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If Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero becomes a head coach or executive director of football operations Kelly Kleine becomes the NFL’s first female general manager, they may point to this past week’s inaugural Coach and Front Office Accelerator as an important launching point.
Held over two days at the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta, more than 60 diverse head coach and general manager candidates attended development sessions, listened to speakers and, most notably, met with team owners.
The goal: Develop a more diverse hiring pipeline. This year, the NFL has five minority head coaches and general managers apiece.
“The league is trying to make a change and it was a really great event,” Kleine said in a phone interview with The Post. “It was really, really good for all of us (participants) to meet each other, too. You got to meet the owners and know them personally, but it was huge for potential head coaches and GMs just to get to know each other because these are the people hopefully getting hired eventually and boom, you have connections.”
Among the main speakers were owners Jerry Jones (Dallas), Robert Kraft (New England), Clark Hunt (Kansas City) and Art Rooney II (Pittsburgh), Indianapolis coach Frank Reich, Atlanta president/CEO Rich McKay and from outside the NFL, Marvin Ellison, the chairman, president and CEO of Lowe’s.
Breakout sessions included meetings with the league’s Management Council (salary cap) and the Diversity Advisory Committee and workshop-type discussions about how to handle hypothetical situations. All the while, participants could introduce themselves to owners and vice versa.
“I really think it’s a win-win because I think everybody is going to get better from this,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said on NFL Network.
Evero, 41, has worked in the NFL every year except one since 2007, rising from quality control coach with Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Green Bay to safeties coach with the Los Angeles Rams and now coordinator with the Broncos.
Evero was one of 14 coordinators (offense, defense and special teams) in Atlanta.
“In your mind as a football coach, you get caught up in scheme and X’s and O’s and player evaluations and things of that nature,” he said in a phone interview. “(The seminar) was a good awakening in terms of, if you want to take that next step and be in a leadership position of a head coach or GM, how many other things ownership is looking at on the business side, fan engagement, dealing with the media. It was very eye-opening.”
Evero attended the seminar Monday and said the emphasis was on specific situations.
“They got us into groups with other people in the program and we talked through complex issues that might come across the desk of a head coach or GM, like a player gets into trouble or a player holds out, things where there aren’t necessarily black-and-white answers and you have to live in the gray and make a decision when there isn’t a right or wrong answer,” Evero said.
Evero said there was a question-and-answer session with Hunt, Rooney and Kraft and Monday wrapped up with a cocktail hour.
“That was a free-flowing deal where we got to engage with owners and tell our story and listen to them,” Evero said. “That was good.”
Two people stood out to Evero: Kim Pegula, who owns the Buffalo Bills with her husband, Terry, and Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who interviewed for the Broncos’ head-coaching post in January.
“(Pegula) was cool because her daughter (Jessica) is a tennis player who was at the French Open so we talked about the athletics side and what it means to her family from a different sport,” Evero said. “Coach Glenn, I have a lot of close contacts with him, but had never met him so it was good to meet him after hearing all of the impressive stories. He’s a very, very impressive man.”
During Evero’s career, he has worked for head coaches Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy and Sean McVay. Evero said the trip to Atlanta confirmed many things he has learned from those coaches.
“I’ve been very blessed to be with some outstanding head coaches and great mentors and the things that show up is having an identity, having a process, having a vision of how to handle things and not being reactionary,” said Evero, who also spent time with former Broncos coach Vance Joseph (now the defensive coordinator in Arizona) and Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. “A lot of those things we were educated on and we talked about and discussed, I’ve witnessed in my coaching life.”
A day after returning from Atlanta, Kleine’s shuffling of papers could be heard over the phone.
“I have a whole list of things I want to do now — 30 things that I can improve on and grow on and learn more about,” said Kleine, whose title includes special assistant to general manager George Paton.
The list included:
Spend two hours with vice president of football administration Rich Hurtado, who manages the Broncos’ salary cap.
Create a development program for the scouts.
Do a better job of mentoring others.
Devise ways to motivate others and know what drives them.
And know everybody’s name in the Broncos’ facility.
