Denver Broncos: Keeping it real with Carlos Henderson
What are the Denver Broncos going to do about the Carlos Henderson situation? What should they do? We take a look at both sides.
There isn’t a more interesting, confusing, bizarre story this offseason for the Denver Broncos or maybe the entire NFL than the one involving Carlos Henderson.
After getting called out by Vance Joseph at the end of OTAs for not practicing through injury, Henderson did not report to Broncos training camp for unknown reasons, which were classified as ‘personal/family’ issues.
The Broncos have been backed into a weird corner with Henderson after an offseason that included a marijuana arrest in January and a one-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.
The two were unrelated.
Since the Broncos drafted Henderson in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft (82nd overall), things have not gone according to plan even a little bit.
Henderson was expected to provide the Broncos’ offense with much-needed ‘juice’ in 2017 but he hurt his thumb in training camp and aggravated it in the team’s preseason opener against the Bears.
Let’s go back and look at Henderson’s entire timeline with the Broncos so far. The entire story is being almost completely ignored by fans or media who think the Broncos should just wash their hands and be rid of him immediately.
Henderson gets drafted
The Broncos had not — to any public knowledge — brought Henderson into the team facility for a pre-draft visit. They still took him with the 82nd overall pick with a new coaching staff who had clearly identified him as a fit for the offense and special teams.
Henderson gets hurt in camp
After struggling a bit in his first NFL training camp (not unexpected), Henderson hurt his thumb in training camp. I can’t stress enough that this injury was initially reported by the Broncos as ‘day to day’ or at worst, ‘week to week’.
This was not originally thought to be a season-ending injury.
Henderson gets thumb surgery
After Henderson sustained his thumb injury, he played against the Chicago Bears. He struggled even catching kickoffs in the game, and everyone wondered why.
He had a torn ligament in his thumb that required surgery.
The Broncos perhaps held out hope that it would only keep him out for a few weeks, but a few weeks turned into potentially a couple of months.
Henderson goes on IR
The Broncos placed Henderson on injured reserve, ending his 2017 season completely. There was some hope from fans that Henderson could be designated as a possible IR/return player but because the Broncos did not keep him on IR for a single day after 53-man rosters had to be turned in to the league, he was ineligible.
He was shut down for the season with an injury that was originally reported to be day to day or at the worst, week to week.
Henderson arrested in January
Henderson was the passenger of a vehicle that was pulled over for going 84 in a 60-mph zone. The officer that pulled the vehicle over noticed the smell of marijuana and obviously found it in the car.
Henderson goes buck wild working out
After the news came about of Henderson’s arrest, he started posting quite frequently on his Instagram page videos of his workouts, which looked intense.
It also showed some significant physical progress as some felt Henderson came to his rookie camp slightly overweight. He was anything but overweight in the videos he posted earlier this offseason.
Broncos still excited about Henderson
Despite the arrest and stupid decision, John Elway noted at the Scouting Combine that the team was excited to get Henderson back this season.
Later on in March, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said the team was counting on Henderson to step up this offseason and make an impact.
Even though he’d gotten in some trouble and missed the previous season, the Broncos understood this was a player they invested a very high pick in.
Joseph calls out Henderson
With very little information given throughout OTAs about Henderson’s development as Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton began to steal the show, it was more than a little shocking when Vance Joseph called Henderson out like he did at the end of OTAs.
It seemed like some tough love motivation from Joseph to get a player with high expectations in gear, but it may have had the opposite effect as he intended.
Henderson misses Training Camp
Just before the start of training camp, it was reported that Henderson would not be reporting to the team for the aforementioned family/personal reasons.
Henderson’s agent released a statement saying that his client understood how important this year’s training camp was for his career, but there were things he needed to get worked out.
Henderson went dark on social media and was barely returning the Broncos’ calls. The team went from taking a bit of a harsh stance with him to being worried about him just in general.
Henderson suspended one game by NFL
To add insult to insult, Henderson was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Because he was suspended one game, it’s clear this suspension was not connected to his marijuana arrest.
Henderson meets with John Elway
Henderson returned to the Broncos’ facility to meet with general manager John Elway, informing him of his desire to return to the football field.
As of the end of practice on Tuesday, Henderson had not met with head coach Vance Joseph.
