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Broncos add veteran Samaje Perine to backfield

Former Bengals reserve brings versatility to offense
Bengals Chiefs Football
Posted at 4:07 PM, Mar 14, 2023

DENVER — An old injury and versatility motivated the Broncos to add a veteran running back on Tuesday, their seventh addition since the free agent legal tampering window opened this week.

According to a source, the Broncos have agreed in principle on a two-year, $7.5-million deal with the Bengals' Samaje Perine.

As Joe Mixon's backup last season, Perine rushed for 394 yards and two touchdowns on 4.1 yards per carry, and, perhaps more salient, caught 38 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns.

In coach Sean Payton's 16 seasons, his offenses featured a 1,000-yard rusher only three times — 2006, 2017-18 — but often boasted a receiving threat out of the backfield from Reggie Bush to Darren Sproles and Alvin Kamara.

Perine provides protection if standout third-year pro Javonte Williams needs longer to recover from a torn ACL suffered on Oct. 2 at Las Vegas. The hope is that he will be ready for the season opener, but his status remains uncertain. Williams told Denver7 last month that he has "cleared every hurdle" so far and continues his rehab at UCHealth Training Center this offseason.

Williams was poised for a big season before his injury as Melvin Gordon lost his way with fumbles. Eventually Gordon was cut and Latavius Murray became the workhorse, rushing for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Given the modest nature of Perine's contract, there remains space to bring Murray back as a reserve and leader in the locker room. Murray, 33, texted Payton last December, hoping he would he take the Broncos job.

Perine, 27, starred at Oklahoma before Washington drafted him in the fourth round in 2017. He has played in 46 games for Washington, Miami and Cincinnati, logging 16 starts.

For the Bengals, Perine emerged as a reliable third-down weapon and trusted blocker in pass protection. And in a stat that cannot be overstated after the last three years in Denver, Perine has not fumbled in five seasons.

The Broncos have added eight players over the past two days, doling out roughly $55 million in signing bonus money to right tackle Mike McGlinchey, left guard Ben Powers, defensive end Zach Allen, linebacker Alex Singleton, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, tight end Chris Mahertz, fullback Michael Burton and Perine.

Even with the Perine signing, the Broncos have salary cap space remaining of around $6 million to $7 million.

Fully loaded
The latest indication that the Broncos play to run the ball and run it well arrived Tuesday night. Denver agreed to a one-year deal with free agent fullback Mike Burton. Burton will enter his ninth season in the league. He played the past two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl ring in February. The Burton signing continues two notable trends this offseason. He is the latest player with ties to the Saints, having played for New Orleans in 2020. And he has playoff experience, same as McGlinchey, Powers, Allen, Perine and Manhertz.

Wide open places
According to multiple reports, the Broncos were one of the teams pursuing free agent receiver Allen Lazard before he agreed to a deal with the Jets. It drives home the point that the Broncos are open to trading Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy. Multiple industry sources said at the combine that Denver was taking calls on the two players, but not shopping them. It bears watching as Payton continues reshaping the roster.

Broncos tackle Calvin Anderson signed a two-year deal with the Patriots. ... Denver waived receivers Freddie Swain and Victor Bolden.