ENGLEWOOD – John Elway cut ties with his biggest draft bust Sunday when he waived quarterback Paxton Lynch less than 24 hours after including him on the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster.
In another move, the Broncos placed safety Su’a Cravens on IR with an injured left knee and re-signed Isaiah McKenzie, the speedy returner/receiver who was among the team’s cuts a day earlier.
Lynch was jettisoned after the Broncos were awarded fellow third-year quarterback Kevin Hogan off waivers from Washington.
Elway said he and coach Vance Joseph “met with Paxton this morning and informed him that it’s best for everyone to make this move. We appreciate all of Paxton’s hard work as a Bronco, and we wish him well in the future.”
Elway once viewed the athletic but raw Lynch as a future franchise quarterback, moving up in the 2016 NFL draft to select the University of Memphis star with the 26th overall pick in the first round.
That move came in the shadows of Denver’s Super Bowl 50 win and shortly after Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure.
Elway acknowledged at the time that Lynch was a project who needed some seasoning but he expressed hope that Lynch might be a quick study.
Twice, seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian handily beat out Lynch in protracted competitions for the starting QB job.
When Case Keenum was signed in March, Elway sent Siemian to the Minnesota Vikings, clearing the way for Lynch to serve as the No. 2 quarterback. All he had to do was fend off Chad Kelly, another seventh-rounder.
He couldn’t .
Kelly had a terrific offseason while Lynch regressed this summer before completing 14 of 15 passes against third-stringers in the Broncos’ fourth preseason game last week at Arizona.
Lynch made the team as the third quarterback, but Elway indicated his survival on cutdown day was more a function of Kelly’s inexperience after spending his rookie season on IR last year.
“With Chad not having a lot of experience and not having played in a regular season game before, we thought that we had to go with three quarterbacks,” Elway said, “and Paxton was our third.”
Less than 24 hours later, Elway found a better option.
Hogan and Lynch were both part of the 2016 draft class.
Lynch was the third QB selected overall, after Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Hogan was the 14th QB taken, by Kansas City with the 162nd overall pick in the fifth round, after setting several records at Stanford, including most career wins by a QB (36) and most rushing yards by a QB (1,249).
Both have made spot appearances in the NFL.
Lynch has played in five games with four starts, going 1-3 with four TDs and four interceptions.
In eight games, including one start, for the Cleveland Browns over the last two seasons, Hogan threw for four TDs with seven interceptions. He also has rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown in 18 attempts, a 9.8-yard average.
He was traded to Washington on April 6 and was waived by the Redskins on Saturday.
Elway and Joseph had held out hope that Lynch was just a late-bloomer, continuing to express their belief in him even as fans had soured on him.
After bypassing the deep quarterback class in this year’s draft, Elway said he still thought Lynch could be a starting NFL quarterback, insisting, “We are not kicking him to the curb.”
That thinking changed Sunday.
Cravens will miss at least half the season now that he’s on IR. He missed most of training camp and the first three preseason games with soreness in his left knee, the same one he had surgery on last year to repair a torn meniscus while he was with Washington.
The Broncos acquired him in a trade this spring.
Saturday, Elway did take a sledgehammer to his 2017 draft class, as he discharged running back De’Angelo Henderson, receiver Carlos Henderson and cornerback Brendan Langley.
The Broncos kept 10 rookies, including eight members of their much-ballyhooed 2018 draft class, plus undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay and linebacker A.J. Johnson, the former Tennessee star who missed 3½ years of football while fighting a rape case. He was acquitted in June.
Elway isn’t fretting the infusion of youth.
“I get excited,” he said. “I don’t get nervous about it.”
Among the rookies expected to make immediate impacts are Lindsay, Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Josey Jewell.
Some of the 2017 draftees’ departures were anticipated after Elway shifted his philosophy this year and drafted experience and leadership – all 10 of his picks spent four years in major college programs and were captains – instead of selecting athletic, raw prospects like the ones who dominated the 2017 class.
“Picking high in each rounds helps,” said Elway, who selected fifth after a dismal 5-11 season. “I really hope that we’re not picking nearly that high again next year.”
Henderson, a third-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2017, never played in a game for Denver. He spent last year on injured reserve and didn’t show up for training camp this year, citing personal reasons.
Like much of last year’s draft class, Langley was a project who played just one year of college ball at his position – and he went down in classification to do it – transferring from Georgia to Lamar.
The Broncos placed rookie tight end Troy Fumagalli (groin) on IR and receiver Jordan Taylor, still recovering from double hip surgery, was placed on the PUP list.
The only 2018 draftee who didn’t make the cut was Arkansas running back David Williams.