Elijah Wilkinson

Broncos Tender OL Elijah Wilkinson

MARCH 16: Wilkinson indeed received a second-round tender from the Broncos, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

MARCH 2: The Broncos are “likely” to cuff offensive lineman Elijah Wilkinson with the second-round tender, according to Mike Klis of 9News. The tender would cost roughly $3.2MM, or give the Broncos a second-round pick if someone were to sign him to an offer sheet that goes unmatched.

Wilkinson, 25, has started games on the inside and the outside for the Broncos. The plan is to have him work at both left tackle and right guard next year, allowing them to take full advantage of his versatility.

The Broncos’ offensive line figures to look different in 2020 – for starters, Ronald Leary won’t be brought back on his option. Meanwhile, left tackle Garrett Bolles may or may not be part of the plan for 2021 and beyond. The club will mull all of its options between now and May before deciding on his fifth-year add-on.

In 2018, Wilkinson saw seven starts at right guard. Last year, he started 12 times while Ja’Wuan James was injured. The advanced metrics showed that he wasn’t quite spectacular, though he was solid – he finished out with a 59.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, slotting him as the 59th ranked qualified tackle in the NFL. That type of showing would make a one-year, $3.2MM salary well worth it for Denver.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos are reportedly eyeing Texans free agent nose tackle D.J. Reader. Meanwhile, they’ll allow defensive lineman Adam Gotsis to reach the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Harrises, Wolfe, OL, RBs

The Broncos both traded for A.J. Bouye (and a $13MM salary) and used their franchise tag on Justin Simmons, signaling Chris Harris‘ time in Denver was almost certainly up. The four-time Pro Bowler said during an NFL Network appearance the door is “pretty much” closed on a 10th Broncos season (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala). The decorated cornerback is expected to have at least 10 teams pursuing him, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Jets, Lions, Raiders, Seahawks and Texans are expected to have “strong” interest in signing the 30-year-old defender, Renck adds. This list interestingly omits the Eagles, who have been linked to Harris at multiple junctures over the past five months.

Although Harris is arguably the best slot cornerback in NFL history, his consistent usage as a boundary player as well will likely push his market near the current corner standard of $15MM per year. He turned down the Broncos’ three-year, $36MM proposal before the trade deadline.

Here is the latest out of Denver:

  • Denver’s Week 1 starting defensive line consisted of Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris and Adam Gotsis. All three are poised to hit the market, with Gotsis doing so after being benched early in the season. Shelby Harris would prefer to stay in Denver but has acknowledged, at 28, this is his lone chance at a big payday. The Colts are among the teams interested in the late-blooming D-lineman, Renck notes.
  • On the Wolfe subject, the eight-year veteran has been the most vocal about returning to Denver. His agent’s Combine meeting with the Broncos led him to believe he will hit the market. “[The Broncos] talked to my agent at the Combine. … It looks like they’re going to let me hit free agency, see what the market is,” Wolfe said during an interview with KOA Radio (via DNVR Sports’ Andrew Mason, on Twitter). “… It’s a nice way of saying, ‘We like you; we love you, but not for that kind of money.” The Broncos may bring back Wolfe or Shelby Harris, but not both. The team drafted Dre’Mont Jones in Round 3 last year, so it may be covered at one of its defensive end spots. Wolfe, 29, said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio (audio link) he is eyeing two to four more seasons.
  • The Broncos’ interest in a running back stems not necessarily from their current regime’s desire to replace Phillip Lindsay but to complement him, per Renck, who adds the team is expected to add a bigger back in either free agency or the draft. Royce Freeman has underwhelmed in that role over the past two seasons.
  • The Broncos plan to pursue a guard on the market, Renck notes (on Twitter). They declined Ronald Leary‘s 2020 option, so a replacement will be needed. They also may try to add a swing tackle and are likely to draft a tackle, which makes sense given left tackle Garett Bolles‘ struggles.
  • Elijah Wilkinson was supposed to work as a Broncos swing man in 2019, but Ja’Wuan James‘ near-season-long absence thrust Wilkinson into Denver’s right tackle spot. He spent time as a first-string guard in 2018 and stands to factor into the Broncos’ 2020 plans at one of those two positions. The team is expected to use a priority tender on Wilkinson, per Renck. This will likely mean a second-round tender. That will cost more than $3MM.

AFC West Notes: McCoy, Bolles, Joseph

The Chiefs listed running back LeSean McCoy as a healthy scratch for their 35-32 loss to the Titans as part of a predetermined schedule to rest him, according to James Palmer of NFL.com. Without McCoy, Damien Williams received a larger portion of snaps and had a costly fumble in the team’s upset loss.