“That was a huge one,” Kleine said. “Frank Reich said, ‘If I walk down the hall and say hi to someone and think, ‘What’s their name?’ I go back to my office, look them up immediately and I tell it to myself five times because you have no idea how important it is to people.’ Little things like that are so important.”
During her NFL career, Kleine has worked for general manager Rick Spielman in Minnesota and Paton with the Broncos, gradually earning more and more responsibility with each promotion. The seminar confirmed she has observed and picked up on the right things … and still has room for growth.
“I realized how much more there is to learn because working with George, he does everything so well and is calm, cool and collected and you forget about the things he has to do,” she said.
Kleine visited with owners Amy Adams Strunk (Tennessee), Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia) and David Tepper (Carolina), among others. A highlight for Kleine was connecting with Strunk and Dee Haslam, who owns the Cleveland Browns with her husband, Jimmy.
“That was incredible,” Kleine said of meeting female owners. “I look up to them. They’re such (impressive) women. Very, very cool. Kind of surreal.”
Kleine said a major talking point from owners was being “your authentic self.”
“You can’t be somebody you’re not and when they get to know you, they want to hire you because you’re not trying to be somebody else,” she said.
Kleine hopes to attend next year’s seminar to share her story and vision with owners she didn’t get to meet last week. And judging by the league-wide praise for the event, it will be a fixture on the league’s calendar.
“The feedback has been incredibly positive from both the participants and the clubs,” Goodell said on NFL Network. “I think everyone has an opportunity to get to know one another, they’ve had an opportunity to get new information and help them as far as managing their careers.”
Broncos cornerback Essang Bassey’s first-hand experience that the NFL is a wacky business was revealed during the second half of last season.
He played against the Chargers … and for the Chargers.
He was waived by the Broncos … and re-claimed by the Broncos.
He moved out of his Denver area apartment … and moved back in.
“Same lease,” Bassey said with a laugh after the Broncos’ first organized team activity practice Monday. “I lived out of a hotel for two weeks (in Los Angeles) and moved back in.”
Back with the Broncos, Bassey is back in the crowded mix to secure the Nos. 4-6 cornerback spots behind Pat Surtain II, Ronald Darby and K’Waun Williams.
Bassey made the Broncos in 2020 as an undrafted free agent and played 168 defensive snaps in the first four games because of A.J. Bouye’s opening-week injury. After Bouye returned, Bassey was a special teams player, but returned to the defense in Week 9 at Atlanta, beginning a stretch in which he played 48, 43, 54, 26 and 28 snaps.
Bassey’s season ended in the end zone at Kansas City when he sustained the non-contact ACL injury.
Last year, Bassey was on the physically unable to perform list for the first nine games.
“I had some meniscus work done, too, so the beginning of my rehab was a little slower,” he said. “I don’t think it took longer than expected, I was just listening to my body throughout the process.”
Once Bassey was activated, the whirlwind began.
Nov. 14: Inactive against Philadelphia.
Nov. 28: Played 10 special teams snaps against the Chargers.
Dec. 5 and 12: Inactive against Kansas City and Detroit.
Dec. 18: Waived by the Broncos.
Dec. 20: Acquired by the Chargers, whose defensive coordinator, Renaldo Hill, was the Broncos’ defensive backs coach in 2020.
Dec. 26: Played 11 defensive snaps in the Chargers’ loss at Houston.
Jan. 2: Inactive in the loss at Las Vegas, which kept the Chargers out of the playoffs.
Jan. 8: Waived by the Chargers.
Jan. 12: Re-acquired by the Broncos.
“It was just a lot of emotions,” Bassey said. “I make the move to L.A. and I’m thinking I’m going to start over. And then I came (back) here. Just happy to be back.”
Bassey is working at the nickel spot.
“By the end of (last) year, I was back to 100% so I’m picking up where I left off and having a good offseason program and running around and playing football without a brace,” he said. “I think a lot of my skills (fit); I’m comfortable there.”
