Samaje Perine

Broncos Likely To Limit RB Javonte Williams’ Workload Upon Return

The Broncos’ offense will have a new play-caller in the form of head coach Sean Payton as well as new faces up front. One of the most signficant factors in the team’s ability to rebound from last season’s struggles, though, will be the play of lead running back Javonte Williams.

The 23-year-old’s second season in Denver was limited to just four games due to an ACL tear. The timing of the injury led to questions about his Week 1 availability for 2023, but he was able to take part in training camp, as both he and the team had hoped. That suggests Williams could be available to handle a full starter’s workload when the Broncos’ season kicks off next week.

However, ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that Denver is expected to take a cautious approach with the North Carolina alum as he returns to game action. Players coming off ACL injuries typically experience a period of game time at less-than-normal production before truly reaching 100% health. It was thus come as little surprise if Williams were to be used sparingly in the first few games of the campaign.

Presuming that takes place, Samaje Perine would be in line to handle a larger workload. The 27-year-old signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal in free agency to serve as Denver’s pass-catching backup behind Williams. Perine has averaged a modest 4.0 yards per carry in his career, but he has 736 yards (7.3 per reception) and six touchdowns through the air, leading to expectations for continued production in the latter capacity.

Perine’s 175 carries as a rookie represent by far the most he has received in a single season in his career. He should not come near that mark if Williams is able to serve as a workhorse relatively soon, but the former will have an opportunity to earn extra playing time down the road if he delivers a strong performance early in the campaign.

Latest On Javonte Williams, Broncos’ Backfield

The Broncos intend to bring Javonte Williams along slowly as he returns from a devastating knee injury. If Williams isn’t ready to go for the start of the regular season, the team does have enough running back depth to temporarily get by, but Mike Klis of believes the front office could still add another player to the mix.

Klis writes that it’s “possible” the Broncos bring in a veteran RB to their current grouping. However, a move wouldn’t be made before head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton get an extended look at Williams during training camp.

Williams’ sophomore season came to an end in Week 4 when he suffered a torn ACL, LCL, and posterolateral corner. Week 1 of the 2023 campaign would mark 11 months since the RB suffered his injury, and Klis writes that Williams did look good during his limited work at minicamp.

The Broncos’ ideal plan would be to have Williams in the starting lineup for the start of the season, but the team doesn’t want to be unprepared if the former second-round pick is forced to miss time. After splitting work with Melvin Gordon for the first two seasons of his career, Williams is primed to lead the RB room in 2023. After compiling 1,219 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns as a rookie, Williams had 280 yards in three-plus games before suffering his knee injury in 2023.

The Broncos brought in Samaje Perine to serve as the top backup in 2023, but with little starting experience in six NFL seasons, he would’t be relied on to be an every-down back with Williams sidelined. The Broncos are also rostering Tyler Badie, a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2022 who was scooped up by Denver late in the season. Former Saints backup Tony Jones Jr. and undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin round out the RB room.

The Broncos have been connected to Dalvin Cook throughout the offseason, but this most recent report indicates that the organization is looking for a temporary fill-in for Williams…not someone who would completely revamp the depth chart.

Broncos Sought Second-Round Pick For Courtland Sutton; Jackson, Murray On Radar

Sean Payton did his best to confirm, despite persistent trade rumors, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton would be part of the Broncos’ equation in 2023. The team has long been linked to wanting a first-round pick for Jeudy; its ask on Sutton was (is?) not far off.

Denver wanted a second-round pick in exchange for Sutton, Mike Klis of 9News reports. A former Pro Bowler, Sutton has shown flashes of high-end play. The Broncos’ years-long quarterback issue has held both Jeudy and Sutton back, and the latter is attached to what has become midlevel money at the position. This and the receiver trade market not being what it was in 2022 has generated Sutton buzz.

But Sutton is also four years older than Jeudy; the SMU product is going into his age-28 season. The 6-foot-4 wideout is attached to a $14MM base salary in 2023. Sutton has manageable cap hits, considering the receiver market’s explosion in the months after he signed his $15MM-per-year extension in fall 2021, but that salary is lofty for teams to consider parting with a second-round choice.

