Trimming the roster to 53 guys is just around the corner for NFL teams. The Denver Broncos have a hard series of cuts coming, potentially including some draft picks from recent years. They have a deep roster at mostly every position, which makes the cuts so hard, but it's a good problem to have.
Teams have until 4:00 p.m. EST on September 1st to cut their roster down to 75 players, while the final cuts come on September 5th at 4 p.m. EST. Many players may know they are likely to be cut, but they have to go out and show that they should stick around and potentially get picked up by another team. Otherwise, their time in the NFL may be over.
So, first up comes the cut-down to 75. The Broncos currently sit at 90 players on-roster, which means 15 have to go. Normally these cuts are players the team doesn’t intend to bring back to the practice squad. Originally, I had Solomon Patton getting cut during this period, due to drops as a receiver and muffing punt returns in practice. However, he got waived Friday morning for tight end Dan Light. My cuts have been switched up to reflect these two moves.
Moving down to 75.
One of the first moves to be made, which isn’t a guess, is Jeff Heuerman going to injured reserve. He tore his ACL pretty early in the offseason, but they can’t place him on IR without exposing him to waivers before September 1st. The rest of the moves are all cuts, and come as follows: QB Zac Dysert, RB Jeremy Stewart, TE Marcel Jensen, TE Dominique Jones, OT Kyle Roberts, OT Charles Sweeton, OG Andre Davis, C Dillon Day, NT Sione Fua, OLD Danny Mason, LB Reggie Walker, CB Tevrin Brandon, S Josh Bush and P Spencer Lanning.
Training camp started with Zac Dysert as the third quarterback, but he has since lost his spot. For the last game of the preseason, teams rarely carry more than three quarterbacks, leaving Dysert on the outs. Stewart saw action in the first preseason game, only to see none the second game. Practice has been rough and a running back needs to go. It came down to Kapri Bibbs and Stewart. Bibbs won out because of his fit in the zone blocking scheme.
Clearly the Broncos are not happy with the depth at tight end, as they cut a receiver to add another. They added Jake Murphy about a week ago and Dan Light on Friday. Each of those players have a skill-set that match with Jones or Jensen. After disappointing so far, both of them get cut early in the process to make way for the new guys.
Along the offensive line, four undrafted linemen get the ax. They only saw action in the first preseason game, and it wasn’t good. It did more harm than good, especially with getting no action in game two. The offensive line is weak, especially at tackle, but trimming the fat is necessary. On the defensive line the opposite happens. A seasoned vet gets the ax in favor of youth. Fua has played solid ball, but a young player has been better than he, which puts the veteran on the outs.
Another position Denver is strong at is outside linebacker, so seeing Danny Mason cut wouldn’t be surprising. Of all the outside linebackers, he is the farthest one down the depth chart and really has no shot at the practice squad. Moving inside, veteran Reggie Walker gets cut. Walker is a special teams ace, who has been awful on defense and special teams. IT's a cap-saving move to cut the veteran and gives him a decent chance to land elsewhere.
The secondary sees a couple of cuts with Tevrin Brandon and Josh Bush. Brandon isn’t the best fit within the defense, and it shows. He also is stuck in a pack of a veterans, draft picks and a guy who has played better. Depth at safety is a concern, but Bush has been getting out-played by the other safeties. I almost went with Ross Madison here, but he played a really sound game vs the Seahawks, while Bush struggled some. The final cut is a punter. It's time to get down to your three specialists. All signs point to Colquitt, who has also been better than Lanning in just about every category.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of these players catch on elsewhere, even if it is only for a practice squad spot. Maybe they take to the scheme better with the new team and take off. That leaves the final cuts down to the 53-man roster. These are the cuts when we see surprises, and also where the practice squad players come from.
So, for the final 22 moves I see it panning out this way: RB Kapri Bibbs, WR Jordan Taylor, WR Jordan Norwood, WR Nathan Palmer, WR Isaiah Burse, TE Jake Murphy, TE Dan Light, OG Ben Garland, OG Shelley Smith, DL Josh Watson, DL Chuka Ndulue, OLB Gerald Rivers, OLB Chase Vaughn, LB Corey Nelson, LB Zaire Anderson, CB Curtis Marsh, CB Tony Carter, CB Taurean Nixon, S Ross Madison, and DB Omar Bolden..
No quarterback gets cut this time, but you do see the running back corps take shape. In my projections, I had Bibbs making the roster, but things have drastically changed since then. He seems firmly set as the fifth running back, which sees him off the roster. A quartet of receivers end up getting the ax, including one that may come as a surprise. Taylor was shining in camp, but hasn’t shown it in games.
Taylor is a good practice squad candidate. Palmer and Burse could see themselves land on the roster for different reasons, but the position is too deep. Both may catch on elsewhere. The surprise of Norwood comes because of three reasons. First, he has fallen down the depth chart on offense and special teams. Second, he isn’t getting any real shots as a return man. Finally, he just hasn’t seemed to regain his burst, agility and quickness from his ACL injury a year ago.
At the tight end position, it took me a while to figure it out. I wanted to keep one of the two, but then I realized that Joe Don Duncan and James Casey are also capable of playing tight end. Murphy and Light find themselves brought in too late to have a serious chance. The coaches like them however, and that could get one of them a practice squad spot.
I was tempted to keep four offensive guards, as well as four tackles. Instead, I opted to keep three guards. With the versatility at center and at tackle just made keeping four guards pointless. Garland has another year of practice squad eligibility, which makes him easier to cut. As for Smith, he would bring a $500K cap hit in dead money, but frees up almost twice as much.
