least two weeks as he recovers from a hairline fracture in his right elbow, reports Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. The defensive lineman is second on the team with 4.5 sacks this season, and he’s also chipped in 30 tackles. The team will be forced to rely on Billy Winn and Adam Gotsis in Wolfe’s absence, and the team could consider promoting Vontarrius Dora from the practice squad.
  • Following news that Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff was unlikely to start in the near future, Hall of Famer Cris Carter blasted the top-overall pick in an interview with Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports Radio. “The guys know he can’t play,” Carter said (via John Breech of “They messed this pick up.”

AFC Notes: Wolfe, Irvin, Brissett, Thomas

Derek Wolfe‘s extension with the Broncos drew a number of reactions from around the league. From personnel men believing the fifth-year defensive end had to regret his choice in signing a four-year, $36.7MM deal before hitting free agency to agents seeing this contract representing the Super Bowl champions’ arrogance in believing they can convince players to accept below-market contracts.

As for Wolfe, who will now be the cornerstone of Denver’s defensive line after Malik Jackson left for a much more lucrative contract with the Jaguars, he’s fine with his decision.

I did what I felt was right. I’m happy for Malik. He deserves it. I’m where I wanted to be. You can’t put a price on happiness,” Wolfe said, via Troy Renck of the Denver Post. “I’m happy, and that’s all that really matters.”

Wolfe enjoyed by far his best season in 2015 despite missing four games due to a PED suspension. He registered eight sacks counting his 2.5 in the playoffs and graded out as a better performer than Jackson on Pro Football Focus for the first time since the duo began to see time together in 2013. Jackson, though, bypassed Broncos offers that topped out at around $11MM AAV and wound up becoming one of the league’s highest-paid defensive linemen with a six-year, $85.5MM accord.

Wolfe and Chris Harris represent the five-time reigning AFC West champions’ latest in-season extensions. Should Von Miller reach an agreement on a landmark extension with the Broncos by July 15, Brandon Marshall and Emmanuel Sanders loom as the next high-profile free agents-to-be for a team that’s had many such players reach this status the past few years.

Here’s more from around the AFC, starting with a connection between new Raiders that helped cement the Silver and Black’s opinion of their biggest rookie investment last month.

  • The Raiders consulted newly acquired Bruce Irvin before drafting West Virginia’s Karl Joseph in the first round last month, Scott Bair of reports. A former first-round Mountaineer alum himself, Irvin had been a Raider for less than two months when the team reportedly asked for his opinion of Joseph, whom Irvin did not play with at West Virginia. Irvin went in the 2012 first round to the Seahawks months before Joseph began his West Virginia tenure, but the two had contact when Irvin would visit his alma mater. “I wouldn’t ask them to bring somebody in who wasn’t going to be able to help us,” Irvin said. “I know what type of player he is. I know the dedication he puts in.”
  • Jacoby Brissett may not have the ceiling Russell Wilson did despite both being third-round picks, but the newest Patriots quarterback investment may be following in the rookie version of Wilson’s footsteps when it comes to contract negotiations, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes. Since third-round picks represent an interesting fulcrum in terms of draft pool money — first- and second-round picks receive the maximum base salaries, with prospects selected in Rounds 4-7 receiving the minimum, leaving third-rounders in a gray area — only 17 out of the 35 players taken there this year have signed their rookie deals. Brissett is angling for more money due likely to his position’s prestige, Volin notes. Wilson’s camp negotiated for a higher base salary than the seven players taken immediately before him four years ago, and this year, third-rounders have already begun to jockey for extra dollars. Despite being picked at No. 88, Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell will earn $25K more than No. 87 overall choice Nick Vigil will from the Bengals in 2016, Volin reports, and although the players taken immediately before and after Brissett at No. 91 — C.J. Prosise (Seahawks) and Brandon Williams (Cardinals) — having already signed their deals, Brissett’s negotiation still won’t be a simple process.
  • Nearly dealt to the Broncos at last season’s trade deadline, Joe Thomas could again be on the block if the rebuilding Browns flounder as they’re expected to, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes. Thomas said on multiple occasions this offseason he’s glad the Browns didn’t trade him, but it’s somewhat difficult to imagine the 31-year-old likely future Hall of Famer being content on a Browns team mostly bereft of talent as this year’s deadline approaches. A six-time All-Pro, including the past three years, with three years left on his contract, Thomas could still possibly fetch a Cleveland team obsessed with stockpiling picks a first-round selection from a tackle-needy franchise. The Seahawks still come to mind after ending up without a veteran blind-side blocker this offseason despite interest in multiple talents who signed elsewhere.

La Canfora’s Latest: Kap, Glennon, Manziel

Colin Kaepernick‘s contract won’t be a stumbling block in a quarterback-needy team’s potential deal for the polarizing passer, Jason La Canfora of reports.

Citing the deals given to Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler and career backup Chase Daniel, La Canfora notes Kapernick’s contract — which the 49ers can shed prior to April 1 — represents less risk than the deals handed to the aforementioned signal-callers. Following this season, a team that trades for Kaepernick could move on from him and take on barely any dead money.

La Canfora, though, expects the 49ers to cut Kaepernick before his $11.9MM base salary becomes guaranteed in April. This will affect the kind of compensation teams are willing to provide in exchange for Kaepernick’s services, La Canfora notes.

