DENVER — Think of what you hate the most.
Rush-hour traffic? Flying with a head cold? A mosquito bite on your big toe?
That’s the Broncos in Kansas City. If it’s not Neil Smith ditching K.C. to win back-to-back Super Bowls with the Broncos, it’s Peyton Manning going 14-2 against the Chiefs. If it’s not Emmanuel Sanders jumping Kansas City’s ship at the 11th hour, it’s John Elway bringing Sanders to Colorado.
“Why Denver? I always wanted to play for Denver,” Chiefs great Jamaal Charles said Tuesday after signing a one-year contract to play for the Broncos.
Ouch. What would be the reverse comparison here? Von Miller retiring in New England? Charles is the most accomplished running back in Chiefs history with 7,260 career rushing yards. For reference, that would rank second with the Broncos, trailing Hall of Fame electee Terrell Davis (7,607).
Don’t you guys just love the AFC West?
“Growing up, John Elway was my favorite player,” Charles said.
As Charles joins half the state of Missouri in moving here, we are wise to remember: No matter what the otherworldly recoveries of Chris Harris Jr. and Adrian Peterson suggest, knee injuries in football are no joke. The two most tantalizing words in sports are still “when healthy.”
“I can still play. It’s not about money,” Charles said. “I want to prove people wrong.”
Those people, in this case, will have tunnel vision on Oct. 30 (at Kansas City) and Dec. 31 (at Denver). Toss in Oakland's Marshawn Lynch, and this should be fun.
No one has a clue how much, or how little, Charles will contribute to the Broncos. His is a one-year contract worth about $3.7 million, according to reports. On one hand, Charles owns the best yards-per-carry average in NFL history, 5.5, and did his most damage against the Broncos, 987 yards on 186 carries, or about 76 yards per game. On the other hand, Charles is 30 years old, not getting any younger and coming off knee surgeries that limited him to 404 yards rushing over the past two seasons combined.
What we know is the Broncos sorely need a jolt of juice into their running back room. While C.J. Anderson is listing off the various injuries that have prevented him from playing a full season and Devontae Booker struggled to rebound from a knee injury that cut short his college career, it’s worth the risk to see if Charles can offer another safety valve for Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, fueled by a former team that did the only logical thing in moving on from a running back with his injury history.
The Broncos are running with the A-B-C backfield — Anderson, Booker, Charles — and could lead the NFL in ice packs.
But on a conference call with local media soon after signing his new deal, Charles sounded like a man on a mission. Will it be difficult to play for the Broncos after nine seasons with the Chiefs?
“Nope,” said Charles, who will join Bobby Gaiters (the No. 1 pick in the 1961 AFL draft), Jeremiah Castille (who caused “The Fumble” of Earnest Byner in the 1987 AFC Championship Game) and Kenoy Kennedy (who hit people very hard) as Broncos who wore No. 28 in Denver.
And his feelings toward the franchise that released him?
“At the end of the day it’s a business, but it’s kind of personal as well,” he said.
Hold off on adding this one-time fantasy superstar to your dynasty league. While admirable and clearly sincere, Charles’ bravado won’t mean squat if those knees buckle.
The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with a leading rusher who had 863 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Here’s a hunch the Broncos front office would gather 'round for a happy dance if Charles came close to matching Ronnie Hillman's numbers.
“Excited to have Jamaal Charles join the Broncos,” Elway tweeted. “A great addition to our backfield, and we’re thrilled we won’t have to play against him!”
Twist the knife a little deeper, why don’t ya?