In the wake of Tuesday’s catastrophic news that presumptive starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending torn Achilles injury, Denver Broncos fans had some salt rubbed into the proverbial wound.
On Wednesday, former Broncos safety Will Parks, an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a one-year, $1.13 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Parks was selected by Denver in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft on the heels of the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 triumph but he was asked to immediately contribute and would go on to get an up-close view of the deconstruction of the fabled ‘No Fly Zone’. As a rookie, Parks played in 16 games and logged 22 tackles (17 solo), three passes defended, one tackle for a loss, recovered one fumble, and an interception.
Coaches and teammates often described Parks as a 'Swiss Army Knife’ because he was a dependable nickel safety, dime-backer, and special teams’ player. His fun and loose style of play allowed him to quickly fill space and be a fundamental tackler on the perimeter.
In addition to his reliability, Parks built a reputation for his involvement in some memorable Broncos moments. As a rookie, Parks recovered the blocked extra point by teammate Justin Simmons and returned it for a two-point conversion that upset the New Orleans Saints at home.
Two years later, Parks delivered a devastating hit to Pittsburgh Steelers' tight end Xavier Grimble that forced a fumble on the goal-line, preventing a touchdown, and resulting in a touchback. Then, last spring, Parks signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with his hometown team the Philadelphia Eagles but his hometown reunion with the city of ‘Brotherly Love’ didn’t work out in the six games he played.
He recorded a meager 13 tackles (11 solo) and two tackles for a loss. The combination of injuries, underutilization, and schematic fit led the Eagles to release Parks in early December of last year. This allowed the Broncos to claim their former fan-favorite off waivers in the final quarter of the season.
Parks’ return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Broncos, who had lost starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and A.J. Bouye to injury. Although he no longer donned his original No. 34 jersey, Parks played four games for the Broncos sporting No. 27 and played with the same familiar physical style fans love him for.
The 26-year-old veteran played 147 snaps in Vic Fangio’s defense and logged 18 tackles (16 solo), one tackle for a loss, and one QB hit. In fact, Parks relinquished just 16 completions in coverage and one touchdown in four games.
New GM George Paton undoubtedly bolstered Denver’s secondary unit in free agency with veteran corners Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. In the draft, Paton doubled down by drafting Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in Round 1 and LSU's Kary Vincent, Jr. in Round 7, in addition to hand-picking safeties in Round 5 in Texas' Caden Sterns and Indiana's Jamar Johnson.
While Parks’ third reunion in Denver seemed extremely unlikely, there’s a definite sting because he joined such a bitter AFC West divisional rival.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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