Free agent running back Jamaal Charles has agreed to sign with the Denver Broncos, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. It’s just the second team of his career after he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this offseason, and he’ll go to one of Kansas City’s division rivals.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the deal is for one year, and up to $3.75 million.
The veteran back sounded confident in his abilities to still get after it. “I still feel like I can play ball and still keep up with the young people,” he said via James Palmer.
He also sounded anxious to get after it against his old team.
Charles met with the Broncos on May 2, and should be a good fit with the team. He won’t see a heavy workload with Devontae Booker and C.J. Anderson already in the backfield. He’s shown his versatility when healthy, and is a low-risk, high reward signing for Vance Joseph’s team.
John Elway was happy about the signing, too:
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
One of Charles’ new mates in the backfield, C.J. Anderson, was one of the first to welcome him:
Others, like Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward also joined in:
Charles, at age 30 and coming off multiple knee injuries, is still a quality player. Whether his age and durability issues become a problem for the four-time Pro Bowl back remains to be seen, but players as talented as Charles don’t come around too often.
Kansas City’s all-time leading rusher, Charles only handled 12 carries last season. The veteran appeared ready to make a full-time return late in the season, only to discover there was a problem with his surgically repaired knee. Charles has only played eight games in the past two seasons due to injuries, and he also missed 14 games in 2011 after suffering his first torn ACL.
The veteran running back has quietly become one of the best runners in NFL history, accumulating 10,963 all-purpose yards in nine career seasons. Charles’ 7,260 rushing yards ranks first in Chiefs’ history, No. 59 in NFL history, and No. 8 among active backs (seventh if you don’t count Steven Jackson, who did not play in 2016).
Most impressively, Charles’ 5.5 yards per attempt ranks best in NFL history among all running backs, post-merger. For perspective, the next-best active back in this regard — Adrian Peterson — has averaged 4.9 yards per carry on his career, more than half a yard behind Charles’ career average.
Charles garnered first team All-Pro consideration in 2010 and 2013, and he gained second team consideration in 2012. As mentioned, the four-time Pro Bowler — even considering his age and injury history — can be a difference-maker. It will take Charles fully recovering from his previous meniscus injury, but that seems probable, considering the Chiefs were at one point thinking about bringing him back late in the 2016 season.
Charles will look to make a late-career impact with the Broncos in a way that’s similar to veterans like Justin Forsett, DeAngelo Williams, and Chris Johnson have done in recent history. If Charles can put together a few more good seasons, a Hall of Fame bid could become a legitimate reality for the former Chiefs star.