Not only did the Denver Broncos lose the game yesterday, but they also lost their starting running back, Javonte Williams, to an ACL tear. Denver announced that the 22-year-old is set to miss the remainder of the season. It’s a big blow to their offense, which has already struggled, averaging just 16.5 points per game under first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett.
While they do have two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon on hand, who still receives a fair amount of touches, at 29 years old, he’s no longer a big threat to break open the game. Sure, Gordon is naturally set to step back into the starting role, but it wouldn’t shock anyone to see the Broncos make a roster move to add another option in the backfield. Here are three potential one-year replacements for Javonte Williams.
Mike Boone finally gets a shot in Denver
Aside from Melvin Gordon, the most obvious option to pick up some of the available touches is third-string running back Mike Boone. He originally signed with Denver over the 2021 offseason, which is the same year Javonte Williams was selected in the second round. Obviously Boone didn’t know the team would select a new future starter just a month after he signed his contract, but that’s life sometimes. Initially, it appeared Boone would be joining the team as a handcuff to Gordon, but he’s spent the past two years as the third running back on the Denver depth chart instead.
But Boone has flashed an ability to break tackles while displaying some burst in the past, namely during his Minnesota Vikings tenure, when the fifth-year pro went off for 148 yards on 17 attempts against the Chicago Bears in 2019. It’s his best effort to date by far, but to be fair, the Broncos haven’t given him any chances, as Boone’s career high in touches since joining Denver sits at six, which came this past week. He may not be the most exciting option out there, but the Broncos would be wise to see what they have with the player already on their roster before trying to swing a trade.
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Broncos swing a trade with division rivals
Another affordable option could include picking up the phone to discuss a trade with an AFC West division rival. Ronald Jones signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent, but it was just a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Some thought the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers back would get let go when rosters got cut down to 53, but he remains in Kansas City after four weeks.
While his name is still listed on the roster, you wouldn’t know it when watching their games this season. Jones has been a weekly inactive and obviously has not played a snap yet this season. He’s not in their current plans, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon have a stronghold on the reps so far.
But Jones is a former second-round pick himself, and at 25 years old, he still has plenty of tread on his tires. Considering Jones averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the way to a 978-yard effort in 2020 and then still managed 4.2 yards per tote last season in a reduced role, he can definitely help the Broncos and many other teams. Trading for Jones, if the Chiefs even consider helping their division rivals, would likely cost a late-round selection like a sixth-or-seventh-round pick.
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Denver Broncos trade for Alexander Mattison
If the Broncos are serious about competing in a tough AFC West this season, they’ll want to add to the running back room. It might even make them desperate to do so. One option that may linger is tapping back into the Minnesota tailback pipeline. The backup to Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison could likely be had for the right price. While Cook did recently dislocate his shoulder once again, he’s toughing it out and isn’t expected to miss any action.
The Vikings have a strong stable of backs, and Mattison is in the final year of his contract, which could make him more appealing to the Broncos, whose future is clearly tied to Javonte Williams. Mattison gives them a one-year rental, and maybe they want to keep him in a timeshare next season. Either way, he’d likely cost a fifth-round pick, as Minnesota won’t want to give him away. Mattison is valuable to them too, and they know with him set to likely land a bigger role as a free agent, they’ll receive a compensatory pick in the following offseason, so they’re not quite as desperate as Denver may be.
Mattison has a career average of 4.2 yards per carry, and he’s proven to be capable as a pass-catcher as well, meaning Denver’s offense wouldn’t have to change much to work him in.
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