I stared out the window trying to think of a kinder way to say this while still getting my point across, but screw it: Jamaal Charles is practically worthless as a professional football player.
I did write “practically” rather than “totally,” because pro athletes are odds-defying freaks and there’s a slim chance that Charles suddenly dominates the NFL again in 2017 despite the fact he’s carried the ball just 83 times the last two years and is on the wrong side of 30.
To be clear, there aren’t many jobs in America in which you’re worse off as a 30-year-old than NFL running back. Charles is an American Apparel model. And it would be one thing if he were a late bloomer coming off a strong season or two with the Kansas City Chiefs. But this is a man who tore his right ACL in 2015, underwent meniscus surgery on the same knee in 2016 and had arthroscopic surgery on his other knee a few weeks later. He originally tore that ACL in 2011, which explains why he’s received fewer than 100 carries in three of his last six seasons.
Those seeing a half-full glass will argue that Charles still has plenty of tread on his tires as a result, but that’s not exactly how it works. A tire with full tread is still worthless if it’s been blown to bits.
That’s why it took this long for Charles to find a new job, despite the fact he’s a four-time Pro Bowler with five 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. It’s why his new contract with the Denver Broncos pays him just above the league minimum with no apparent guarantees, despite the fact he was a fantasy football sweetheart between 2009 and 2014.
He hasn’t been the same since, though, and that’s like a millennium in NFL running back terms. The money and the terms indicate that the Broncos realize he might not be capable of usurping presumed top backs C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker on the depth chart. This offseason, Denver also added veteran Bernard Pierce and sixth-round rookie De’Angelo Henderson.
Charles could have trouble making the final roster, let alone earning regular-season reps.
I’m rooting for Charles, because he’s been fun to watch and he seems like a good guy. But Broncos fans had better not be expecting the first-team All-Pro who averaged 5.0 yards per carry, scored 19 touchdowns and accumulated 1,980 yards from scrimmage in 2013. A fully healthy return for Charles would be a great boon to the Denver Broncos this season, as the NFL experts have pegged the regular season Over/Under for Denver at only 8.5 wins.
A lot has changed since then, and Jamaal Charles has spent most of that time aging, rehabbing and watching idly.
You’ve been warned, Broncos fans and fantasy football poolies.