CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos attempted to move up twice in the draft 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.
Unable to pull off those deals, the Broncos shifted their focus to free agent Jamaal Charles on Tuesday. He met with Broncos officials -- players told Denver7 they saw him at the facility -- and talked about his potential fit in an offense seeking to diversify its backfield. The expectation remains the Broncos will sign Charles if he passes a physical. Any contract would represent a low-risk, high-reward deal with minimal guaranteed money with incentives to boost the package.
The Saints recently signed veteran Adrian Peterson to a two-year, $7 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed. Charles would receive less guaranteed money.
Medical clearance is an important part given Charles' age (30) and previous knee injuries. He played in only eight of the Kansas City Chiefs' last 32 games after tearing his right ACL in 2015. 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.
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."
The Broncos don't see Charles as an everydown back. C.J. Anderson sits atop the depth chart followed by Devontae Booker. Anderson is returning from a torn meniscus, which ended his season on Oct. 24. He is working back into shape and said last week he is close to 100 percent. Booker underwent two meniscus procedures in the months prior the Broncos drafting him in 2016. He was able to use this offseason to get stronger rather than rehab his leg.
When healthy, Charles ranked as one of the NFL's most reliable backs. A third-round pick in 2008, Charles became the Chiefs' all-time leading rusher, compiling 7,260 yards in nine seasons. He added 2,457 yards receiving, producing four Pro Bowl berths and career-best 19 touchdowns in 2013.
The Broncos represent a potential soft landing spot for the type of back new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has shown he can exploit schematically. In Woodhead's two seasons without major injuries with McCoy in San Diego, he hauled in 76 passes in 2013 and 80 in 2015 with six total touchdowns.
Multiple Broncos players said they would welcome Charles' addition. They know first hand the damage he can do. In 13 career games against the Broncos, Charles has posted a combined 1,175 yards rushing and receiving with seven touchdowns.