ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos’ decision-makers continue to sort through the names of draft prospects and prospective free agents as they search for help.
How some current Broncos progress as they come back from injuries will impact how the team goes about its business. That’s especially true at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and linebacker.
The Broncos closed out last season with two of the three quarterbacks they have under contract for the 2018 season (Trevor Siemian and Chad Kelly) on injured reserve. And while president of football operations/general manager John Elway has made it clear the Broncos are in search of a long-term solution at quarterback that may not include any of the players the team already has, he has yet to say publicly what the future holds for Siemian and Kelly.
The money quote on the matter thus far from Elway: "For us to have a chance to get better, we have to get better at that position."
Siemian, who has had left shoulder surgery in each of the past two offseasons, will almost certainly be shopped in the coming weeks. He does share an agent with Kirk Cousins, who is poised to be the marquee free agent at the position, and Siemian has said he’s not sure where he fits in the Broncos’ plans.
Kelly, a seventh-round pick in last April’s draft, spent the season on injured reserve recovering from a knee injury he suffered in his final season at Mississippi as well as a hand injury. Neither Elway nor coach Vance Joseph have said much about where Kelly might fit on the depth chart moving forward.
Kelly’s uncle, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, however, is eager to show what Chad is up to these days. Jim Kelly posted a video on Instagram this week lauding Chad’s arm strength and saying that Chad Kelly is working with former New York Giants QB Phil Simms "just trying to hone in on his fundamentals, getting better each and every day. Love it."
Wide receiver Carlos Henderson is also working his way back after spending his rookie season on injured reserve with a thumb injury suffered in a preseason game in Chicago. Wide receiver is not considered a position of strength in free agency or the draft this year by many talent evaluators, so the Broncos’ opinion of Henderson, a third-round pick last April, could impact some things. Cody Latimer will be an unrestricted free agent, Bennie Fowler III will be a restricted free agent and Isaiah McKenzie was benched twice this past season in his rookie year, so the Broncos have plenty of uncertainty at the position. Henderson was also arrested for marijuana possession in Louisiana last month and had struggled with the Broncos’ offense before his injury, so he has plenty to prove.
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At tight end, the Broncos have big plans for Jake Butt, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in his final game at Michigan. Butt briefly practiced with the Broncos last season, but it was determined he wasn’t quite ready to play. Virgil Green is an unrestricted free agent, so the Broncos will give a long look at the position in the draft. But it will be a surprise if Butt doesn’t open the team’s offseason work with the starters.
Injuries struck linebacker Shane Ray as well. Ray played through three surgical procedures on his left wrist for eight games before landing on IR. Ray kept experiencing pain in the wrist and could not do his normal workouts because of the splint, and he essentially was forced to play one-handed and 20 pounds lighter than usual.
At the close of the season, Ray promised to come back "better than ever."
A first-round pick in 2015, Ray is expected to be fully recovered for a defense that sorely missed his presence. The Broncos also must decide this year if they will pick up his fifth-year option for 2019.
Joseph said that Ray is "a big part of our plan on defense.
"He’s like some of the other guys we want to get healthy and come back ready to do what we need them to do."