The Broncos should not be viewed as dead-set against trading one of their starting wide receivers, though the Browns and Cowboys — each a Jeudy suitor — have moved on. The Patriots and Giants also were in on Jeudy at various points since last year’s trade deadline. Sutton’s market has been quieter, but the Broncos — due to the Payton and Russell Wilson trades — do not pick until the third round. Payton said this component has brought teams to inquire about the team’s top receivers; the new Broncos HC added that he does not view this coming wideout draft class as particularly impressive.

Another player who could be part of Denver’s 2023 offense: Latavius Murray, who figured to remain on the radar due to Payton’s ties with him. Broncos GM George Paton, while expressing that new signing Samaje Perine will be the team’s go-to guy if Javonte Williams (ACL) is not ready to start the season, said (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) the team still likes Murray.

The former Raiders 1,000-yard rusher came in and played effectively for the Broncos, his fifth NFL team. Murray, 33, led the Broncos with 703 rushing yards, even as he arrived just ahead of Week 6. While Kareem Hunt remains available, Murray’s Saints past and undoubtedly lower asking price compared to the former rushing champion opens the door to another Broncos deal.

The Broncos have another 30-something on the radar to stay. Kareem Jackson has signed three Broncos contracts; the team has not ruled out a fourth. Paton added (via Klis) the Broncos have been in contact with the veteran DB’s representatives.

Jackson, who signed a three-year deal worth $33MM in 2019, has been a Denver safety starter over the past four seasons. Next season would be Jackson’s age-35 slate, but he has started 61 games for the Broncos. Jackson did arrive just after Vance Joseph‘s first Denver tenure wrapped, and the team has rookie-contract safety Caden Sterns as a potential option opposite Justin Simmons. But Jackson has signed for less money on each of his most recent deals. He took a pay cut from $5MM to $2MM in 2022.

Ezekiel Elliott Eyeing Eagles, Bengals, Jets

MARCH 24: Pouring water on the potential of an Elliott-to-Philadelphia move, John Clark of NBC Sports tweets that the Eagles have not yet talked with the three-time Pro Bowler about a contract. He adds that the reigning NFC champions are “happy” with their current situation in the backfield. That update illustrates the reality that Elliott’s preferred destinations represents a wish list on his part, more so than a shortlist of interested suitors.

MARCH 23: Although the Cowboys moved on from his lucrative contract last week, Ezekiel Elliott looks to have generated some interest elsewhere. He may have a new team before the end of the month.

Elliott wants to have a destination in place by the end of next week, and Adam Schefter of notes the two-time rushing champion has narrowed his choices to the Eagles, Bengals or Jets (Twitter link). It is unclear if each team has offered Elliott a deal, but each has some level of need in the backfield.

The Bengals have shown interest, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. They have already lost Samaje Perine to the Broncos. Perine said (via the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel) he chose Denver because of Sean Payton’s history using multiple running backs. Perine also looks to be insurance against Javonte Williams needing in-season time to finish up his ACL recovery.

The Bengals, however, wanted Perine back. They offered their Joe Mixon backup nearly identical terms to what he signed for in Denver, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Perine signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal with the Broncos. The Bengals have also stopped short of guaranteeing Mixon would be back. The seventh-year back’s $12MM-AAV extension runs through 2024 and calls for salaries north of $9MM this year and next. Elliott spelling Mixon might not be the plan here, with Conway pointing to this as an either/or situation.

As the Jets prepare to trade for Aaron Rodgers, they are moving aggressively to surround him with talent. Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman are en route, and the team moved up in the draft by unloading Elijah Moore. The Jets join the Broncos in having their starting running back — Breece Hall — coming off an October ACL tear. The Jets showed interest in ex-Rodgers teammate Jamaal Williams, but the breakthrough Lions back chose the Saints.

Philadelphia, which once signed DeMarco Murray after Dallas let him walk in 2015, has added Rashaad Penny in free agency. That deal is more of a flier, considering the ex-Seahawks first-rounder’s injury history, but the Eagles also re-signed longtime backup Boston Scott and roster Kenneth Gainwell. Elliott could be a piece of this equation, but it would be uncharacteristic for Howie Roseman — who was demoted during Chip Kelly’s 2015 in power — to splurge for a back. But Elliott moving from the Cowboys to their biggest divisional threat would obviously be a captivating storyline.

