ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Early on the morning of May 12, a Broncos contingent boarded a private plane at Centennial Airport and flew to Omaha for the funeral of Kathy Fant, the mom of seven children.
Her fifth child was Noah Fant, the Broncos’ rising star tight end. Kathy Fant was 53 when she unexpectantly passed away.
The flight was arranged by Broncos chief communications officer Patrick Smyth with team president Joe Ellis’s approval. Making the day-trip to Omaha to support Fant were Broncos general manager George Paton, head coach Vic Fangio, director of player development Ray Jackson, tight ends coach Wade Harmon, quarterback Drew Lock and outside linebacker Von Miller.
Five days later, Fant was at the first day of the Broncos’ Phase II workouts where Miller was there to welcome him.
On May 24, 12 days after he personally delivered his condolences to his grieving teammate, Miller veered off from his response to a question about new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to share his feelings about the Broncos’ starting tight end
“Noah Fant is my favorite guy on the team,’’ Miller said in a Zoom press conference last Monday following the Broncos’ first organized team activity (OTA) practice. “I want to tell all you guys that. Noah Fant, I’m super excited about this guy. He’s buff, he’s strong. I think he’s going into Year 3 now and he just looks like a beast.’’
Fant, 23, has been an impact player in several games through his first two seasons, recording 102 catches overall for 1,235 yards and six touchdowns. But the sense is that Fant’s better years are to come.
Miller’s sentiments about Fant may have come from what he had seen through five offseason practices. And maybe the bond between the teammates – an offensive and defensive player – was strengthened when Miller was there to console his teammate during a difficult time.
“I think we've become closer over my span here,’’ Fant said in his Zoom presser on Thursday. “I just want to maximize my potential on the field and be that household name that he is for the Broncos. Help lead a team and do all those things that he's so great at. Following in his footsteps in that aspect is something that would be very beneficial to me and the team. I'm definitely excited that he sees something in me. It's my job to take that and keep grinding and push harder because I have to prove it on the field.”
Rodgers cap relief is here
The Broncos don’t expect a phone call from the Green Bay Packers this week just because the Pack would receive a combined $48.35 million in combined 2021 and 2022 cap relief by trading their disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers post-June 1.
There have been no preliminary calls between the Broncos and Packers leading up to the June 1 designation, at least not since the Broncos checked in on Day 1 of the NFL Draft on April 29, only to be told Rodgers was not available. The Pack’s position of clinging to their irreplaceable quarterback figures to continue on for a while.
The Broncos, meanwhile, continue on in getting Lock and Bridgewater ready for their offseason QB competition that won’t get serious until next week when Fangio holds his first 11-on-11 team practices.
National and local reporters have made educated guesses on the type of trade package the Broncos would have to surrender to get Rodgers. Most agree it would take Denver’s 2022 first- and second-round draft picks, plus a 2023 first-round pick.
As for players, from the Packers’ perspective the youth and upside of Lock, and second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy would have to be considered the Broncos’ most valuable trade commodities.
Bradley Chubb is oft-mentioned but the edge rusher is coming off ankle surgery and will make $17.1 million over the next two years, then hit free agency in 2023. Jeudy’s first-round, $8.6 million signing bonus was paid last year and he is at least three years away from free agency while drawing a team-friendly $5.97 million combined until then.
The most trade-valued player in the NFL is a first-round draft pick going into year two while coming off a good rookie year. Other than a superstar quarterback, of course. That’s the problem for the Packers. No matter what kind of haul they get in trade, it won’t equal the loss of Rodgers.
Cooper receives partial medical clearance
Jonathon Cooper, the Broncos' rookie linebacker from Ohio State who had a heart ablation procedure four days after the NFL Draft to fix a rapid heartbeat, was cleared by doctors to travel and arrived Monday night in Denver.
It figures to be a gradual process before Cooper gets on the practice field, but the hope is the 7th-round draft pick will be cleared by training camp.
Broncos doctors have been in consult with Cooper's doctors about his heartbeat issue that first surfaced during his freshman year in high school and reappeared during a EKG exam taken two days before the NFL Draft that ran from April 29-May 1. In between, Cooper played three years of high school football and five years at Ohio State (he received a medical redshirt after four games in his first senior year because of an ankle injury).
Providing Cooper passes his Broncos physical this week, he is expected to sign a four-year contract that will include a $100,672 signing bonus and injury protection salary splits.