The Browns have emerged as the latest team in the driver’s seat for Kaepernick, but the 49ers aren’t in a rush to make a deal. The Broncos, though, strike La Canfora as the best possible landing site for the 28-year-old passer. La Canfora doesn’t believe Ryan Fitzpatrick or Robert Griffin III are too appealing to the Broncos’ brass.

Here are more items from the CBS Sports reporter, beginning with another possible Peyton Manning replacement.

  • The Buccaneers turned down a second-round pick from an unknown team in exchange for Mike Glennon, La Canfora writes. Despite the 26-year-old backup quarterback’s contract expiring after this season, the Bucs are inclined to keep Glennon as of now.
  • La Canfora can’t envision a team taking a chance on signing Johnny Manziel after he clears waivers following his turbulent and ineffective Browns tenure and hasn’t heard any buzz surrounding a potential landing spot for the third-year quarterback.
  • Most personnel men La Canfora’s conversed with rate Derek Wolfe as superior to Malik Jackson, and La Canfora notes the former probably has buyer’s remorse after signing a team-friendly four-year, $36.7MM deal with the Broncos only to watch Jackson land with the Jaguars on a six-year, $85.5MM accord. Pro Football Focus rated Jackson as the far superior player in 2014, when both were healthy after a seizure derailed Wolfe in 2013, but tabbed Wolfe as having a better 2015 season.
  • Following the signings of Janoris Jenkins and Sean Smith, Patrick Robinson should be the most coveted cornerback in the remaining crop, La Canfora writes. Robinson had a bounce-back season with the Chargers, but Prince Amukamara and Casey Hayward remain unsigned as well. The respective markets for that duo’s services could well surpass Robinson’s.
  • La Canfora expects a run on defensive linemen to come this weekend, with the Bears, Jets, Steelers and Washington being the teams who will be atop the list of suitors. Greg Hardy, Robert Ayers and Nick Fairley are among the best still available.
  • Donald Penn would be a suitable replacement for Russell Okung with the Seahawks, La Canfora writes. Penn probably won’t require the annual commitment of Okung as he’s going on his age-33 season. Okung is visiting the Giants and Lions today. Although multiple teams have shown interest, Penn has yet to meet with any teams after his two-year Raiders contract expired.

AFC Rumors: Manziel, Wolfe, Gase, Jags

Johnny Manziel will have to transform into the kind of constant presence around the team facility that Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer were under Hue Jackson with the Bengals and Raiders, respectively, per Albert Breer of, if he’s to have any shot at staying with the Browns and competing for a job.

Jackson, understandably, prefers quarterbacks who make the team’s headquarters their home during the offseason. These characteristics are essentially the antithesis of Manziel’s behavioral pattern since arriving in Cleveland, and Jackson’s all-out interest in making the quarterback the fulcrum of the team’s progress will probably be spent on someone who isn’t on the Browns yet.

“[Jackson] changed Andy’s routine to get him around us more and around the other offensive players more,” a Bengals coach told Breer, before adding how Jackson pushed to get the game plan to Dalton early in the week, “so he could talk through it in more detail. Then, he pushed [Dalton] to meet separately with other skill guys and some offensive linemen to get them on the same page as him.”

Here are some more details on Manziel and some of the rest of the AFC franchises.

  • In an appearance on Jay Mohr’s Fox Sports Radio show earlier tonight, an initial filibuster from new Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta on whether Manziel would be on the team next year turned into the former baseball exec offering a “pass” as a response, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relays. The comedian gave DePodesta yes, no or pass options, and after insisting he choose one after three initial responses, DePodesta said, “pass.” Obviously not a hard answer on the scrutinized ex-first-rounder, but signs continue to point Manziel away from Cleveland.
  • Derek Wolfe admitted he took “a big cut” compared to what he could have received on the open market in order to stay with the Broncos, Mike Klis of 9News reports. “I don’t really do this for the money. The money is great but you do it to win. That’s why I took a little bit of a haircut to stay here. I took a big cut. But you do it if you want to stay with the No. 1 defense,” said Wolfe in describing the process that went into his signing of a four-year, $36.7MM deal with the Broncos last Friday. In disclosing the terms of Wolfe’s full deal, Klis reports the defensive end will earn base salaries of $4.5MM in 2016, $5.5MM in ’17, $8MM in ’18 and $8MM in ’19, the latter two figures not guaranteed. Wolfe’s largest cap number in this deal will, as of now, loom in 2018, when he’s set to count $9.55MM against the Broncos’ cap.
  • Jaguars senior offensive assistant Frank Scelfo‘s accepted a position at the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he’ll become the Roadrunners’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). Scelfo coached the Jags’ QBs in 2013-14 before assuming the senior offensive assistant title last season. He served as the OC for Tulane and Louisiana Tech from 1999-2009.
  • Gus Bradley leaned on Monte Kiffin to help make the decision to promote Todd Wash to defensive coordinator, Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union reports. The retired Kiffin still serves as a consultant to the Jaguars and Bradley, whom he hired in Tampa Bay when he was the Buccaneers’ DC.
  • Adam Gase has shown patience while sorting out his staff as holdovers decide whether to stay or go, according to Breer, who adds that sort of approach runs counter to the tumult that permeated through the Dolphins‘ facilities last season.