ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos will be without Drew Sanders for at least the first half of the 2024 season after the versatile second-year linebacker tore an Achilles tendon at the start of the team's offseason program last month.

Sanders had surgery and is expected to miss six to nine months, leaving open the possibility he could return to action in November if all goes well with his recovery.

A third-round draft pick out of Arkansas last year, Sanders started off playing inside linebacker before being switched during the season to the outside. He played in all 17 games his rookie season, starting four times and collecting two dozen tackles. He was also a key special teams player.

The Broncos were contemplating whether to play Sanders inside or on the edge in 2024. They lost inside linebacker Josey Jewell in free agency and, after Sanders got hurt before the NFL draft, they selected Utah outside linebacker Jonah Elliss in the third round with the 76th overall pick.

At the NFL scouting combine in February, general manager George Paton said he thought Sanders would “probably end up on the edge, but he has the flexibility. He’s so talented. It’s hard. It’s kind of like Baron Browning. … It’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse because he can’t get settled in at one position. Once we left Drew at outside, he finished strong and so we feel good about Drew moving forward.”

Ellis joined an outside linebacker group featuring Browning, Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper. The Broncos' top inside linebackers are Alex Singleton, Justin Strnad, Cody Barton and oft-injured Jonas Griffith.

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