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NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
Cornerback Quentin Jammer went straight to work on the field Thursday after signing a one-year contract with the Broncos the day before.
The surroundings were unfamiliar to Jammer after spending his first 11 seasons with the Chargers. So was his on-field work, as the long-time cornerback got his first glimpse at a new spot.
"We're going to try him a little bit at safety as well," Broncos coach John Fox said. "In this league with the multiple-wide receiver sets, he'll give us some flexibility. He's a bigger, more physical (defensive back) that we think will help us."
At 6-0 and 204 pounds, Jammer is heavier than most of the Broncos' defensive backs. Of the veterans in the secondary, only 217-pound David Bruton carries more heft.
"Well, he can play a little safety, corner -- he's a true tackler, so he can do a lot of different things," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. "That's the one thing I like about him, he's always been a tough corner. Being that versatile obviously helps with the transition to safety if we need him there full time or part time."
The Broncos referred to Jammer as a "defensive back" in their press release announcing his signing on Wednesday, avoiding the specific safety or cornerback designation. That suits Jammer fine.
"I always considered myself a football player, not really put a label on myself as a corner or a safety," he said. "This is the game of football, and I feel like I can be plugged in anywhere on the defense and play -- other than the big hosses up front."
Jammer's signing also further illuminates the reasons behind their ultimately failed pursuit of Charles Woodson, who opted to return to Oakland a week earlier. In both cases, the Broncos wanted an ex-cornerback who no longer had the speed to play outside but possessed the requisite coverage skills of his old position.
Jammer is a relatively inexpensive consolation prize, and unlike Woodson, he probably doesn't project as an every-down safety. But he can fill the dime-back role held by safeties Jim Leonhard and David Bruton last year, and should offer improvement in coverage of tight ends, something that has long been a weak spot of Denver's defense.
"Whether he is playing corner, possibly playing some safety, he's a guy they can put in in the dime package and let him cover an athletic tight end like a (Aaron) Hernandez or a (Jacob) Tamme," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "So we're excited to have him."
The interest in Jammer on the market was tepid. San Diego made little attempt to re-sign him, and the only other offer he entertained was from the Washington Redskins. What tilted the balance toward Denver was the team's outlook.
"A chance to win a championship. You look at this team and what they did last year and what Peyton Manning brings to this football team. I get to play with a guy like Champ Bailey," Jammer said. "Hands down if you look across the league, what better place to go than Denver to have a chance to play for a championship?"
It means enough to him to where he'll make a position switch after 12 years at one spot.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES
--One man's problem is another's opportunity.
With Denver Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen still sidelined after recent arthroscopic knee surgery, three-year veteran Julius Thomas is getting a chance to show what he can do.
Thomas, hindered by ankle injuries much of his career, was the star of the Broncos' OTA workouts on Thursday, catching two passes from quarterback Peyton Manning, including one down the seam in which he beat cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Rahim Moore.
Thomas' growth was going to be slow even if he stayed healthy. He played only one season of college football at Portland State, where he spent most of his spare time playing basketball.
The 6-5, 255-pounder showed enough promise in one season and one week at the 2011 East-West Shrine Game to be a fourth-round pick, and was poised to play extensively before suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2 of the 2011 season.
He never healed completely and underwent offseason ankle surgery. That hindered his progress in 2012. Because of injuries and the 2011 lockout, Thomas had never even worked in organized team activities before May 20.
Given a window of opportunity, he has wasted little time impressing perhaps the most important voice on the offense.
"If you can't complete a ball to Julius as a quarterback, something is wrong with you," Manning said of the big tight end. "He has a great wingspan and great size and jumping ability. I think he's just continuing to get better for us."
Dreessen was healthy enough to participate in the first OTA session on May 20 but was not on the field Thursday after the surgery.
--Third-year veteran Nate Irving has received the first crack at the open middle linebacker position, and so far has done enough to satisfy Fox, who described Irving's play as "good" through the Broncos' first five OTAs.
Irving's chances to play the last two years have been minimal. He struggled to learn the system in his rookie season of 2011, then was moved from middle linebacker to strong-side linebacker behind Von Miller a year later before being moved back.
"Good. He's a guy that was a third-round draft pick that really, in Nate's defense, has not had a great opportunity yet," Fox said. "He'll get that this year. I see great growth in him already."
Stewart Bradley and Steven Johnson are also expected to take their turns at middle linebacker in the coming months, but for now, the first shot belongs to Irving -- even though he doesn't see any significance in being first man up.
