ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are getting some healthy bodies back at cornerback as they try to win their final two games and avoid the franchise’s first back-to-back losing seasons in 48 years.
With Denver out of playoff contention and facing a slew of injuries at the position, the Broncos placed star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on injured reserve and signed free agent Craig Mager, who was released by the Chargers earlier this season.
Harris sustained a chip fracture in his lower right leg two weeks ago and was hoping to return for the Broncos’ final game, Dec. 30 against the Chargers, but that was only if Denver remained in playoff contention.
The Broncos (6-8) were eliminated last weekend when they lost 17-16 to the Browns.
The Broncos also expect to get Brendan Langley and Isaac Yiadom back from concussions when they visit Oakland (3-11) on Christmas Eve, and they’ll have Bradley Roby back.
Roby required five stitches last week after lacerating his chin tackling Nick Chubb.
“I could put my tongue through my face, so it was crazy,” Roby said Wednesday. “I’d never seen anything like that. And I was spitting up a lot of blood. It was one of those freak accidents. It’s football. I signed up for it. So, stitched it back up and get back out there.”
They’ll also have cornerback Jamar Taylor back. His ejection last weekend left them with only one healthy cornerback in Tremaine Brock, and Cleveland scored its game-winning TD with safeties Justin Simmons and Dymonte Harris forced into route coverage in the fourth quarter.
Mager was a third-round pick from Texas State in 2015 who played in 24 career games, 10 starts, with one interception for the Chargers before he was released with an injury settlement in September.
“He’s got some physical tools we like. He’s a pretty good (special) teams player,” coach Vance Joseph said. “He was actually in the mix to start for the Chargers before having a major hamstring injury. So, we’ll see. It’s just one more good, young corner that we’ve added to the mix.”
Harris, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate this week, moved into the No. 1 cornerback role following Aqib Talib’s trade to the Rams last spring and had another spectacular season before getting hurt two weeks ago.
“He had a great year,” Joseph said. “Obviously, his role changed with Aqib leaving, I mean, he was the No. 1 guy all year. Toward the end of the season, he matched the best receiver each week. But he had a great year, leading and playing good football. We’ve missed him, obviously. He’s a great player.”
For the first time this season, Roby said he hopes the Broncos re-sign him in the offseason. Roby, who’s making $8.536 million this season, struggled early on in moving from nickel back to starter but came on strong as the season went along.
“I want to be here. This is the team that drafted me,” Roby said. “I bought a house here. I love the organization. Why would I want to go anywhere else?”
If the Broncos move on, they’re likely to target cornerback in the first or second round of next year’s draft.
So, Roby has two more weeks to state his case, beginning with what could be the last NFL game in Oakland.
“It’s going to be live out there,” Roby said. “The fans are going to be into it.
They’re always into it, especially when they play us. It being Monday night, last game there, I’m sure it’s going to be like a playoff game.”
The city of Oakland recently sued the Raiders and the NFL in federal court, asking for damages that will help pay off the approximately $80 million in debt remaining from renovations on the Coliseum. The antitrust lawsuit could push the Raiders to play somewhere else next season before they move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Roby, for one, isn’t melancholy about never having to play on the stadium’s dirt baseball infield again.
“I hate playing there. Their field is terrible. I’m glad they’re moving,” Roby said. “I’m not sad to see them go at all.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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