DENVER — Motivated to prove critics wrong and possibly exact a slight measure of revenge on his former team, running back Jamaal Charles signed a one-year deal with the Broncos on Tuesday.
After passing a physical -- the key to moving forward -- the Broncos and Charles agreed to a low-risk, potentially high-reward deal that can max out at $3.75 million if he triggers incentives. Charles will not be counted on to be the primary back. He is viewed, at least initially, as a complementary weapon to C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker.
At 30 years old and with only eight games on his resume the past two seasons, Charles brings a chip on his shoulder.
"It's not about money. It's about proving people wrong. I see things other people don't see (when they look at Charles' career). I see things I want to do," Charles said Tuesday on a conference call. "I believe I still play and keep up with the young guys. They say it's a business, but it's personal as well (after being released by the Chiefs). It is what is."
Charles is a welcome addition to the Broncos, who struggled to get their running game going last season. Put simply, it disappeared after Anderson tore meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 24.
"We're thrilled we won't have to play against him!" General Manager John Elway wrote on Twitter.
Although Elway is optimistic, Charles must reverse a career decline. In 2016 he rushed for 40 yards on 12 attempts. His production in 2015 was similarly lacking, with 364 yards in 71 carries. Charles became a realistic option after the draft.
The Broncos attempted to move up twice last week in pursuit of a running back. They pushed once in the first round for Christian McCaffrey -- even snaring Cleveland's No. 12 pick would not have accomplished the goal -- and again on the second day for a versatile back, though not Joe Mixon. Charles brings strong acumen in the passing game, and admitted offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's scheme fits his skill set.
"I run screens really well, being patient, running routes out the backfield. That’s kind of been a part of my game the last couple years. I like McCoy, and what he did in San Diego and now being back with the Broncos. I’ve seen what his vision is and I see what my vision is—to help the team out of the backfield and catch the ball," Charles said. "That is what my job is.”
Unable to pull off draft deals, the Broncos shifted their focus to Charles on Tuesday. Medical clearance was an important part given Charles' age (30) and previous knee injuries. Charles returned last season, but swelling in his knee forced him to the sidelines after three games. He tore his left ACL in 2011, rehab which has helped him navigate his current long recovery.
"I wasn’t ready last year. I just went in and got it cleaned up," said Charles, insisting he didn't sustain more damage. "I love C.J. Anderson. He's strong, explosive and fast. I just want to come in and help this team."
Charles has posted workout videos on social media showing his athleticism and progress from his last injury. But running in shorts is much different, as Charles learned last season, than playing in games and absorbing vicious tackles.
Monday, Broncos coach Vance Joseph talked optimistically about Charles on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
"Obviously, he's been a top-five, top-10 back the last four, five years he's been healthy," Joseph said. "He provides explosion. He provides big-play ability. So if he's right (with his knee) and it fits for us (with contract), we will make it happen."
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) May 2, 2017
The #Broncos have struck a deal with RB Jamaal Charles for 1 year, up to $3.75M, source said
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 2, 2017
Excited to have Jamaal Charles join the Broncos. A great addition to our backfield, and we're thrilled we won't have to play against him!
— John Elway (@johnelway) May 2, 2017