With the 2017 NFL draft finished and the Broncos now moving toward additional offseason workouts, it’s time to sit down and evaluate the roster as it stands.
Of course, the Broncos made one post-draft free agent move by signing street free agent Jamaal Charles to a one-year deal. I like the signing of Charles because it adds a veteran presence to the running back corps and gives the Broncos more versatility, provided Charles is healthy.
But could there be other moves coming? And do we have an idea about what positional battles are likely to happen when training camp arrives?
Let’s sit down and look at the Broncos’ roster as it currently stands. There are a few things we should notice immediately about what to expect for the remainder of the offeseason and for training camp. I will list players by position, in no particular order per position.
QB: Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Chad Kelly, Kyle Sloter.
One thing is clear: The Broncos are going to move forward with younger players at the QB position and see who makes the most progress. Lynch and Siemian will battle for the starting job – though Siemian has more starting experience, the Broncos will want to give Lynch every chance to prove he can be the starter. I don’t expect them to force him into the role to start the season – if Siemian outperforms him in the preseason, he’ll be the starter. However, he’ll have to continue improving and the Broncos will need to win more than they lose, else he be benched for Lynch.
Kelly and Sloter will compete for the chance to be the No. 3 QB on the 53-man roster. If one of them makes it, the other will be allowed to seek his fortunes elsewhere. It’s also possible the Broncos keep two QBs and sign either Kelly or Sloter to the practice squad.
RB: CJ Anderson, Jamaal Charles, Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson, Juwan Thompson, Bernard Pierce.
FB: Andy Janovich.
I’ve included Janovich here because it remains to be seen how he will figure into the mix. I don’t think Mike McCoy is going to rule out a fullback – if Janovich has a good training camp and preseason, he’ll stick around. As for the others, it won’t surprise me to see Anderson, Booker and Charles (do we call them the ABC Connection?) make the final roster. Henderson will have the inside track on the fourth RB spot because of his usefulness on special teams and as a return man. (Yes, it’s possible the Broncos keep four RBs along with a fullback.)
It does make sense, though, to keep Thompson and Pierce around for the offseason and training camp in case somebody gets injured. But if everyone else stays healthy, Thompson and Pierce are long shots to make the final roster.
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Henderson, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Jordan Taylor, Isaiah McKenzie, Kalif Raymond, Mekale McKay, Hunter Sharp, Anthony Nash, Marlon Brown**.
We have a crowded field at the wide receiver position. The most WRs I see the Broncos keeping on the final roster is six. That likely means somebody who has been part of the active roster in past years will be gone.
Thomas and Sanders figure to stick around and Henderson’s spot should be secure unless he has an awful training camp and preseason. You would imagine that Isaiah McKenzie will make it, too, given his abilities as a return man.
That leaves Fowler, Latimer, Taylor and Raymond to compete for the final two WR spots. If they all impress in training camp and the preseason, the Broncos might be able to trade one of them. While you may think teams would just prefer to let the Broncos cut them, then pick them up, keep in mind all four of these players are on their rookie contracts and must go through waivers first. That means a team with a lower waiver priority who is interested in one of these players could miss out if a team with higher waiver priority puts in a claim.
Some teams might believe Latimer could be a starter as a non-slot receiver but couldn’t get past Thomas or Sanders and might be willing to give up a conditional late-round pick. Fowler appears more likely to be a depth player at best, but a team in need of depth could take a chance on him. Taylor is a fan favorite, but his skill set doesn’t suggest he fits as a slot receiver, so if Latimer and Fowler outperform him, but Taylor still plays well enough to catch the eyes of other teams, he could be trade bait, too.
Only time will tell who makes the final roster, but it’s clear a lot of younger guys are going to have to excel in training camp and the preseason if they want to make the cut.
(UPDATE: I forgot to include Brown on my initial post. Please see the note below.)
TE: Virgil Green, AJ Derby, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Henry Krieger-Coble, Cedrick Lang, Steven Scheu, Austin Traylor.
There’s no shortage of players at this position, but the bulk of them lack experience. I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Heuerman’s spot is the one in jeopardy – after all, Green carries $3.3M cap number, which is too high to justify if Heuerman and others outperform Green in training camp and the preseason. With that said, who makes the final roster could depend on Jake Butt’s health – it’s possible Butt opens the season on the physically unable to perform list.
But it would appear the Broncos’ three tight end spots are between Green, Derby, Heuerman and Butt. The rest are likely competing for a practice squad spot.
OT: Garett Bolles, Menelik Watson, Donald Stephenson, Michael Schofield, Ty Sambrailo, Justin Murray.
The Broncos have officially listed Schofield as a tackle, and though they list Sambrailo as an OL in general, his previous in-game experience has been at tackle. So we’ll consider those two in this group.
Bolles and Watson are near locks to make the final roster. Between Stephenson, Schofield and Sambrailo, it’s clear Stephenson will really need to impress in training camp to make the final roster. After all, it’s hard to justify paying $4M to a player who is outperformed by two players with cheaper salaries and lower cap numbers. I suspect the Broncos will only keep Stephenson if he plays at a high level throughout training camp and the preseason while either Schofield or Sambrailo struggles. But if all three play at an equal level, whether high or low, the odds favor Schofield and Sambrailio.
