Sources: Broncos lose Hamilton to off-site injury

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, whom Denver was trying to trade in recent days, has suffered a torn knee ligament in a workout away from the team’s complex, team sources told ESPN.

Hamilton suffered the injury Friday morning, and had not been working out at the team’s suburban Denver facility, sources said.

Hamilton is the second Broncos player to have suffered a significant injury away from the team’s complex after tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury earlier this month. James was officially released Friday.

The Broncos were seeking to trade Hamilton, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft, over the past week and had talks with at least one team as recently as Thursday. The Broncos, given Courtland Sutton’s return from last season’s ACL tear and the depth at wide receiver overall, were expected to waive Hamilton if no trade partner could be found before they began their OTAs later this month.

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    The Broncos will begin “Phase 2” of their voluntary offseason program Monday.

    The NFL Players Association had advised players not to take part in voluntary workouts at team facilities this offseason. The Broncos players were among the first to issue a joint statement in April saying they would boycott the voluntary workouts, and the team has still had a little more than 20 veteran players working out at the facility at various times in April and May.

    James’ injury has already been a flashpoint between the NFL and the NFLPA over the “non-football injury” designation. That designation means teams are not required to pay players their full base salaries if they were injured outside of team facilities.

    The day after James was injured earlier this month, he was specifically named in a memo from the NFL’s management council to team executives and head coaches. In that memo it was outlined under the “Non-Football Injuries” designation that teams like the Broncos would have “no contractual obligation” to pay players like James who were injured away from the team facilities.

    The memo also outlined why a player’s salary would be paid if the injury had been suffered during a workout at a team’s complex. The memo also said: “Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train at a non-NFL location.”

    The NFLPA responded two days later in an email to players that said: “It was gutless to use a player’s serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.”

    The email added: “This memo is another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can.”

    James’ release Friday had a vested veteran, non-football injury, post-June 1 designation.

    The Broncos are essentially voiding $10.58 million worth of guarantees James had for the season — $10 million in base salary in addition to a 17th game check, added when the schedule was increased.

    The Broncos will carry a $13 million “dead money” charge against this year’s salary cap after James’ release. James and the NFLPA could file a grievance to try to recover some of the money he lost with the release.

    Earlier Friday, James had posted on social media that his “surgery went well,” adding: “Appreciate everyone reaching out. Always remaining positive & striving to be better than yesterday.”

    Given the Broncos were trying to trade Hamilton and were poised to waive him if they didn’t find a trade partner, his situation might be handled differently than James’ by the team as both players are likely headed for injured reserve at some point.

    Hamilton’s base salary for the 2021 season was scheduled to be $2.183 million, while James has a $10 million salary guarantee.

    Hamilton, who has struggled with drops and some confidence issues that have followed some of those drops, had 81 receptions over his first three seasons combined and five career touchdowns. He had 23 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns last season.