DENVER — Between free agency and the draft, the Broncos could have new starters at right guard, running back, center, blocking tight end, two of their top three receivers, cornerback, defensive line, punter, long snapper and returner.
The team’s fortunes in 2020, however, may also be dependent on two highly-paid free agents from 2019 who didn’t work out.
Right tackle Ja’Wuan James and cornerback Bryce Callahan essentially missed last season because of injuries (James played parts of three games). Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell provided a positive update on Callahan during his Zoom media call Thursday.
“First of all, on the medical side, he’s ready to go,’’ Donatell said. “He’s running full speed. He’ll be right in our camp and ready to go.’’
The Broncos signed Callahan to a three-year contract last year even though he was coming off season-ending foot surgery with Vic Fangio’s Chicago Bears. The surgery took but when his foot was stepped on during a stadium practice last July, a screw that was holding his broken bone in place got bent, resulting in intolerable pain.
When several treatments failed, Callahan had another foot surgery in late-November. After drawing $6.5 million from the Broncos last year, Callahan accepted a pay cut to $4.75 million this year.
A nickelback in his four seasons with the Bears, Fangio and Donatell had planned on starting Callahan as an outside cornerback last year. Given Callahan is coming off a missed season, he may return nickelback this year providing third-round rookie Michael Ujemudia can show he’s ready to start opposite veteran A.J. Bouye.
Hamler to get chance at returning
KJ Hamler was a receiver and punt and kickoff returner at Penn State the past two seasons and he will get a chance to handle all three again with the Broncos. Hamler was the Broncos’ second-round draft pick in April.
“I think what he’s done in college, his production, naturally it should carry over to the NFL,’’ said Broncos special teams coordinator Tom McMahon in his Zoom call with the Denver media. “He’s got great speed. He can create his own return.
“The one thing he’s going to have to do is he’s going to have catch a bunch of NFL punts here in the preseason. There is a much different punt that you see in college (because of greater hang time), but if we get that ball in his hands, we’re going to expect big things from him both in the punt return game and in the kick return game.’’
Hamler will compete for the return job with Diontae Spencer, who did a nice job for the Broncos in his first year as NFL returner last year.
Bronco veteran players held their final Zoom team meeting of the offseason Thursday. Rookies have one more week of Zoom meetings. Training camp is scheduled to start July 28. …
McMahon has a new punter in Sam Martin, who will replace Colby Wadman, and either Jacob Bobenmoyer or Wes Farnsworth will replace long snapper Casey Kreiter.
McMahon on Martin: “I think the one thing you’re going to find with Sam is consistency. He’s very consistent. Some people would call it boring. I love boring because he does the same thing all the time so it’s easy to game plan on our end and it’s hard to game plan on the other end.’’
On his new long snappers: “What they both showed was great athleticism. They’ve got great (snap) velocity. They have great accuracy. What sets those two apart from other guys that we looked at is their ability to cover. When you have guys that are this athletic that have kind of that defensive, linebacker tape -- when you turn it on, they’re producing. That makes a big difference because now they have to block that player.”