Mario Fannin's NFL dreams have been put off for another season. For the second straight year, the former Auburn running back has suffered a season-ending injury, this time a torn Achilles tendon.
Fannin, who joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2011, was hurt during the team's scrimmage yesterday; he tore an ACL during training camp last summer, almost a year to the day. The 24-year-old was expected to compete for a backup spot behind Willis McGahee, and had earned praise for his combination of size (5-11, 224) and speed (4.37-second forty time).
One of the biggest issues of Denver's offseason has concerned what the team will do once linebacker D.J. Williams is eligible to return from suspension.
Williams faces a six-game ban for having violated the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, has been relegated to inaction throughout training camp, and was not in uniform for the Broncos' scrimmage yesterday at SAF@MH.
Complicating matters is that Williams may face an even longer ban pending his upcoming DUI trial.
Fifth-year veteran Wesley Woodyard has operated in Williams's starting weakside linebacker spot for the entirety of camp.
Also adding to the intrigue is Denver's Week 7 bye; as it now stands, the 30-year-old would be allowed to rejoin the team during the bye week, and play Week 8 when the Broncos host the Saints, a team ravaged by its own suspensions thanks to the recent bounty scandal.
Following a workout today, veteran safety Jim Leonhard (5-8, 188) signed a one-year deal with the Broncos. The former Wisconsin Badger is entering his eighth NFL season, having spent three years in Buffalo, one in Baltimore, and three with the Jets. He worked out for the Bills on Thursday and reportedly received an offer, but chose to continue on to Denver anyway.
In seven seasons, Leonhard has played in 94 games (60 starts), accumulating 254 tackles, 66 assists, 3.5 sacks, six interceptions for 141 yards and one touchdown, 25 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and four recoveries. The 29-year-old has also returned 82 punts for 820 yards, and 12 kickoffs for 256 yards.
Updated 9:24pm ET
After adding safety Mike Adams via free agency, the Broncos entered training camp expecting one of Quinton Carter or Rahim Moore to start next to the ninth-year veteran. A week and change into camp, Moore has been impressing, but an injury to Carter on Day 2 has taken him out of the competition for now.
Carter had originally been diagnosed with a hamstring injury, but he also hurt his knee and underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure earlier this week. The second-year ex-Sooner is expected to miss at least the first two of Denver's preseason games.
Starter Eric Decker suffered a groin strain Wednesday, while reserves Greg Orton and D'Andre Goodwin each hurt an ankle.
Denver is now back to the 90-man roster limit for the first time since camp began. WR Eric Page and CB Coryell Judie had failed their team physicals a week ago and were subsequently released, and a hamstring injury to second-year safety Quinton Carter had prompted the signing of ex-Buff Kendrick Perkins on Saturday.
Reports Mike Klis:
The guarantee in the first three years of a proposed contract extension was a primary hang up Ryan Clady and and his negotiating team had with the Broncos’ five-year, $50 million offer, according to an NFL source.
Obviously, we're not at all surprised that the issue with these stalled negotiations was the guaranteed portion of Denver's contract offer. After all, that's all that ever really matters in the NFL - except to the agents, who want glittery total and average annual values with which to bedazzle their own resumes.
It cannot ever be stated enough - always look at the guaranteed money and how it's distributed, and you have the real value of an NFL contract. Everything beyond that tends to amount to an annual option held exclusively by the team.
Let's re-examine a pair of notable Denver deals to explain:
According to Mike Klis, the Broncos and the representatives for Ryan Clady agreed to put off talks on a long-term contract until after the 2012 season.
Klis reports the team has not improved upon the contract offer made public a week ago and which included $28M in guarantees.
But as we've noted before, the Broncos have in their corner most of the leverage in this situation. They will pay the left tackle a bargain basement-level $3.5M salary in this final year of his rookie contract, and they will have the option of using their franchise tag on him next offseason. The tag for offensive tackles is worth $9.3M this season, and is unlikely to increase significantly by next year. If the two sides were still unable to agree to a deal after the 2013 season, Denver would have the ability to retain Clady with a 20% raise over that tag value, or $11.16M based upon that current $9.3M figure.
Denver added former CU Buffs safety Anthony Perkins a day after second-year safety Quinton Carter suffered a hamstring injury.
The 23-year-old takes one of the roster spots left vacant by the release of WR Eric Page and CB Coryell Judie after the two undrafted rookies failed their physicals on Wednesday.
Perkins had participated in Denver's rookie camp in May as a non-roster invitee, and will wear number 43; his last two seasons at Colorado were marred by injury, but he ranks 41st on the school's all-time tackles list. Anthony is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys Ring of Famer and six-time Pro Bowler Don Perkins.
According to head coach John Fox (video), the Broncos won’t be giving many first-string reps to longtime starting linebacker D.J. Williams.
Williams, entering his ninth season with the team, will be serving a six-game suspension for ‘non-human urine’ in a required urinalysis, and who may also be dealing with the legal aftermath of a DUI. The first attempt at trying the November, 2010 DUI incident ended in a mistrial over the selection of jurors in May. The case will be retried in August.
A day before players are due to report for training camp at Dove Valley, John Elway announced via Twitter that the Broncos have agreed to terms with rookies Brock Osweiler and Ronnie Hillman.
Denver drafted Osweiler 57th overall out of Arizona State to be groomed as the QB-in-waiting behind Peyton Manning. Hillman was selected ten picks later out of San Diego State, and it is hoped he will challenge Willis McGahee for playing time, and he may help usher Knowshon Moreno out of town after three disappointing seasons.
Once Osweiler and Hillman's deals are finalized, the Broncos will have all of their players under contract, and they are reportedly negotiating with left tackle Ryan Clady on a long-term deal.