Footnotes. The Broncos wrapped up their first week of OTAs on Thursday and are scheduled for three sessions next week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday). … Running back Javonte Williams on having Melvin Gordon back: “It worked well last year and I feel like we’re going to do the same thing this year and everything will be good.” … Surtain said the first week of 11-on-11 work is beneficial and competitive. “We’re going at it for sure,” he said. “Offense vs. defense, good on good and iron sharpens iron. We’re making plays (on defense). The offense is making plays. It’s just good battles going on.”
Retired Denver Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin is putting his Cherry Hills Farm mansion on the market for $9.95 million.
He and his wife Kiaana – the daughter of former Broncos’ running backs coach Bobby Turner – initially bought the seven-bed, 11-bath house at 4936 S. Fillmore Court in Englewood for $3.1 million last September. They’re set to list it on Thursday.
The family will remain in the Denver area, “ideally” staying in Cherry Hills Village. With both a 19-month-old and 4-year-old, Franklin and his spouse are looking for more land.
“We both love Colorado; we both love the outdoors,” Franklin said in a Tuesday telephone interview.
The Franklin family is in good company when it comes to Broncos who settle down in the neighborhood. New quarterback Russell Wilson made a record purchase in buying a $25 million mansion on Cherry Hills Park Drive — the most put down for a residential property in the Denver area.
The S. Fillmore Court mansion, which spans almost 14,400 square feet, includes a designer kitchen, a movie theater, a “man cave,” a six-car garage, salt water fish tanks, a golf simulator and more. It was built in 1995.
“I challenge anybody to show me a house that’s 15,000 square feet that’s fully updated in Cherry Hills that hasn’t been built in the last four years,” Franklin said, adding that he put over $3 million in renovations into the property. He highlighted glass brought in from California and flooring from Florida.
“What you’re going to get at this property is the feel of Miami/California; you’re not going to get Colorado at all from it,” Franklin said. “The crazy and unique thing about this house is that there’s a surprise at every corner that you turn.”
This isn’t Franklin’s first real estate venture in the Cherry Hills Village area. He and Kiaana sold their previous six-bed, nine-bath house at 41 Cherry Hills Farm Drive for almost $4 million last September, according to a deed filed with Arapahoe County.
The listing agents for the S. Fillmore Court property are Delroy Gill and Stuart Crowell with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty.
Colin Kaepernick is getting his first chance to work out for an NFL team since last playing in the league in 2016 when he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
Two people familiar with the situation said Kaepernick will work out for the Las Vegas Raiders on Wednesday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced the workout plans. ESPN first reported that the Raiders were bringing in Kaepernick.
Kaepernick hasn’t played since the end of the 2016 season when he was cut by San Francisco when the new regime led by coach Kyle Shanahan wanted to go a different direction at quarterback.
Kaepernick never got another opportunity even to work out for NFL teams as he alleged he had been blackballed over his protests during the anthem the previous season. He met with Seattle and had informal talks with Baltimore but never got a closer look.
He filed a grievance with the NFL in 2017 over his lack of opportunity and settled it in 2019 — but still never got another look.
The Raiders have been at the forefront on diversity over their history, hiring Tom Flores as the second coach of Hispanic descent, Art Shell as the first Black coach in modern history, and Amy Trask as the first female CEO.
Owner Mark Davis has publicly said he would back his coaches if they wanted to take a look at Kaepernick, and first-year coach Josh McDaniels is doing just that.
The Raiders don’t have a glaring need at quarterback after signing starter Derek Carr to an extension last month. Las Vegas also signed Nick Mullens as a backup this offseason, traded for Jarrett Stidham and signed Chase Garbers as an undrafted free agent.
But none of those backups has the pedigree of Kaepernick, who emerged as one of the league’s young stars when he took over as starter in San Francisco in 2012, and helped the Niners reach the Super Bowl that season.
Kaepernick’s play started to regress in 2014 and he got hurt halfway through the next season and lost his starting job. Things changed the next preseason when Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem, drawing the ire of critics that included then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Kaepernick regained his starting job in 2016 and threw 16 TD passes and four interceptions in 12 games, while posting a 90.7 passer rating.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
LAS VEGAS — The NFL said Wednesday it will appeal a ruling denying a request to move former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league from a public courtroom into closed-door arbitration. Gruden’s lawsuit accuses the NFL of leaking his racist, sexist and homophobic emails to force him to resign last October.