There is an outside chance, though, that the Broncos could put either Schofield or Sambrailo on the trading block if they and Stephenson all perform at a high level. But regardless of whether or not you think it’s possible all three perform at a high level, if that were to happen, I still believe it’s more likely the Broncos just cut Stephenson and go with the cheaper players.
OG: Ronald Leary, Max Garcia, Billy Turner, Connor McGovern, Erik Austell.
Leary and Garcia should have their roster spot secure. Turner and McGovern are likely competing for the backup guard spot. I would expect the Broncos to keep one pure guard, with the idea that the backup tackles they keep can play guard when needed. Because Turner and McGovern are both on cheap contracts, it comes down to who has the best camp and preseason. Austell seems more likely to be a practice squad candidate at this point.
C: Matt Paradis, James Ferentz, Dillon Day.
Paradis should be the starter, leaving Ferentz and Day to compete for the backup spot. Both players can play guard, so either one will give the Broncos some flexibility.
DE: Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Walker, Zach Kerr Jared Crick, Adam Gotsis, Kasim Edebali,
Bobby Richardson, Ken Ekanem, Iosaa Iosaa, Billy Winn.*
Wolfe, Kerr and Walker are the only defensive ends I consider to be roster locks. Wolfe is obvious, Kerr got a significant guarantee in his contract and Walker is a high draft pick this year.
While some might think the most pressure is on Gotsis, a good training camp and preseason puts Crick at risk. The difference between Gotsis and Crick is that Crick’s ceiling has been reached: A good pass rusher who struggles in defending the run. Gotsis does need to show improvement, but there’s as much pressure on Crick as there is on Gotsis.
Edebali might be though of as an outside linebacker rather than a defensive end, so he has a shot to make it at that position. The others are most likely vying for the practice squad.
(UPDATE: Please see the note below regarding Billy Winn and Bobby Richardson.)
DT: Domata Peko, Kyle Peko, Tyrique Jarrett, Travis Raciti, Shakir Soto.
The older Peko is the only roster lock at this point. The younger Peko will compete with the rest for the backup nose tackle spot. Remember that the Broncos hosted Jarrett for a pre-draft visit, so it’s clear they had a lot of interest in him. He may be the nose tackle that bears the most watching.
OLB: Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett, Vontarrius Dora, Kevin Snyder, Deon Hollins.
For those who were wondering why the Broncos didn’t draft an outside linebacker, remember that Dora did some good things in preseason last year and the Broncos clearly aren’t ready to give up on him. Snyder has bounced around on practice squads in the past two seasons and it’s worth asking if he could become that fourth OLB, too. And who knows what undrafted rookie free agent Hollins will bring. With three spots taken by Miller, Ray and Barrett, the battle for the fourth spot bears watching.
ILB: Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, Zaire Anderson, Quentin Gause, Josh Banderas, Jerrol Garcia-Williams.
The Broncos have more than just the four players most everyone is familiar with to compete for a spot here. Gause was active for three games last season and the Broncos added Banderas and Garcia-Williams as undrafted rookie free agents. It’s possible one of those three emerges in training camp or the preseason. Marshall and Davis are the likely starters, but the backup spots could be anyone’s game.
CB: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, Brendan Langley, Taurean Nixon, Lorenzo Doss, Marcus Rios.
I don’t think I need to tell you that Talib, Harris and Roby are sure bets to make the roster and I would expect Langley to be the same. It remains to be seen how many cornerbacks the Broncos will keep, but Nixon and Doss having previous experience doesn’t guarantee them a job, particularly if Rios impresses during training camp.
S: T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart, Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Jamal Carter, Orion Stewart.
Ward, Darian Stewart and Simmons are the safe bets. While Parks might appear to be a safe bet, don’t be too quick to write off Carter or Orion Stewart – either one could slip onto the active roster with a good training camp. Of course, it remains to be seen how many safeties make the active roster. I don’t see the Broncos keeping more than 10 total defensive backs, but that could be any combination of cornerbacks and safeties.
K: Brandon McManus.
P: Riley Dixon.
LS: Casey Kreiter, Jeff Overbough.
There will be a competition for the long snapper position. Injuries sidelined Kreiter late last season and the Broncos could be wondering if Kreiter can get back to strength.
Looking at the roster above, I don’t really see any more free agent signings coming, unless there is an injury at a key position. It’s possible the Broncos could add a veteran offensive lineman if there is somebody they believe could help, and there’s a chance they could add a younger player to replace either a futures contract player or a UDFA already added. Otherwise, they’ll be letting those on the current roster compete for spots.
* UPDATE, 2:54 P.M. MDT: The Broncos have re-signed defensive end Billy Winn. I have added him to the defensive ends list. Winn is likely competing for a spot as a depth player. He has replaced Bobby Richardson, who was waived. (Thanks to Roscoe418 for the information.)
** UPDATE: 2:58 P.M. MDT: Thanks to those who pointed out that I did not include wide receiver Marlon Brown. I have added him to the wide receivers list. Brown will be competing for a a depth spot.