Given the outcome Kansas City may have second thoughts about their decision, but the organization wants to have McCoy as fresh as possible for the last season and playoff push. At 6-4, the Chiefs remain atop the AFC West and will hope McCoy can make up for their loss in future contributions.

Here’s some more from around the AFC West:

  • Left tackle Garett Bolles has struggled mightily for the Broncos this season. In his weekly mailbag, Ryan O’Hallaran of The Denver Post explained that the early-season injury to right tackle Ja’Wuan James might have saved his job. James’ injury forced swing tackle Elijah Wilkinson into full-time duty and left Denver without a solid Plan B behind Bolles. If James finds his way back onto the field, Wilkinson may be able to push for snaps on the opposite side of the line.
  • Safety Karl Joseph had begun establishing himself as a difference-maker in the Raiders secondary this season before he suffered a season-ending injury. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Raiders might have been inclined to negotiate an extension. However, given the uncertainty surrounding his health, Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News expects the team to let him hit free-agency this season and try to re-sign him at market value.

West Notes: Broncos, Chiefs, Johnson

The Bryce Callahan situation is moving closer toward the Broncos not seeing him on the field this season. After a report surfaced indicating the offseason signing now may miss the season, Vic Fangio said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter) seeing Callahan on the field this year has become a 50-50 proposition. Fangio said earlier this week he was hopeful his former Bears pupil would suit up in 2019. The Broncos signed both Callahan and Kareem Jackson to patch up their secondary, but the former continues to struggle to shake off the foot trouble that ended his 2018 season early. With contract-year standout Chris Harris still a trade candidate, though a player that may end up staying, the Broncos’ long-term cornerback situation is in as bleak of a place since before the franchise’s 2004 Champ Bailey acquisition.

Here is the latest from the West divisions, shifting first to another key Broncos signing:

  • Denver’s Ja’Wuan James investment has gone almost as poorly as its Callahan addition. James suffered an injury in the first quarter of the Broncos’ Week 1 game and has missed every snap since. However, the well-paid right tackle is expected to start this week, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. James is believed to be set to play in a part-time capacity, with a three-tackle rotation between he, Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson in the cards. Wilkinson has started the past six Broncos games at right tackle.
  • In addition to Patrick Mahomes‘ Week 8 absence, the Chiefs will be without Frank Clark. The team declared its top defensive end out with a neck injury. Chris Jones, Kendall Fuller and Eric Fisher will miss another game as well. Clark broke out for a dominant performance against Bolles in Kansas City’s Week 7 win, but the offseason acquisition will have to wait until at least Week 9 to build on that performance.
  • However, the Chiefs will have Sammy Watkins back. The oft-injured wide receiver suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5, but ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher notes he will play against the Packers. In Year 2 of a $16MM-AAV deal, Watkins has not caught a pass since Week 4.
  • David Johnson enters this week’s Cardinals game in the same place he did the past two games: as a game-time decision. Kliff Kingsbury said (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban, on Twitter) the former All-Pro back does not need practice to suit up for a game, but with Chase Edmonds playing well in relief, this shapes up as a true game-time call. Johnson suited up for Week 7 but spent most of his afternoon on the sideline. Both Christian Kirk and Jordan Hicks are game-day calls as well.

Broncos DL Shelby Harris Signs RFA Tender

Broncos restricted free agent defensive lineman Shelby Harris has signed his second-round tender, the team announced. Harris will now collect $3.095MM for the 2019 campaign before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency next year.

A seventh-round pick of the Raiders in 2014, Harris bounced around the league, spending time with the Jets and Cowboys before signing a futures deal with the Broncos in 2017. That low-risk move has paid off in a big way for Denver, as Harris has appeared in all 32 possible games over the past two years, seeing action on more than 35% of the Broncos’ defensive snaps in each season. He could see a further increase in playing time this year, as the club is expected to make him its starting nose tackle.

Harris, 27, posted seven sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 15 tackles for loss from 2017-18, and he graded as the NFL’s No. 8 interior defender last year, per Pro Football Focus.

