Broncos general manager John Elway confirmed Tuesday that veteran defensive tackle Kyle Peko has opted out of the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns.
In addition to placing Peko on the reserve/higher risk opt-out list, the Broncos placed tackle Elijah Wilkinson on the physically unable to perform list and rookie guard Netane Muti on the non-football injury list.
Wilkinson’s trip to the PUP could hinder the team’s plans to have him battle incumbent Garett Bolles for the starting left tackle job next month.
The NFL and the players association agreed last week to an opt-out clause for the upcoming season. Those who choose to voluntarily sit out will receive a $150,000 stipend and those with medical opt outs will receive $350,000 rather than their contractual salary.
Elway said Peko notified the Broncos ”it was more dangerous for him” to play during the pandemic.
It’s uncertain whether Peko has a medical condition himself that imperiled his health or if his decision to skip the season was related to his wife’s recent bout with cancer.
A year ago, Peko left the Buffalo Bills training camp to be with his wife, Giuliana, who was battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The couple later said she was cancer free.
Peko, 27, spent parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons in Denver, which signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State. He was in his second stint with the Broncos this year after playing with the Bills and Colts in 2018 and ’19.
The Broncos have been saying all offseason that left tackle was among the biggest position battles that would be decided at training camp.
Before Wilkinson was placed on PUP on Tuesday, coach Vic Fangio was asked if the unique offseason put Bolles in a stronger position to fend off Wilkinson despite being flagged 46 times in his 48 career starts.
”I think it remains to be seen who has any sort of advantage or disadvantage based upon the current atmosphere,” Fangio said. ”I do think Garett – I saw him the other day – has had a very good offseason. I think he feels he’s in his best spot both physically, mentally and emotionally than he’s ever been in during his career. I think he feels good coming back with the same offensive line coach (Mike Munchak) for the first time I think in his career. He’s had me as the head coach now for two years.
”I think the arrow is up as far as it goes for Garett. That’s easy to say here as we sit late July. We’ll see how it unfolds. I think he’s in a good spot as it relates to everything as much as he can be.”
The Broncos also waived receiver Zimari Manning, a rookie from Tarlton State, bringing the roster to the league-mandated 80.
Wilkinson and Muti count against the 80-man roster.
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