“Neither the NFL nor the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) leaked Coach Gruden’s offensive emails,” the league said in a statement issued after Clark County District Court Judge Nancy Allf rejected league bids to dismiss Gruden’s claim outright or to order out-of-court talks that could be overseen by Goodell.
The judge pointed to Gruden’s allegation that the league intentionally leaked only his documents. She said that could show evidence of “specific intent,” or an act designed to cause a particular result.
The judge’s ruling in the case that Gruden filed last November marked the first public skirmish in what could become a long legal battle pitting the coach who departed the Raiders with more than six seasons remaining on his record 10-year, $100 million contract against Goodell.
Attorneys for both sides declined to comment following a 90-minute hearing before Allf.
Gruden emerged from the courtroom declaring “Go Raiders” and told reporters as he walked to an elevator that he was “just going to let the process take care of itself.”
Goodell did not attend the hearing. The civil case alleges contract interference and conspiracy by the league and seeks monetary damages for Gruden.
“The court’s denial of our motion to dismiss is not a determination on the merits of Coach Gruden’s lawsuit,” said the NFL statement provided by spokesman Brian McCarthy.
The NFL has a responsibility to act, league attorney Kannon Shanmugam argued in court, in cases involving “conduct detrimental to the best interest of the league or professional football.”
Gruden attorney Adam Hosmer-Henner told the judge that putting the case in the hands of Goodell, a named defendant in the lawsuit, would pose an “unconscionable” conflict-of-interest.
Hosmer-Henner said also that Gruden’s contract with the Raiders — including a clause requiring arbitration to resolve disputes — became void when he resigned. Gruden had no contract with the league, the attorney said.
Gruden accuses the NFL and Goodell of destroying his career and scuttling endorsement contracts by releasing emails that no one disputes Gruden sent — and that Shanmugam told the judge contained “racist, misogynistic and homophobic” language unfit for repetition in a public courtroom. Some also reportedly derided Goodell.
Attorneys said the electronic messages came from among some 650,000 obtained by the league almost a year ago during a probe of the workplace culture of the Washington NFL franchise now called the Commanders.
The messages were reportedly sent from 2011 to 2018 by Gruden to several people including former Washington team owner Bruce Allen while Gruden was an announcer at ESPN.
Gruden coached in the NFL from 1990 to 2008, including head coaching stints with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was hired by the Raiders again in 2018, the team’s first year in Las Vegas.
Hosmer-Henner did not challenge the validity and content of the emails. But he complained that neither Gruden’s lawyers nor the judge had seen the actual messages, and the public only heard accounts about them in the media.
“What is going to be an issue is (the league) … leaking those emails to the press, selectively, and then demanding that Mr. Gruden be fired by the Raiders,” the attorney said.
Gruden coached the Raiders on Oct. 10, two days after the Wall Street Journal reported he had used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith. Gruden resigned the following day, shortly after The New York Times revealed additional offensive emails.
“They pressured the Raiders to fire him,” Hosmer-Henner told the judge. “And when the Raiders didn’t, and he coached through that weekend, (the league) continued to threaten that more documents would be leaked.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis said in late October that the team reached a settlement with Gruden over the final six-plus years of his contract. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
Eric Saubert, recovered from torn meniscus that affected him last season, primed for Year 2 with Bro
When the Broncos drafted tight end Greg Dulcich in the third round last month, Eric Saubert thought that signaled the end of his tenure with the Broncos.
But general manager George Paton had other plans.
“When they took Greg, I was like, ‘Ok, no way I’m coming back to Denver,'” Saubert recalled. “My agent called me and said, ‘You never know, but it looks like you’ll be going somewhere else (as a free agent). But to my surprise, George then called and talked to my agent, and made it clear the Broncos still wanted me.”
Saubert, 28, re-signed with Denver on May 4, a one-year deal with a $1,047,500 cap hit. In his first season in Denver last year, Saubert appeared in all 17 games as both a core special teams player and as the No. 3 tight end behind Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam.
