By Zack Kelberman
(247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos made a roster move ahead of their exhibition opener.
As first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, the team on Saturday claimed offensive tackle Austin Fleer off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic confirmed the claim, which will become official Sunday.
The Broncos will need to make a corresponding roster move as they currently sit at the 90-player limit.
A native of Aurora and product of small local school Colorado Mesa University, Fleer is a massive (6-foot-7, 305 pounds) lineman who appeared in 37 games, starting 32, mostly at left tackle. He earned Division II All-American honors and first-team RMAC honors over the course of his collegiate career.
With 11-inch hands and a 35-inch reach, Fleer impressed many of the 48 NFL scouts at his March Pro Day. Among those in attendance? Broncos general manager John Elway, director of player personnel Matt Russell and head coach Vance Joseph.
“You watch a guy like that walk by (Broncos coach) Vance Joseph and (general manager) John Elway, and watch their heads turn and watch them light up, and you know Austin has a shot,” Fleer’s trainer, Nick Vinson, told the Denver Post.
“Honestly, I think his All-American awards helped him with that pro day invite,” Vinson said. “His weight and size and accolades are what got him there, but walking into that facility and seeing Matt Russell light up like a Christmas tree when he saw him, I think that helped.”
Fleer wasn’t selected in this year’s NFL draft but earned an undrafted free agent contract from the Bengals. He participated in much of their offseason program, including Organized Team Activities and minicamp practices. The Bengals waived him on Friday.
Because he’s joining Denver after their first preseason game, Fleer faces an uphill battle to stick on the roster. The club boasts both veteran (Menelik Watson, Billy Turner, Cyrus Kouandjio) and young (Elijah Wilkinson, Leon Johnson, Jeremiah Poutasi, Andreas Knappe) OT prospects behind locked-in starters Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer — all of whom are already familiar with the scheme.