Broncos have critical decision looming with mystery defensive lineman

What will the team decide?
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos have already improved and upgraded their defensive line substantially in the 2024 offseason, but that unit could soon be getting another boost...


Denver Broncos rookies report for training camp on July 17 and veterans report on July 23. Former fourth-round pick Eyioma Uwazurike is eligible to apply for reinstatement on July 24, but there could be even more complications with his situation due to a criminal probe. According to 9News Broncos insider Mike Klis, the NFL is waiting to make a decision on Uwazurike's potential reinstatement until the criminal probe situation is resolved.

Klis noted in his post that the NFL will typically reinstate players on the same day that they apply for reinstatement, but that Uwazurike's situation is a little different. He was suspended for a full year after placing 32 bets on five Broncos games, including a game in which he played. It's a horrible look on the surface, but a year-long suspension and potentially delayed reinstatement seems rather harsh.

"The NFL then conducted its own investigation and levied an indefinite suspension on Uwazurike with reinstatement to be considered no earlier than July 24, 2024, which is one full calendar year from the start of his suspension. That potential reinstatement application date is now less than three weeks away.

Should Uwazurike be cleared and reinstated by the league, the Broncos would have to decide whether to activate him on their roster. According to sources, the door has not been closed on Uwazurike’s return."

Mike Klis

The door hasn't been closed on Uwazurike's return to the team, nor should it be at this point. Sean Payton was really fired up when he learned of Uwazurike's year-long suspension last year,

"When you have a bunch of players getting D’s, you have to start looking at the message. And we’ve had a lot of D’s in our league this year with this policy.

And we’re going to send them home for a year, where they can’t be around. The idea that you just go away, shame on us."

Sean Payton (via USA Today)

And in that regard, Payton makes a fair point. The NFL is suspending players for gambling, which is the right thing to do, but sending them away for a year does, what, exactly? Uwazurike has taken it upon himself to do the right thing and attend gambler's anonymous meetings once a week, according to Mike Klis, as well as attending weekly therapy sessions. The point Payton was trying to make was that suspending the player and kicking him out of the facility doesn't allow the organization to actually help them figure things out.

The last we've actually heard anyone on the team talking about Uwazurike was back in late April when general manager George Paton referenced him talking about the team's defensive line depth.

"We still have some guys. We have pretty good depth with ‘Henny’ [DE Matt Henningsen], and we’ll see about ‘Enni’ (DL Eyioma Uwazurike) coming back. I’m going to leave a few out, but we like the depth right now."

George Paton (via Broncos PR)

So, the signs are definitely there that the Broncos will at least be willing to keep Uwazurike on the 90-man roster when given the opportunity. And that is the right thing to do. They could have already cut him at this point if they had no intention of bringing him back. Why not at least see what he can still do out there on the field?

Uwazurike was a fourth-round pick out of Iowa State in the 2022 NFL Draft and was considered a pretty significant steal for the Broncos. He played a little bit as a rookie but was expected to potentially start at defensive end last year before news came in about his year-long suspension.