With Fant dealt to Seattle as part of the March trade for quarterback Russell Wilson, Okwuegbunam is now TE No. 1 and Dulcich is a complementary threat. That means Saubert will be taking on a similar role to last year. The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder was mostly used as a blocker; he had eight catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, and per Denver Post game charting had 4.5 “bad” run plays in 290 offensive snaps.
But this year, Saubert is feeling healthy. During OTAs in 2021, Saubert tore his meniscus, and played the entire season with an injured knee before getting it surgically cleaned up in January. And he feels like he can make more of an impact in the passing game, where he’s had 18 catches for 132 yards in his career.
“I definitely lost a little bit of a step last year,” Saubert said. “You saw me relegated to that in-line role more often, but I feel brand-new now and how I was before. I know (critics) like to pigeonhole tight ends as either a blocker or a receiver, but I feel like I can do it all in the pass game, too. I feel good coming out of my breaks.”
First-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett gave the sixth-year pro and former Falcons draft pick an early endorsement.
“Saubert’s done a great job after being able to be integrated into (learning the offense) a little bit late,” Hackett said. “His ability to block, and he runs really well. Watching him get down the field and catching the ball, he’s definitely somebody we’re excited to have here.”
Wideout Courtland Sutton said Saubert brings a veteran presence to the huddle, and projects that Saubert will have a considerable influence on the development of both Okwuegbunam and Dulcich in 2022.
“Albert has some playing time under his belt, however, to have a (veteran) guy like (Saubert) is big,” Sutton said. “They have a veteran leadership in the room who can explain what happens when they’re going full-speed with their hand in the ground… All of that in-game reps and experience (by Saubert) bleeds down to the young guys.”
Saubert said the arrival of Hackett and Wilson in Denver convinced him coming back to the Broncos was the right move. And, echoing a common theme during the Broncos’ offseason program in Dove Valley, Saubert believes a return to contention is imminent for a team that’s missed the playoffs six consecutive seasons.
“There were some other teams that reached out, but ultimately, I wanted to be back here and I wanted to be a part of Hack and Russ being here, the culture change, the chance at a Super Bowl,” Saubert said. “I feel like I’m just hitting my stride in this league . I’ve learned a lot, done a lot (between playing for four different teams). I’m excited for what’s next and I feel this team can do something special.”
Russell Wilson plays football with evangelical zeal. In the Book of Russ, sloth is a deadly sin. The sinners might be forgiven. But they also will be left behind by a quarterback who earnestly treats the pursuit of a championship like a crusade.
“You have to set the tone every day. There is no other option,” Wilson said Monday, after a spring practice where attendance was voluntary, but the commitment to excellence was not optional.
“If you want to win, and if you want to win it all and be the best in the world as a team and everything else, there is no other option. That’s what we have to do. It’s a wild obsession every day.”
Wilson is so wildly obsessed that when he throws a touchdown pass in May, he celebrates with a rowdy chest bump.
“You have to enjoy the moments, as well as be able to push to the edge and not fall off the edge,” Wilson said.
During this organized team activity on a spring afternoon, new coach Nathanial Hackett installed offensive and defensive concepts for the players that volunteered to participate.
But it’s also apparent: Far more important for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in six seasons is establishing a tone in which failure is not an option. That tone is unmistakably set by Wilson.
In this regard, the manner in which the Broncos operate now harkens to when quarterback Peyton Manning came to Denver way back in 2012. The coach was John Fox, but PFM ran the show. This time around, Hackett is the cheerleader pumping up Wilson and leaning on the championship pedigree of the new QB to re-energize a franchise that had become too accepting of defeat.
On the opening day of OTAs, when a full-squad practice integrated veterans and draft picks, among the missing were outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, safety Kareem Jackson, kicker Brandon McManus and running back Melvin Gordon.
Chubb, entering the most critical season of his Broncos career, is expected to participate later this week after attending the graduation of a family member. Family before football. We all get that concept.
On the other hand, if the Broncos want to establish a new culture, I have trouble understanding why Gordon is still a member of the team. Yes, somebody has to give a breather to No. 1 running back Javonte Williams, whose bulldozing style might lead to breakdowns with 25 touches per game.