The Broncos also announced that the following exclusive rights free agents have signed their ERFA tenders:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/7/19

Here are today’s restricted free agent and exclusive rights free agent tender decisions:

RFAs

Non-tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

Broncos Notes: Lindsay, Paradis, Roby, OL

Barring a second opinion that differs from the original diagnosis, the injury Phillip Lindsay sustained on Monday night will end up requiring surgery, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. The Broncos’ breakthrough rookie running back is likely set for a lengthy rehab timeline, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (via Twitter). This could put the UDFA gem’s OTA participation in jeopardy. In addition to the ligament damage Lindsay is believed to have suffered, Rapoport adds the Pro Bowl back may be dealing with a scaphoid fracture in his wrist. The Broncos revamped their backfield this offseason, adding Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The latter figures to see more time Sunday, and Devontae Booker‘s rookie contract runs through 2019. So, Freeman and Booker may be working as the top Denver backs come OTAs.

Here is the latest from Denver on Christmas Day:

  • Although Matt Paradis has yet to make a Pro Bowl roster, he has anchored the Broncos’ offensive line for the past four seasons. A perennially well-regarded blocker by Pro Football Focus, Paradis will be a free agent at season’s end. The Broncos may have to shell out center-record money to keep him, and Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes that if Paradis wants top-dollar coming off of his season-ending broken leg, the Broncos might not be the team to authorize such a pact. Ryan Jensen‘s $10.5MM-per-year deal serves as the top center contract currently, and Paradis has submitted a longer sample of upper-echelon play during his career. The Broncos have one veteran offensive line cap figure — Ronald Leary‘s, at $9.2MM — on their 2019 books but can escape it with minimal charges if they wanted to create more money to prioritize Paradis.
  • Elsewhere along Denver’s line, right tackle Jared Veldheer is playing on an expiring deal. He is one of just two Bronco starting linemen to be playing the same position as he did when the season started, joining left tackle Garett Bolles in that regard. But the Broncos may not be inclined to bring him back. They see right tackle potential in converted guard Elijah Wilkinson, per O’Halloran. Veldheer will be 32 next season and has missed time due to injuries in each of the past three years.
  • For years, the Broncos possessed the NFL’s top cornerback trio. But Denver traded Aqib Talib this offseason and has Bradley Roby months from free agency. The Broncos may not be eyeing a long-term pact for Roby, who has been inconsistent in his contract year. No known negotiations have occurred, and O’Halloran notes a Roby reunion may take his market getting to a place where Denver extends a one-year offer. Denver still has All-Pro Chris Harris signed to a team-friendly deal through 2019, but if Roby departs, the team may need to explore another Harris extension. The Broncos’ corner investments over the past few years, be it veteran pickups or recent third-round draft picks, have shown much.
  • Despite the Ravens showing a renewed commitment to John Harbaugh, Broncos are still hoping to interview him this offseason.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/16/2018

Here are today’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

  • Re-signed: LB Zaire Anderson
  • Re-signed: DE Shelby Harris
  • Re-signed: LB Joseph Jones
  • Re-signed: WR Jordan Taylor
  • Re-signed: OT Elijah Wilkinson

Houston Texans

  • Signed original round RFA tender: OL Greg Mancz

Los Angeles Rams

  • Signed original round RFA tender: LB Matt Longacre

Washington Redskins

  • Re-signed: OT Tony Bergstrom

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/12/18

Here are today’s restricted free agent and exclusive-rights free agent tender decisions, with the list being updated throughout the day.

RFAs

Tendered at second-round level:

Tendered at original-round level:

Non-Tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/21/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • Multiple injuries along their offensive front prompted the Broncos to promote two O-linemen from their practice squad. Dillon Day and Elijah Wilkinson will be part of Denver’s 53-man roster for its Week 7 game in Los Angeles, Mike Klis of 9News reports (Twitter links). The team placed inside linebacker Corey Nelson on IR after the fourth-year player tore a biceps muscle, and the Broncos waived defensive tackle Kyle Peko, Klis reports (on Twitter). An ex-UDFA interior lineman out of Mississippi State, Day’s spent the past 2 1/2 seasons on the Broncos’ practice squad. A tackle, Wilkinson is a rookie UDFA out of UMass. Both Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson are out against the Chargers.
  • The Packers will give Aaron Rodgers‘ roster spot to safety Jermaine Whitehead, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. Whitehead signed a reserve/futures deal with the Packers in January after spending time on Green Bay’s practice squad last season. The ex-UDFA safety resided on the 49ers’ taxi squad for much of the 2015 season.
  • The Jaguars swapped out wide receivers on their active roster before their Week 7 game, waiving Max McCaffrey and signing Jaydon Mickens, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets. The son of Ed McCaffrey and older brother of Christian McCaffrey, Max has now been cut by four teams — the Raiders, Packers, Saints and Jaguars — since entering the league as a 2016 UDFA. A second-year player out of Washington, Mickens received a Jags practice squad invitation last month.