After his meeting with Elway, Henderson posted on his Instagram page for the first time in a very long time.
What happens next?
There’s no telling what will happen next, but I certainly have an opinion about it.
Are the Broncos going to keep Henderson on the 53-man roster, or would that set a bad precedent? Are they going to try and get him on the practice squad (he has eligibility), or will they simply let him go and forget about him? Would another team claim him before the Broncos had the chance to put him on the practice squad anyway?
This is a complicated case and there is a lot of gray area still. Why was Henderson missing in the first place? The Broncos did not seem overly supportive of his absence, but what was he dealing with?
If Henderson is motivated and ready to play football, the Broncos should welcome him back and do what they can to get him ready for regular season football.
This is a player you invested a very high draft pick in. Pick number 82 overall is not just a throwaway pick. That’s a premium draft selection and the Broncos chose Henderson among a draft class loaded with talent at wide receiver.
It makes sense that people want to see him cut for his transgressions off the field and for the ways he’s put the Broncos in a bad position, but let’s not pretend like that isn’t a two-way street.
The Broncos haven’t exactly put him in the best position either.
They did what was best for the Broncos last year, not necessarily for Henderson’s development. They did not prioritize developing their young players last season, and put a lot of rookies in bad positions (literally, in the case of DeMarcus Walker).
Because of how poorly mismanaged the 2017 season was from a player development standpoint, it’s impossible to say that Henderson was a ‘disappointment’ in his rookie year. His rookie year was disappointing, but only because he never saw the field.
The Broncos made sure he wasn’t going to see the field by putting him on IR before 53-man rosters had to be finalized in September.
Would it be hard to justify giving Henderson a roster spot over someone who has been working all offseason — including camp — with the team?
Sure, but it’s not like Henderson hasn’t been around since he hurt his thumb last year. We’re talking about wiping away an entire year’s worth of work and rehab just to prove a point that if you struggle with adjusting to life in the NFL and make a couple of mistakes that you won’t be given a second chance?
The Broncos can’t cut Henderson without seeing what he can do on the field. That doesn’t mean Henderson is in a position of power or that he’s entitled to anything.
As everyone has been saying in regards to Paxton Lynch, it’s not his fault the Broncos traded up to take him with a first-round pick.
What about all this talk of bringing in a veteran quarterback to help the Broncos sleep at night?
Why is it okay for the team to bring in Matt Moore (or anyone of equal or lesser value) to take up a 53-man roster spot when Chad Kelly has worked his tail off for the opportunity he’s now earned as Case Keenum’s backup, but not for the team to justify keeping a talented (but troubled) third-round pick?
If the Broncos were planning on a roster spot for a veteran quarterback, why not just give that spot to Henderson? Who cares if you keep six or even seven receivers? The team has done it before. The Broncos would be doing a disservice to themselves and to Henderson if they don’t see his development through.
If Henderson is cut before this season, it will be the quickest Elway has given up on a top 100 draft choice ever. It will also mark the first time in Elway’s tenure that a top 100 selection has not even seen the field before being cut.
Even Montee Ball was a prominent part of the offense for a couple of seasons before his eventual release.
And after Ball was released, someone picked him up.
To think Henderson would not be picked up by another team is a bit naive as even the Broncos had traded essentially a fourth-round pick for Su’a Cravens, who contemplated retirement last season.
Cravens had a year of NFL football under his belt, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t want to play or have an injury history too extensive to play.
He still had that high of a value to another team in the NFL.
Do we think another NFL team didn’t see Henderson as a possible third or fourth-round pick a year ago?
And now that he’s mentally ready to play, he’s going to go to another team and give his all and the Broncos are just supposed to wish him well and send him on his way?
Again, this is a very complicated and borderline unheard of situation. The Broncos need to discover why Henderson was not at the start of training camp and make a determination from there, but based on what we know now, I think it would be a huge mistake if the team let him walk and find another opportunity in the NFL.
Henderson is going to have to pay a large sum of money in terms of daily fines for missing camp. The Broncos can work something out to where he pays it back over time, but they will be financially just fine if he sticks around.
Even as deep as the Broncos are at receiver, this is a player that would have made the team had he simply showed up to camp.
Find out why he wasn’t there, and figure out a way to make it work.