Bringing Gordon back on a one-year contract with a base salary of $2.5 million, however, must have meant general manager George Paton really, really, really didn’t like the depth of quality in running back prospects to be found in this year’s draft.
How much does spring football really matter? I asked safety Justin Simmons to balance the commitment to the daily grind of establishing winning habits with respect for the private life of teammates.
“As a leader, I’m really big on protecting your space and doing what’s right for you. I’ll never question that. This is voluntary,” said Simmons, the most-distinguished member of the Denver defense.
The start of the Wilson era at Broncos headquarters is more about mindset than X’s and O’s.
“A new defensive system, new offensive system, new teammates and a new culture. I think it’s important to be around and be present,” Simmons said. “Is that the case for every single person? No. Maybe there are times you need to take a week off … and handle personal matters. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. With that being said, I do think it is important to be here. There are a lot of new things going on, and we haven’t won in a while.”
Dare I say it? The Broncos forgot what it took to win.
In the Book of Russ, winning demands a wild obsession to championship football, each and every day, from a Monday in May straight through Super Bowl Sunday.
The sinners amongst the Broncos will be forgiven.
But they won’t ride with Wilson.
For an offense that ranks 29th in points scored over the last six years, it made sense that Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett would prioritize red-zone work during Monday’s opening organized team activity workout.
The Broncos have struggled to score in general and been particularly bad in the red zone, finishing 26th, 32nd, 19th, 28th, 27th and 22nd during their six-year playoff drought.
“We started off with the red area just because it’s our first day getting after it and we wanted to save their legs and shorten the field (and) at the same time practice that situation because that is so important,” Hackett said. “We’ll always have a major emphasis each day.”
The Broncos’ first full-team practice integrating veterans and rookies lasted around two hours and was held minus at least seven projected Week 1 starters who are either rehabilitating last year’s injuries, nursing current injuries or declined to attend the voluntary session.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was present and led the first-team offense through a variety of offense-only and offense-vs.-defense drills.
“You saw a lot good stuff out there,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have a really good football team and that’s exciting.”
During Wilson’s first red zone period, he completed both of his passes (to receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick). In the first 7-on-7 red zone session, he completed three of his first four passes but had his final two attempts broken up by safety P.J. Locke and inside linebacker Jonas Griffith.
“We hit some on time, some a little later,” Wilson said. “You move around and make some plays. It’s all about touchdowns when you cross into that red zone. You want to be the best in the league doing that, at least top five.”
Not surprisingly, Hackett was impressed with Wilson’s day.
“I’ll tell you, he throws the ball — it’s beautiful,” Hackett said. “He’s what we call a ‘natural thrower.’ The guy can spin it. Watching him make some of the plays (Monday) with his feet … he’s doing great.”
There was little clarity gleaned from the offensive line setup. The first unit included four returning starters (right guard Quinn Meinerz, center Lloyd Cushenberry, left guard Dalton Risner and left tackle Garret Bolles). Ben Braden worked as a first-team right tackle because Billy Turner (injury) and Calvin Anderson (not present) did not work.
“We want to make sure we have as much flexibility as possible (along the line) and get the best five out there,” Hackett said.
Footnotes. Not present for voluntary practice were Anderson, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, running back Melvin Gordon, safety Kareem Jackson and kicker Brandon McManus. Present but not practicing during team drills were Turner (knee), outside linebacker Randy Gregory (shoulder), right guard Graham Glasgow (leg), cornerback Ronald Darby, safety Caden Sterns and receivers KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy (back). … Cornerback Michael Ojemudia worked with the No. 1 defense in place of Darby and Locke worked in Jackson’s stead. … Minus Chubb and Gregory, the first-unit outside linebackers were Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper. … No McManus meant a field goal drill in which the football was snapped but not kicked.
Joined by their nine-man draft class and a group of undrafted free agents and knowing the season will begin Sept. 12 at Seattle, the Broncos will begin the most notable phase of their offseason program Monday.