Elliott, 27, has seen his snap share drop in each of the past four seasons, with Tony Pollard showcasing himself as the more efficient member of the Cowboys’ backfield. With the latter seeing more early-down work, Elliott has seen his role shift to that of a short-yardage specialist; that, coupled with his general decline, helped account for his career-low numbers in 2022 (876 yards at an average of 3.8 per carry). Those figures made it obvious that he would become a cap casualty for Dallas this offseason.

Now, Elliott appears close to the beginning of the second chapter of his NFL career. A deal sending him to any of the three aforementioned teams would likely involve plenty of work on third down given his recent short-yardage history but also his proficiency in pass protection. In any case, a new contract would be far more modest than what he was due on his now former Cowboys accord. The Bengals, unlike the Eagles and Jets, currently reside in the top-10 in the league in cap space, so they could win out a potential bidding war. How much interest each team shows in Elliott will be a key storyline to follow in the secondary waves of free agency.

Adam La Rose contributed to this post.

Broncos To Sign RB Samaje Perine

Seeking Javonte Williams insurance, the Broncos are looking to another team’s backup. Former Bengals running back Samaje Perine is signing a two-year Denver deal, Mike Garafolo of tweets.

The Broncos are giving the former Joe Mixon backup a two-year, $7.5MM deal that includes an additional $1MM in incentives. Perine will join his fourth NFL team and an offense in transition. With Williams recovering from ACL surgery, an opportunity at a bigger role may exist in Denver.

Backing up Mixon both in Cincinnati and at Oklahoma, Perine effectively filled in for the starter last season. The 240-pound back scored four touchdowns in a two-game starter span last year, helping the Bengals to wins over the Steelers and Chiefs. He totaled 21 carries for 106 yards and a score over the eventual Super Bowl champions.

This pickup is also interesting due to the number of young starters available for the Broncos. While the Dolphins brought back both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson and the Eagles inked Rashaad Penny, the rest of the starters who were not franchise-tagged remain on the market. Kareem Hunt, Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary, Jamaal Williams, D’Onta Foreman, Damien Harris and David Montgomery are available. It does not appear each will command starter-level money, with a supply-and-demand issue favoring teams, so the Broncos diving in early on Perine either points to some conviction from team brass or an intent not to devote much money to the Williams insurance slot.

That said, Perine only has 401 career carries on his odometer. Although he is headed into an age-28 season, the light workload should benefit him. And the Broncos did operate aggressively on Day 1 of the legal tampering period, giving big deals to Mike McGlinchey, Ben Powers and Zach Allen. Sean Payton favorite Latavius Murray might also be on the docket; 9News’ Mike Klis confirms Murray is still a possibility (Twitter link). The Broncos may still be on the lookout for a back with more pass-catching upside, though Perine did finish with a career-high 38 receptions for 287 yards last season.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 of season, and it is not certain he will be back to start next season. Perine, then, moves into position to start in that case. Barring an agreement with one of the other UFA backs, the Broncos should be considered likely to add to their running back room during the middle rounds of the draft.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/27/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: OL Keenan Forbes, G Eric Wilson

Bengals Place Five Players On PUP, La’el Collins On NFI

Following the trend we’ve been seeing the past couple of days, Cincinnati has joined the list of teams making the necessary roster moves for injured players. The team announced on Twitter that they are placing linebacker Joe Bachie, guard Alex Cappa, defensive end Khalid Kareem, running back Samaje Perine, and safety Brandon Wilson on the active/physically unable to perform list and offensive tackle La’el Collins on the active/non-football injury list. 

This announcement likely invokes mixed reactions for Bengals’ fans. While they’ll rejoice to see the names of only two expected starters on the lists, the fact that those two names belong on the offensive line may send shivers up their spines. Cappa and Collins are parts of a major rebuild on the offensive line after the Bengals allowed a record-tying seven sacks in a Super Bowl LVI loss to the Rams. The two were brought in, alongside center Ted Karras, to hold down the right side of the offensive line opposite Jackson Carman and Jonah Williams.

Cappa’s addition to the list isn’t too much of a surprise. The former Buccaneer was sidelined in late-May with a minor core injury. Known for his toughness, Cappa, who has played with a broken arm and attempted to stay in a game with a broken leg, was expected to make a return before training camp, but his placement on the list is likely just a cautious attempt to give Cappa a bit more time to recover.

