Broncos C J.D. Walton has undergone an additional surgery on his troublesome ankle, and is expected to miss the entire season.
Per reporter Jeff Legwold, Walton could return in the second half if "all goes well in healing." It's a blow for the Broncos, who don't have a viable alternative after opting not to re-sign Walton's 2012 fill-in Dan Koppen. Walton had previously never missed a game before going down in Week 4. The Broncos could re-sign Koppen ' the top remaining center in Nick Mensio's free agent ranks ' but he was little better than replacement level. Jeff Faine and Eugene Amano are other possibilities. In house, displaced guard Chris Kuper has never played center. G Manuel Ramirez is an option. As for Walton, missing 28 straight games would certainly put his NFL future into question even though he's only 26. He's entering the last year of his rookie contract.
CBS' Jason La Canfora reports there is "some sense" the Broncos and unsigned franchise player LT Ryan Clady will hammer out a long-term deal before next month's deadline.
La Canfora expects talks to come down to the July 15 deadline, but believes the Broncos are "edging closer to reality on what the cost will be." Clady is believed to be seeking Joe Thomas or Jason Peters money, which would put him in the neighborhood of $35-$45 million guaranteed. The Broncos would be wise not to upset the man tasked with protecting Peyton Manning's blindside.
The Denver Post considers 75 catches the ideal number for Wes Welker and Eric Decker.
Reporter Mike Klis believes the "new balance" in the Broncos' passing attack needs to be Welker and Decker each snagging around 75 balls while Demaryius Thomas gets 85. Peyton Manning has never been a part of an offense where at least three players caught 75 passes, but Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme all cleared 67 in 2010. Decker is the most obvious candidate to fall below 75 grabs, but if he does, it won't be by much. The projection is another reminder Welker's fantasy value is on the downswing in Denver.
Broncos coach John Fox says unsigned franchise player LT Ryan Clady's recovery from shoulder surgery is "going well."
Fox is also optimistic about the status of C J.D. Walton (ankle surgery) and OG Chris Kuper (ankle surgery). "I think (camp has) kind of been the target date all along with Kuper, J.D. and Ryan," Fox said. "We're anticipating at some point, if not at the beginning of camp, early in camp, we will get them back full speed." Clady could start camp on the PUP list after skipping the Broncos' entire offseason program, but his Week 1 status is not a concern.
The Colorado Springs Gazette predicts Ronnie Hillman will be the Broncos' Week 1 starting tailback, before Montee Ball passes him "by the end of September."
It's a notable item, but keep in mind beat writer Paul Klee is just guessing. Klee also expects to "see plenty of (Knowshon) Moreno" in what ostensibly would be a three-man rotation, "because he's their most reliable pass blocker." Certainly, the Broncos' lead back job will come down to pass protection, which is more important to Peyton Manning than any quarterback in the NFL. We still expect Ball to run away with the job if he demonstrates efficient blitz-pickup ability in August. Hillman is a change-of-pace scatback, and Moreno's talent is pedestrian at best.
The Broncos' official website singled out WR Greg Orton as a player who "answered the call" in spring practices.
"I really think that he's making big strides to really push that back end of the receiver group to who's going to be that last guy to make the team," said OC Adam Gase. Orton, already 26, has never appeared in an NFL game after toiling around in arena football and on practice squads for the last few years. He has good size (6-foot-3, 199), but his speed (4.69 forty in 2009) is suspect.
Broncos TE Julius Thomas saw reps with the first-team offense during the team's mandatory three-day minicamp.
After dealing with injuries the last two years, Thomas is finally healthy and has been a standout at the Broncos' offseason program. He worked with the first-team throughout OTAs with Joel Dreessen (knee) sidelined. Thomas, 24, was active for just four games in 2012. The Denver Post expects him to compete for playing time with "move" TE Jacob Tamme in training camp.