The Broncos will have 13 on-field practices before their summer break — 10 voluntary organized team activity (OTA) workouts (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this week, followed by May 31, June 1-3, 6-7 and 9-10) and a mandatory minicamp (June 13-15).
Under league guidelines, the Broncos are permitted to run 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills during the minicamp practices.
Here are five storylines entering the final stage of the offseason program:
Connecting with Wilson
Quarterback Russell Wilson got right to work with his skill-position players, welcoming them to his home in San Diego a week after his trade from Seattle became official in March. All players have been regulars during the offseason program at the Broncos’ facility.
The OTAs and minicamp will provide an opportunity for Wilson and Co., to go against the full defense.
Around the Broncos’ facility, Wilson’s presence was felt immediately.
“Nothing surprised me (once workouts moved to the field) because he laid it all there when we first met, like what he expects,” receiver Tim Patrick said. “Now it’s just my job to get at the same level as him.”
The offensive line
We know Garett Bolles will play left tackle and one of the trio from Billy Turner (the likely favorite), Calvin Anderson and Tom Compton will continue the Broncos’ musical chair approach to right tackle. After that, uncertainty.
What the OTAs and minicamp will reveal is how many different positions players will be working at.
Complicating the tea-leave read are injuries. Turner (knee) and guard Graham Glasgow (leg) weren’t on the field for last month’s voluntary minicamp.
Two-year starting center Lloyd Cushenberry deserves a chance to keep his spot because his athleticism is a fit for coach Nathaniel Hackett’s blocking scheme that asks linemen to get up the field and onto the perimeter.
The Broncos should keep Quinn Meinerz at right guard, where he can be a foundation player for years.
“It just a matter of getting on the field and practicing; that’s the bottom line,” offensive coordinator Justin Outten said. “We’re all new and just feeling each other out. The guys understand this is a competitive environment.”
Tight end rotation
The Broncos’ top four tight ends on paper are Albert Okwuegbunam, Greg Dulcich, Eric Tomlinson and Eric Saubert.
Noah Fant, who led the Broncos with 68 catches last year, was a key piece of the Wilson trade so it will be up to Okwuegbunam (33 catches last year) and Dulcich (last month’s third-round pick) to fill the pass-catching void. Tomlinson was signed from Baltimore in March and Saubert was re-signed earlier this month to provide the blocking element.
Wilson had great success throwing to tight end Jimmy Graham in Seattle — 170 catches for 2,048 yards and 18 touchdowns in three years (2015-17) — so there should be play-making opportunities for Okwuegbunam and Dulcich.
Some answers of how the quartet is deployed on the field (in-line/three-point stance, slot, out wide, etc.) and in what personnel (one-, two- and three-tight end sets) could be revealed over the next month.
Adapting to new defense
Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s background is in the system introduced by Dom Capers (currently on the Broncos’ staff) and fine-tuned by former Broncos coach Vic Fangio. The foundation of Evero’s playbook will have many of the same tenets as Fangio did the last three years.
“There are small things (that are) already changing, some of our techniques and some of our disguises showing different defenses,” inside linebacker Josey Jewell said. “There’s a bunch of small stuff that we’re still adjusting to and getting used to.”
Evero hopes 95% of the defense is fully installed by the end of the offseason program.
“We’ll get it all repped,” he said. “One thing I believe in is that we don’t want to waste time on stuff that we’re not going to use. Everything that we’re going to do in the game, we have to get repped.”
Core special teamers
The Broncos have prioritized re-signing, signing or drafting players who can be of use on special teams, an official acknowledgement that the unit hasn’t been good enough.
Eight Broncos who played at least 148 special teams snaps last year are back, including safety P.J. Locke (320), Saubert (302), outside linebackers Jonathon Cooper (236) and Aaron Patrick (208) and tight end/fullback Andrew Beck (189).
The 10 remaining practices will allow special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes and assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory to figure out which of the rookies are on the right track to being contributors.
“We’re looking (for) between 8-10 guys,” Stukes said. “A lot of people (will) initially (say), ‘Whoa,’ but if you think about it, if we have two safeties, two linebackers, four offensive players and a defensive lineman that could contribute on special teams, you kind of have your core guys.”
