With Tuesday’s cutdown deadline for each NFL team to reduce their 90-man offseason rosters to a 75-player limit, the Denver Broncos status for the Return position is up in the air.
The heir apparent to Trindon Holliday looked like Wide Receiver Jordan Norwood, but those plans were laid waste when the young CFA tore his anterior cruciate ligament going up for a pass in practice last week. To make matters worse, Wes Welker, who was to field punts near the end zone because of his sure-handedness, suffered a concussion in Saturday’s game against the Texans. Welker had two concussions last season, the last one came in Week 11 against the Chiefs, which forced him to sit out three games.
Welker’s uncertainty thrusts Andre Caldwell into a possible role. Bubba is already in the rotation as a Kick returner and he also will step into a primary role at Wide Receiver. Isaiah Burse, who originally was tabbed to be the Return man and 6th Wide Receiver hasn’t actually been the clear-cut candidate. He had 4 punt Returns for 26 yards, an underwhelming 6.5 average with a long of 16 yards. For the preseason, Burse has returned 6 Punts for a 6.2 average and two Kickoffs for a 14 yard average.
Yeah, I’m sure John Elway isn’t satisfied with that either.
Fortunately there are a couple of options that recently cropped up. The Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s just cut Returner Eric Page, who was slated as the Broncos return man in 2012, but after tearing his ACL, the team released him on July 25th, days before their 2012 Training Camp. Page signed with the Buccaneers last April and he returned 23 punts for 251 yards (10.9) and 22 kickoffs for 548 yards (24.9). Eric also had 3 fumbles, 2 of which, were on kick returns. Compared to Trindon Holliday, who had averages of 27.7 on kickoffs and 8.5 on punts, including 10 Fumbles and 4 TDs in 2 regular seasons and I think we can see that Page would be a good addition. As a junior in 2011, Page caught 112 passes for the University of Toledo and was named to the All-MAC first team at three positions: Wide Receiver, as a Kick Returner and Punt Returner. So the kid can catch the ball too.
Another available player at the present time, is Jacoby Ford, the former Raider Wide Receiver, most recently let go from the New York Jets. In 2013, Ford returned 11 kickoffs for a 23.0 yard average and 9 punts for an 8.6 average. Last season was the first year that Jacoby fielded punts, but for his career, he has a 25.0 average on kickoffs. As a player with 4 years experience, Jacoby’s league minimum salary would cost a little more than Page. But not an unwarranted amount. The Broncos can afford to sign a 10 year veteran at minimum salary at this point.
The third player available is notable veteran Josh Cribbs, who last played for the Jets. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins and was placed on Injured Reserve on December 3, 2013. His resume pretty much speaks for itself.
- Most career Kick Return Touchdowns: 8 (tied with Leon Washington)
- Two Kick Return Touchdowns of 100 yards or more in a single game (tied with Ted Ginn Jr.)
- Most Kickoff Return Touchdowns in a single game: 2 (tied with 9 others)
Browns franchise records
- Most career Kickoff Return yards (8,837)
- Most career combined Kickoff and Punt Return yards (10,534)
- Most career All-purpose yards (12,343)
- Most Kickoff Return yards in a single season: 1,809 (2007)
- Most Kickoff Return Touchdowns in a single season: 3 (2009)
- Most All-purpose yards in a single season: 2,510 (2009)
- Most career combined Kickoff and Punt Return Touchdowns (11)
- Returned 203 career Punts for an 11.1 average
- Returned 407 career Kickoffs for a 25.8 average.
The 9-year veteran is also a 3-Time Pro Bowler (2007, 2009, 2012), a 2-Time 1st Team All-Pro (2007, 2009) and the NFL Alumni Special Teams Player of the Year (2009).
At age 31, perhaps he has lost a step, but Cribbs is still effective. In 2013, he returned 20 Kickoffs for a 24.5 yard average and 8 Punts for a 12.0 yard average.
I’m sure there will be a few other options arising via the waiver wire in the next week, since the final 53 will need to be completed by August 30th. Meanwhile, you can track the roster cuts here: Player cuts for all 32 NFL teams.
Those are my three choices. What are yours?
– Kaptain Kirk