The Collins news is slightly more concerning. Collins has a reputation for missing games. During his time in Dallas, Collins appeared in 74 regular season games while missing 39. He was placed on injured reserve before the start of the 2020 NFL season with the expectation he may return, but ended up sitting out the entire year. He had a healthy 2021 season, but still missed five games due to a suspension. Not much information was presented about his NFI-status, which may cause some worry for a player who has violated the league’s policy on substance abuse in the past. Regardless of speculation, the Bengals will have plenty of time before the season starts to get the situation straightened out.

Perine is probably the next biggest name on the list. No information is available as to the reason he is physically unable to perform. Perine served last season as a pass-catching option out of the backfield and the backup running back behind former Oklahoma teammate Joe Mixon. Perine will look to do more of the same, competing with last year’s sixth-round draft pick Chris Evans for receiving back duties upon his return.

Wilson is an interesting name on this list. His career with the Bengals has primarily been on special teams with Wilson serving as the Bengals’ main kick returner last season. But, as a backup safety, Wilson could see an increased role depending on the results of conversations with starting safety Jessie Bates III. If discussions with Bates go south and lead to a hold out, Wilson is the next man up to start alongside Vonn Bell in the defensive backfield. Wilson is coming off of a torn ACL suffered in early-November of last season, so his placement on the list is not unexpected, but does add a new wrinkle in developments concerning Bates’ contract.

Bachie and Kareem are both backup defenders who saw their roles change from their first seasons in the league to their second. After appearing in every game as a rookie, Kareem didn’t make his 2021 season-debut until Week 8 and performed in a limited role that was further limited by injuries near the end of the year. Bachie went from a reserve player on the Eagles as a rookie to a backup linebacker on the Bengals in Year 2. Bachie tore his ACL in mid-December last year and is an unsurprising addition to the list as he works his way back from the knee injury.

There could always be additions to the list, as it isn’t official until Tuesday. Additionally, a player can come off of the list anytime during the preseason and can’t be on the list once they’ve practiced with the team. Any players still on the PUP list at the start of the regular season will be required to sit out a minimum of six games, but they won’t count against the roster as the team trims to 53 players.

While the Bengals have some important role players on this list, there’s little need to worry at this point in time. As long as they come off of the list before the season starts, there will be no league-restrictions on their participation.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/21/21

Today’s minor moves:

Cincinnati Bengals

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bengals To Re-Sign RB Samaje Perine

Samaje Perine is returning to Cincinnati. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports (via Twitter) that the running back is signing a two-year deal with the Bengals.

Perine showed promise as a rookie with Washington in 2017, finishing with 785 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. However, he was limited to only five games in 2018, and he was waived prior to the start of the 2019 season. Perine later had a brief stint with the Bengals, and he ended that season of the Dolphins roster.

Perine ended up rejoining the Bengals last offseason, and he had a bounce-back season in Cincy. With the Bengals dealing with injuries to Joe Mixon, Perine ended up seeing time in all 16 games, including one start. He finished the season having compiled 367 yards from scrimmage and a career-high three touchdowns.

Bengals Claim RB Samaje Perine, LB Austin Calitro

The Bengals have claimed RB Samaje Perine and LB Austin Calitro off waivers, per Adam Schefter of (via Twitter). Perine had been waived by the Dolphins, and Calitro had been waived by the Jaguars.

It will be a reunion between Cincinnati and Perine. The Bengals claimed the Oklahoma product off waivers from the Redskins last September, but he saw just five offensive snaps for the team before he was waived. He cleared waivers and was re-signed to the Bengals’ practice squad, but the Dolphins plucked him off the p-squad towards the end of the season.

Washington selected Perine in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, and he generated some buzz in his rookie campaign, compiling 603 yards and a score (albeit with a modest 3.4 YPC average). Since then, though, he has managed a grand total of 13 carries. But the Bengals did not pick up a running back in this year’s draft, and as Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic tweets, Cincinnati believes Perine has some untapped potential. He will compete for snaps behind former Sooner teammate Joe Mixon and current RB2 Giovani Bernard.

Calitro, meanwhile, played in 13 games (four starts) for Jacksonville last season. He put up 40 tackles and a sack and also served as a primary special teams contributor. The Bengals have made some investments at LB in free agency and the draft, but if he makes the team, Calitro could squeeze out some playing time on defense and on special teams.