The Broncos open rookie orientation Thursday night and hope to have all of their 2017 draft picks under contract before the first meeting. So far, four of the rookies have signed, leaving four more deals to be made in the coming hours.
Rookie NFL salaries are non-negotiable. Each draft pick is given a four-year contract worth a set value based on where he was selected in the draft. First-round picks also include a team option in the fifth year.
Seventh-round quarterback Chad Kelly signed a $2.46 million contract, including a $64,000 signing bonus, Wednesday morning. Injuries and off-the-field incidents plagued Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, in college. After rupturing a ligament in his throwing wrist in early April, Kelly isn’t expected to throw a football until mid-July. Six months ago, the prototype quarterback tore his ACL and meniscus in a win over Georgia Southern.
Kelly’s injury history is troubling, but his character may be the Broncos’ true concern. Kelly says he turned a corner, but words aren’t nearly as impactful as actions. The four-star recruit was released from Clemson University after displaying “a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” head coach Dabo Swinney said.
After leaving Clemson, Kelly lead East Mississippi Community College to a junior college national championship, before signing with Ole Miss as a junior. Kelly posted a 155.9 passer rating in 13 games as a junior and a 147.4 rating in nine games as a senior. A perfect passer rating is 158.3. Kelly also ran for 15 touchdowns in his two seasons as a Rebel.
Kelly’s stats at Ole Miss were staggering, and game film backs up the hype, but personal troubles followed him. Examples of Kelly’s immaturity include telling a bouncer he was going to shoot up a club with the AK-47 he had in his car and leaving the stands at a high school football game to defend his brother in an on-field brawl.
Kelly has the potential to become a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, but he needs to clean up his attitude if starting in the NFL is to be more than a pipe dream.
Sixth-round running back De’Angelo Henderson received a $145,000 signing bonus as part of his $2.55 million deal. Henderson projects as a mix between Broncos C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. Henderson’s agility and lower-body strength give him the rare ability to run both over and around defenders. He dominated his competition, posting per-carry averages of over six yards in four straight seasons, including a 1534-yard, 20-touchdown sophomore campaign.
The catch: Henderson played his entire career at FCS Coastal Carolina and barely fits 200 pounds on his 5-foot-6 frame.
Henderson was undeniably dominant at the FCS level, but there is certainly no guarantee his skills will translate to the NFL. With C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles all in the Broncos’ running back room, Henderson will have a tough path to the field, but plenty of experienced mentors to learn from.
Fifth-round wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie signed a $2.64 million contract with a $236,000 bonus. The shifty wideout will likely compete immediately with fellow rookies Brendan Langley and Carlos Henderson for punt return duties in Denver. Similar to De’Angelo Henderson, the primary concern surrounding McKenzie is his slight build. At 5-foot-7 and 173 pounds, McKenzie is six inches shorter and 90 pounds lighter than the average NFL player.
If his body can hold up against NFL defenders, McKenzie could provide the juice that Denver’s offense has been searching for. McKenzie has the type of vertical and horizontal speed that offensive coordinators dream of. His ability to evade and outrun defenders could make him a Tyreek Hill-esque player in the NFL, if everything pans out.
The Broncos’ first section in the 2017 NFL Draft, tackle Garett Bolles, signed a deal worth over $11 million, Thursday morning. The contract also includes a signing bonus of over $6 million and a fifth-year option. Bolles is expected to be penciled in as the Broncos’ day-one starting left tackle.
Bolles’ winding path to Denver led him through a second family, a Mormon mission, a junior college and eventually the University of Utah where he was named first-team All-Pac 12 as a senior.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman was the most athletic tackle in the draft. Bolles boasts quick feet and the nasty edge that was missing from the Broncos’ offensive line last season. Bolles has the potential to lock down the left tackle spot in Denver for the next 10 years, but his lack of experience at age 25 is concerning. If Bolles can fill out his frame and refine his technique, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be one of the game’s elite tackles for the foreseeable future.
Four Broncos draft picks are yet to sign their first NFL contract, but no hitches in the negotiations have been reported, and all are expected to sign by Thursday evening.