The Broncos’ coaches have been purposely coy about how they will assemble their offensive line when organized team activity workouts begin Monday and training camp begins in late July.
The same goes for veterans like Graham Glasgow.
“Interior, I guess,” he said when I asked him last month during voluntary minicamp if he is playing guard or center. “I’m just trying to get back into football and doing a little bit of everything and see where the chips fall.”
For Glasgow, it could be either guard spot or center. The Broncos should keep Quinn Meinerz at right guard and then pick among Glasgow/Lloyd Cushenberry at center and Glasgow/Dalton Risner at left guard.
Glasgow wasn’t cleared for team work during the first minicamp because of an ankle/leg injury last fall. His status for OTAs is unclear, but he said he “should be good to go by the start of training camp.”
Last month, Glasgow said he was “a little rusty. Some things were a little awkward, but I think over time, it will get better and better and I’ll get to the point where I can play good football again.”
Glasgow’s 2021 season was off the rails from the beginning. After the Week 1 win over the New York Giants, he was transported by ambulance to a New Jersey hospital because of an irregular heartbeat that forced him to miss a game. In Week 3, he sustained a knee injury, keeping him out another game.
The big injury was on the final play of the first half at Dallas in Week 9.
“I had been rolled up on hundreds of times,” Glasgow said. “It was pretty painful and I knew something was wrong. I thought I had broken my ankle. When they told me I had broken my leg, I thought, ‘Actually not that bad, two-month deal and back to 100%.’ That was only part of it, unfortunately.”
Glasgow had also sustained torn ligaments throughout his ankle, requiring surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. He was not cleared to walk without a boot until late January/early February. Around that time, he agreed to re-work his contract that included a $5.9 million pay cut.
Glasgow’s $3.1 million base salary became fully guaranteed in March and he can earn back some of the money through playing-time incentives — $250,000 for 50% of the offensive snaps, $500,000 for 60%, $1 million for 70%, $1.2 million for 80% and $1.4 million for 90%.
An easy decision?
“It just really came down to, I love the area, my wife loves it here, I like playing here and I feel like it was the best option I had coming off the injury I had,” he said. “It’s just the reality of the situation.”
New QBs, new announcers. Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson’s regular-season debut — Sept. 12 at Seattle — will also be the opening game for the ESPN announcing duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
“I think he’s going to be fantastic,” Aikman said of Wilson. “He’s obviously had a great career, he’s won a lot of football games, won a lot of playoff games. He’s just won and that’s something Denver hasn’t done much of since Peyton (Manning) retired. I expect the Broncos to be much improved because of (Wilson).”
Said Buck: “Our first moments on ‘Monday Night Football’ probably won’t involve us talking very much because I think you need to hear that natural reaction and let the crowd carry it. There’s no crowd like in Seattle.”
Accelerator program. The inaugural Coach and Front Office Accelerator Program will be held Monday-Tuesday in Atlanta and the Broncos will be represented by defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and executive director of football operations/special advisor to the general manager Kelly Kleine.
The program will provide senior women and minority prospects the opportunity to network with club owners. The goal is to build a diverse hiring pipeline for future head coaches and general managers.
High ticket prices. According to Logitix, the Broncos’ $338 average home-game ticket price on the secondary market ranks eighth in the NFL. The top five are Las Vegas ($595), Miami ($397), the Chargers ($361), the Rams ($359) and Kansas City ($354).
Among single games, the Broncos’ Oct. 2 trip to Las Vegas ranks second ($555) and their Sept. 25 home game against San Francisco ranks 10th ($380). The highest-priced game is San Francisco at Las Vegas on Jan. 1 ($777).
Footnotes. The Broncos will host the Dallas Cowboys for a joint practice Aug. 11, two days before the teams’ preseason opener. … This week, the Broncos are scheduled for OTA workouts on Monday-Tuesday and Thursday. … As of Friday, only fourth-round cornerback Demarri Mathis and defensive lineman Eyioma Uwazurike remained unsigned from the Broncos’ nine-man draft class.