"It doesn't mean anything, because all it is, is the opportunity," Irving said. "They didn't give me the spot, they didn't tell me, 'It's yours to lose,' or anything like that. They just gave me the opportunity, and with the opportunity, I'm looking to take advantage of it. I don't want to just go out and just lay an egg and just roll over and give it up."
--Running back Willis McGahee is the only Bronco who hasn't been seen anywhere on the field during the two OTA sessions that were open to the media.
Other players recovering from injury have been seen working out or taking mental repetitions; that group includes safety Quinton Carter, center J.D. Walton, guard Chris Kuper, running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive end Quanterus Smith.
McGahee had knee surgery late last season after tearing his medial collateral ligament in a Week 11 win over San Diego.
"Well, certainly, I think it's the kind of situation where the players that are here, you're excited about those guys that are here and you work hard with the players that are here," Manning said. "The players that are not here, there are individual and specific situations. Whether there it is a business decision being made on Willis' part on his side or on the Broncos' side, that is kind of to be determined."
McGahee's future is up in the air after the Broncos drafted Wisconsin running back Montee Ball with their second-round pick in April's draft. With Ball, 2012 third-rounder Ronnie Hillman, Moreno and ex-Charger Jacob Hester among the other running backs, the Broncos appear to be in position to not need McGahee, even though he led the team in rushing each of the past two years.
"There's no question that Willis was a big help to me last year and our team," Manning said. "We'll see how it plays out these next few weeks."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This league has turned into a no-huddle, fast-paced league right now. Everybody wants to go hurry-up, with the Chip Kellys and the RGIII's of the world that we're playing against this year. Everybody has an up-tempo offense." -- DT Kevin Vickerson, on why the offense's fast tempo during OTAs also helps the defense.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: T Ryan Clady (tendered at $9.828 million).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (6)
--DT Justin Bannan is not expected to return after the Broncos signed Terrance Knighton from Jacksonville to play alongside Kevin Vickerson. Bannan started throughout the season in his return to Denver after spending 2011 with the Rams.
--LB Keith Brooking appears unlikely to return. The 37-year-old middle linebacker stepped into the starting lineup in place of Joe Mays in Week 6 and stayed there the rest of the season, but the Broncos want to take a look at younger options.
--C Dan Koppen is not expected to return if he finds a suitor willing to give him a starting job. Koppen filled in for the injured J.D. Walton at center for the last 12 regular-season games of 2012 and proved he could handle first-team duties, but Broncos coach John Fox declared Walton would "definitely" be the first-teamer when training camp began.
--WR Brandon Stokley is unlikely to return after the Broncos signed ex-Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker. Stokley, a resident of nearby Castle Rock, Colo. admitted to The Denver Post that adding Welker was a "great move," even if it meant the end of his Broncos tenure -- and his career with it.
--DT Ty Warren is expected to retire after missing the last 15 games of 2012 with a torn triceps muscle. A hip and two triceps injuries have limited him to just one regular-season games since 2010.
--WR Matt Willis could return, but the Broncos could look elsewhere for receiving depth as his career has failed to take flight as hoped. Willis, who turns 29 in April, has just 29 catches since joining the Broncos as a practice-squad member in 2008, but has survived three coaching changes in that span.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--QB Zac Dysert (7/234): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Lance Ball: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--S David Bruton: Potential UFA; $4.5M/3 yrs, $1.2M guaranteed.
--CB Tony Carter: ERFA; terms unknown.
--OT Chris Clark: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--P Britton Colquitt: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--DT Mitch Unrein: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--DT Kevin Vickerson: UFA; $5M/2 yrs, $1M guaranteed.
--LB Stewart Bradley: FA Cardinals; $1.2M/1 yr, $300,000 guaranteed.
--CB Quentin Jammer: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Terrance Knighton: UFA Jaguars; $4.5M/2 yrs, $500,000 guaranteed.
--LB Shaun Phillips: UFA Chargers; $1M/1 yr.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: UFA Eagles; $5M/1 yr, $5M guaranteed.
--G Louis Vasquez: UFA Chargers; $23.5M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$13M guaranteed.
--WR Wes Welker: UFA Patriots; $12M/2 yrs, $12M guaranteed/$6M fully guaranteed.
--DE Elvis Dumervil (released).
--FB Chris Gronkowski: Not tendered as RFA/Chargers; terms unknown
--QB Caleb Hanie (released).
--DE Jason Hunter: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
--S Jim Leonhard: UFA Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Tracy Porter: UFA Raiders; $2.5M/1 yr.
--LB D.J. Williams (released).