Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

The Broncos waived undrafted rookie tight end Dylan Leonard with an injury settlement Thursday, the team announced. Denver needed the roster spot to make the signing of linebacker Andre Smith official.

Leonard missed the last part of the offseason program with an undisclosed injury.

He signed with the team after going undrafted, getting $27,500 of his contract guaranteed, including a $5,000 signing bonus, per Chris Tomasson of the Denver Gazette.

Leonard played 453 snaps last season for Georgia Tech, with the Yellow Jackets using him mostly as a run blocker. Leonard caught only 14 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown last season.

In his five-year career, he had 41 receptions for 387 yards and a touchdown.

The Broncos are signing free agent linebacker Andre Smith, Jordan Schultz of FS1 reports.

Smith, 27, earned a contract after a tryout at the minicamp this week.

He appeared in 11 games with the Falcons last season and totaled 19 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Smith saw action on 112 defensive snaps and 211 on special teams.

Smith has played 62 games in his career with the Panthers, Bills, Titans and Falcons. Atlanta made him a seventh-round pick in 2018.

He has recorded 52 tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his six seasons.

The Broncos got a bonus day off as coach Sean Payton canceled Thursday’s scheduled minicamp practice.

Payton sent the team home after Wednesday’s session as a reward, something he didn’t do last year in his first year as the Broncos’ head coach.

He said he did not go into Wednesday’s practice planning to end the minicamp early.

“Overall, it went well,” Payton said of the offseason program, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN. “Look, this was more a byproduct of what we’ve been seeing, where we’re at. And I like where we’re at.”

The Broncos are younger than last season with the departures of Russell Wilson, Justin Simmons, Josey Jewell and Lloyd Cushenberry III. Payton cited the “enthusiasm” of his team and called this offseason “different in a good way.”

Payton himself seems rejuvenated after last season’s 8-9, non-playoff finish.

“Look, there’s probably a little bit of that first year when you’re pissing on all the trees,” Payton said. “And I’m probably guilty of that. You always talk about being present, where you’re at, where you’re feet are at . . . and I would say that happened with me quite a bit.”

Sean Payton did something Tuesday he had never done: He wore sunglasses at practice.

Payton had cataract surgery on his left eye last Thursday and will have cataract surgery on his right eye Wednesday, Mike Klis of 9News reports.

First day ever wearing sunglasses coaching,’’ Payton, 60, told Klis. “Waiting for the [Bill] Parcells phone call [to call him a wimp].”

Not wearing sunglasses explains the cataracts.

Payton revealed at his season-ending news conference that he was going to get his eyes fixed in the offseason after calling the wrong play on his play sheet once during the 2023 season.

“That was embarrassing,” Payton said on Jan. 9.

Now if only the Broncos can get their future so bright that Payton has to wear shades.

Sean Payton’s first year in his second stint as a head coach didn’t go well. It has attracted plenty of criticism of the Super Bowl-winning coach.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Payton was asked whether he has a chip on his shoulder due to the national conversation about his coaching.

“I think that I have two middle fingers,” Payton said. “I’ve gotten better with age not using them. I think it’s more — and I would say this changed for me — it’s more inward focused relative to our own team and what we’re doing. As you get older in this, you don’t waste the calories on certain things that I might’ve back in 2006, ’07, ’08.

“I don’t play a lot of video games, but you have ‘X’ amount of battery life and energy, and you try to use it where you think it’s best going to help the team. So you learn over time to not spend as much on the things you can’t control, certainly lists. If that concerned me, we wouldn’t have drafted Bo Nix where we selected him, if I was paying attention to that. That’s that ‘NFL train’ that no one knows who’s driving, and you have to pay attention to it, but you don’t want to hop on it or you just start making decisions. . . . And we still don’t know who’s driving, it’s just going. Really paying attention to your gut, your experience and what you’re seeing. Those are the things that drive me now.”

It’s the right attitude. When a team is doing well, the coach gets praised. When it isn’t, the coach gets criticized. Payton will keep getting scrutiny until the Broncos become AFC West contenders, for the first time since they won the Super Bowl to cap the 2015 season.