ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — All along, the Broncos hoped to re-sign backup nickelback Essang Bassey but it took some maneuvering.
First, they had to non-tender him as a restricted free agency because $2.63 million is simply considered too rich for fourth-year backups. But by doing so, the Broncos allowed Bassey to test the free market, where besides Denver he found Jacksonville and one other team strongly interested in signing him.
Bassey appeared headed for Jacksonville but when the Jaguars re-signed cornerback Tre Herndon on Saturday morning, Bassey decided later that day that staying put with the Broncos was his best option.
The Broncos and Bassey were finishing up a one-year deal Saturday evening, according to a source.
Bassey, who is still only 24, was one of the Broncos' most pleasant surprises in 2020 as he not only made the season-opening roster as an undrafted rookie from Wake Forest, he soon became their No. 1 nickelback. His fine season came to an unfortunate halt, however, during an early December game at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium when he collapsed in the end zone with a torn ACL.
Because the injury occurred so late in the 2020 season, he missed almost all of 2021 before getting in for 11 defensive snaps in the second-to-last game. While Bassey was recovering in 2021, he became involved in a waiver claim tug-of-war between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Broncos as Chargers' defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill was the Broncos' defensive backs coach in 2020.
The Chargers finally surrendered and Bassey bounced back with the Broncos last year to play in 14 games, including 21 percent of the defensive snaps as a No. 4 corner/backup nickel to K'Waun Williams and regular special teamer.
Bassey follows backup safety P.J. Locke as Broncos' non-tendered restricted free agents who returned to the team.
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