ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos rookie linebacker Baron Browning is about to go from the bank to the training room.
A third-round rookie from Ohio State, Browning and the Broncos reached agreement on a four-year contract Thursday that will include an $840,616 signing bonus. However, he will start training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list because of a knee injury suffered during rookie minicamp in mid-May.
With another third-round selection, guard-center Quinn Meinerz reaching agreement on his four-year deal Wednesday, the Broncos have only second-round running back Javonte Williams left unsigned among their 10 rookie draft picks. Williams and the Broncos are close to an agreement that will include a $3,807,820 signing bonus. It would be a surprise if Williams’ contract is not completed by Saturday, when Broncos’ rookies and quarterbacks report to training camp.
Browning will report but not participate. He is an athletic freak, a 5-star recruit out of high school who has elite speed and explosion for a linebacker-sized player. He played four years, without a redshirt, for the perennial national championship-contending Ohio State Buckeyes and graduated with degree in communications. His natural position is at edge rusher, but the Broncos drafted him with hopes he could make it at inside linebacker, where coach Vic Fangio has been desperately seeking speed.
Browning was playing inside linebacker during his first two days of the Broncos’ rookie minicamp but the knee injury forced him to miss the entire OTA-mandatory minicamp portion of the offseason. Initially, there was hope he would be ready for the start of training camp but he suffered a minor setback in recent weeks and needs more time.
The Broncos are also looking for a No. 4 outside linebacker to back up Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed so perhaps because Browning missed valuable developmental time at inside linebacker, he could catch up quicker by returning to his more natural outside position.
"He’s got versatility. Sometimes his versatility has hurt him a little bit in his development," Fangio said after the Broncos selected Browning on April 30. "We’ll figure out where we’re going to put him first and see how he does there then make a final decision at some point. We like his speed, like his athleticism. We think he will be a major contributor on special teams and compete for one of the linebacker spots."
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