Former UNC quarterback Kyle Sloter signs with Denver Broncos as undrafted free agent
April 29, 2017
Kyle Sloter has been here before, in a muddled quarterback depth chart and a battle for playing time.
The former University of Northern Colorado gunslinger signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent Saturday afternoon in the immediate aftermath of the NFL Draft.
That put him in a competition with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, Denver's 2016 starters, plus seventh-round draft pick Chad Kelly — who's recovering from a torn ACL, for reps or even a roster spot. Given Sloter's circuitous route to college success, though, he should be up to the task.
"That's what I'm most excited about," Sloter said. "Getting in there and grinding, trying to prove them right."
The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder set UNC records for passing touchdowns in a season (29), in a game (six, twice) and yards in a game (438) in 2016, making his journey to the starting job even more remarkable.
Sloter committed to the University of Southern Mississippi out of high school, where he was buried on the quarterback depth chart and switched to wide receiver in 2013 just to get on the field. The next year, he played at tight end and transferred to UNC after the season.
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Even then, he attempted only one pass in 2015 and came into 2016 as Jacob Knipp's backup. Then Knipp went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the second game of the season.
Sloter came off the bench and completed 25 of 32 passes for 408 yards and six touchdowns, and ran for 41 yards and another score, in UNC's 55-52 win over Abilene Christian.
He never relinquished the starting job as he led the Bears to a 6-5 record, completing 62 percent of his passes with the record 29 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions, 2,665 passing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Sloter saved his best for last; he upstaged his Abilene Christian opus with six touchdowns and the record 438 yards in UNC's season finale at Cal Poly.
Sloter and his family watched all three days of the NFL Draft in his hometown of Atlanta to see the quarterback market take shape. He knew Saturday morning that he'd have a team later that day. The Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders called him to express interest.
Denver made contact again with 15 picks remaining in the draft. The Broncos held the last pick and they told Sloter they would probably make him "Mr. Irrelevant," as that distinction has come to be known. About five minutes after that, Sloter's phone rang again. It was Denver, again.
"They said they wouldn't be (drafting me)," Sloter said. "But they were still really high on me."
The Broncos instead took Kelly, the former Ole Miss quarterback, with the last pick. Sloter and Kelly will eventually compete for a spot on Denver's roster, but for now, the Broncos' third quarterback job is Sloter's.
Kelly will be out for several more months after tearing his ACL late last season and undergoing surgery on his wrist in the offseason. Sloter also has none of Kelly's personal issues.
Kelly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2015 after fighting two bouncers at a bar in Buffalo, N.Y., then threating to shoot the place up with an AK-47. In 2016, he had to be restrained in an on-field brawl at his brother's high school football game.
Sloter will be the only quarterback in the Broncos' rookie minicamp while Kelly recuperates from his injuries; Denver told Sloter it won't sign another undrafted quarterback.
He already has some familiarity with the Broncos' offensive staff. Denver quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave is the former coach of D.J. Shockley, who was Sloter's quarterbacks coach in high school. Musgrave, like Sloter, is from Atlanta.
Sloter has completed the coursework for his finance degree, which he'll soon get in the mail, and took his last final Tuesday. The Broncos signed him to a three-year preferred undrafted free agent contract that includes a signing bonus. That's an atypical contract, and it shows how highly Denver values him.
On Wednesday, Sloter will fly to Denver to put pen to paper and make the deal official. Then the real work begins.
"They told me they felt like they got the best undrafted quarterback in the country," Sloter said. "It just felt like a really good fit and a really good situation."