Just when you thought the extent of injuries couldn't get any worse, Denver Broncos nickel cornerback K'Waun Williams officially underwent ankle surgery in North Carolina on Monday and is expected to be sidelined for up to eight weeks, according to insider Troy Renck of Denver 7 News. While the amount of injuries has not been nearly as bad as they have been in previous years, losing a starting cornerback, especially in the slot, is not a great start.
With Williams being placed on the injured reserve and rookie CB Riley Moss potentially beginning the season on short-term IR (core muscle surgery), veteran CB Essang Bassey is expected to start at nickel for the first half of the season. While Bassey did have an impressive preseason with interceptions in three consecutive games, he has had his fair share of sputters when out on the field in the regular season for the Broncos. The former UDFA out of Wake Forest has been inconsistent during his first two seasons in the NFL, as would any UDFA CB to start their professional career, but has strung together a very solid offseason in Denver and presented flashes of a potential reliable starter during the team's training camp and joint practices in August.
However, considering the large gap between starter K'Waun Williams and Essang Bassey, perhaps the Broncos should heavily consider external options to ensure the nickel cornerback position does not quickly become a weakness in the secondary. Not to mention, the Broncos are seemingly one injury away from disaster at the position which has instantly become a position of need that GM George Paton will have to fix, depth-wise, as the regular season approaches. Denver does have CB Ja'Quan McMillian who has experience playing in the slot during his college days and did so very effectively. However, the Broncos simply cannot be relying on a second-year player who has only received reps at outside corner to be the lead backup behind Bassey.
One name who certainly would not be a terrible addition to the room at all would be former Bears, Broncos, and Chargers CB Bryce Callahan who is currently a free agent. Yes, I know, it's probably been a while since you've heard the name. But in 2022, Callahan quietly had a stellar season in Los Angeles after moving on from the Broncos in the offseason.
Callahan, 31, started in 11 games while playing in 15 for the Chargers in 2022 (both career highs). Starting at slot cornerback, Callahan allowed 370 yards (24.7 yards per game), 64.8% completion, and an 80.0 passer rating in pass coverage. Very exceptional statistics despite being so late in his career. Callahan did allow a career-high three touchdowns and 370 passing yards however, it is worth noting that he had never played at as high volume in the 2022 season as he did in any season prior to this in his eight-year career.
During his lone season with the Chargers, Callahan also set a career-high in interceptions with three, including a nifty pick-six that Raiders fans would rather not recall.
Callahan did recently have a visit with the Miami Dolphins that did not result in a contract but still remains an option as his former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio serves the same role in Miami. Perhaps for the Broncos, the connection to defensive backs coach Christian Parker who coached Callahan in 2021 can lure the veteran corner back to his old team. Denver is in need of depth at the nickel corner position and there is not a lot of available talent in free agency besides CB Desmond King who was recently cut by the Houston Texans.
If the Broncos are serious about upgrading at positions of need and wish to hang with the best receivers in their division and conference, then a good start would be a reunion with the versatile CB Bryce Callahan. The 31-year-old is coming off one of the best seasons of his career at the nickel position and is still well capable of playing at a high level. Surround him with an elite group of defensive backs such as Patrick Surtain ll, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, and Damarri Mathis and he will immediately thrive. The only factor for Callahan is staying healthy and will remain the biggest question mark for teams considering bringing him in. However, with the situation the Broncos are currently in, they could definitely benefit from a low-risk, high-reward player like Callahan. We all know the old saying: "You can never have too many corners."