If the Denver Broncos make a substantial move at the running back position in the coming days, don't say we didn't warn you. The writing for the Broncos making a move at running back has been on the wall now for quite some time, even after the team decided to sign Samaje Perine in free agency.
Even news of Javonte Williams miraculously returning to the field just 33 weeks after a major knee injury won't prevent the Denver Broncos from loading up at the running back position, but as of right now, they are doing the exact opposite of "loading up". As of this moment in time, the Broncos appear to be downsizing at running back, as a matter of fact.
Within the last week or so, the Broncos have gone from having eight running backs on the 90-man roster to having just five. The most recent release was a slight surprise, with the team letting go of Damarea Crockett. Crockett is also coming off of a knee injury but was arguably one of the team's top three backs in camp and preseason play last year. His release leaves the following players on the roster at a critical position in Sean Payton's offense:
- Javonte Williams
- Samaje Perine
- Tony Jones Jr.
- Tyler Badie
- Jaleel McLaughlin (rookie UDFA)
There's some talent there. There's some upside there. But there's also a lot of risk. Even if you're super optimistic, you're looking at a group there that includes two guys who could reasonably carry the heaviest portion of the workload in Williams and Perine. You're not trusting Jones, Badie, or McLaughlin to do any heavy lifting in 2023. At least, if you get to that point, you'd be sorry you didn't make a move in June for one of the guys currently available.
And by guys currently available, I'm of course talking about legit, proven NFL running backs who could play tomorrow if the team had a game. The following players are either available as free agents or could soon be available as free agents (in the case of one Dalvin Cook):
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Kareem Hunt
- Leonard Fournette
- (possibly) Dalvin Cook
Now, especially considering it's already June, that's a pretty good list. The team only has five running backs on the roster right now and adding one of these guys would be wise if not bordering on necessity.
Yes, it's really great that Javonte Williams is seemingly on a quicker path to return than originally anticipated. But I still think the Broncos should proceed with caution there and give themselves every reason to keep Williams' role limited so he can stay fresh. Samaje Perine has not been a featured back since his rookie year in Washington back in 2017. That's not a big deal -- he's the all-time leading rusher in Oklahoma history. He's carried the ball a lot.
What is a big deal is the fact that there are guys out there right now who have experience carrying the load. They have experience in big games. At least, bigger games than many in Denver are currently used to playing in. We know the Broncos really want to establish a strong ground game this year, and the question is -- do they currently have the horses in the stable to do that?
I think they need one more proven back. I have thought that for a long time. With the team recently releasing Damarea Crockett, Jacques Patrick, Tyreik McAllister, and Emanuel Wilson in recent weeks, it makes sense for the team to be pursuing a veteran option. Perhaps in the form of a big, bold move.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Denver Broncos making somewhat of a splash in the near future at running back. At the very least, we should expect them to add a body or two during or after OTAs.