Both the above defensive linemen are making it incredibly tough to cut them. Both of them have been playing some great football, especially Ndulue. It's hard to cut both, but they are fighting for a practice squad spot. As for outside linebacker, as I said before, the position is stacked. Vaughn and Rivers have been facing an uphill battle all offseason and the play above them on the depth chart hasn’t helped.
Both speedy inside linebackers get the ax, largely due to their rawness and investment. I kept a fifth inside linebacker and preseason performances would dictate Nelson or Anderson, who have been back and forth for fifth-best inside linebacker. However, neither have the investment in them that the player who I picked as the fifth inside linebacker has. You can say a new coaching staff has the roster influence, but Elway was still the one who made the picks.
Rounding out the final cuts in the secondary you see the battle finish at corner, with it all coming down to investment, or money. Tony Carter is a veteran, with a decent cap hit, which is why he is on the outs. With Marsh and Nixon, it comes down to investment. Denver can afford to lose them more with such a low investment in them, but they can’t so much with the final corner.
At safety you see the biggest surprise of the final cuts with Omar Bolden on the outside. He has played better at safety that two seasons ago, but his special teams play has been bad. He hasn’t shown the return ability from a year ago, or gunner ability from his whole career. Ross Madison was kept out Week 2, after playing a decent game week one. That doesn’t bode well for him and his chances at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Madison is gone with the first cuts and Bush makes it here. Basically, you can swap these two with ease.
If you count the players, that is only 20 cuts. The final two move’s come elsewhere. With Derek Wolfe'z four-game suspension, he will be placed on the suspended list. He doesn’t count against the 53-man roster until he is activated, and he can’t be activated until after his suspension is served.
The final move may not happen, but is a gut feeling I have. Every year under John Elway, a player with a minor injury ends up landing on injured reserve. Last year, it was Kenny Anunike who was placed on IR with a minor injury. This allows them to keep the player without having them on the 53-man roster, or exposing them to the waiver wire. This year, I can see them doing that with Lerentee McCray. He has been battling injuries all this month and has lost his roster spot, so I can see them placing him on IR and letting him have another chance in a year.
The 53 man roster is complete.
As much as I didn’t want to have three quarterbacks, Siemian’s play has demanded it. It's hard to see him clearing waivers.
Anderson has played solid ball, despite being a little banged up. Hillman has been playing great. Ball has struggled, but was a second round player, who has only played one true year. Play says he gets cut, but investment doesn’t agree and wins out here. The investment is also why he is ahead of Thompson..
Fullback: James Casey, Joe Don Duncan
No surprise with Casey making it. Duncan however, may surprise some. He has been flashing all August, playing decently, and consistent. What really gets him on the roster is lack of depth at tight end, his versatility and special teams play.
Denver is deep at wide receiver, and that lead to a couple surprises. Caldwell has been a little surprising with his play on offense—not so much as a receiver, but as a blocker. He has been good enough to stick around, but all the cap space makes him a viable cut candidate. Fowler has tore up the month of August and really is breaking out in games. The big surprise comes with Louks. Bolden has faltered and lost a step in the return man race, with Louks coming up behind him, and doing so quickly. Louks has shown he can handle both returner responsibilities and do admirably on offense. I went back and forth on this decision, but ended up making it because it doesn’t force them to keep two players to man both the returner jobs.
I really wanted to add a third, and even a fourth tight end. I ended up deciding against that because with the versatility of Casey and Duncan, they have essentially four tight ends already.
Of who they have currently on roster, I see this being how the position looks, and find it to be pretty obvious. That said, I also see them looking for outside help once the cuts start, which throws a wrinkle into this prediction.
The signing of Evan Mathis added a lot of versatility to what the Broncos can do here. For me, it makes it so they can only carry three guards, instead of four, especially with the versatility of Garcia being the swing guard.
Denver was interested in Chris Myers, but the great performance of Paradis saw them move on. While Gradkowski isn’t even a solid backup, options are limited for upgrades.
Another no brainer here. The pecking order is pretty obvious. Smith backs Jackson as the right defensive end, while Anunike backs up Walker at left defensive end, who starts for the suspended Wolfe.
The Broncos have versatile defensive ends that allow them to move players around and change their looks on defense. With the versatility, there isn’t a big reason to carry more than just two nose tackles.
Many of the positions I was able to set right away, without much thought—OLB was one of them. Miller and Ware are obvious starters and are way too good to cut. Ray has a first round pick invested in him, leaving only one spot open, which Barrett has taken with outstanding play so far.
Another no brainer, at least with the first four players. Johnson and Davis were starting with Marshall and Trevathan out and did a great job. As for Barrow, play alone should see him cut. He was actually the final player to make it for me. It came down to Barrow, another tight end, or another nose tackle. It all came down to investment. Those at the other positions are undrafted players, or new pickups, while Barrow was a 2014 fifth round pick by the Broncos.
The first four are obvious for one reason or another. Harris is a star, and best corner in the NFL. Talib has a high cost, but has been playing great as well. Roby has played great and was a first round pick a year ago. Webster is the least valuable of the four, but he has grown each year and plays well on special teams and he was a 2013 third round pick. As for Doss, I had a lengthy discussion for the final corner. It came down to Doss vs. Carter. Draft pick investment and money savings against experience. Investment and money saved won.
Ward, Stewart and Bruton are all obvious choices. Two are cemented as starters and Bruton is a special teams ace, despite his not showing it yet this year. The final safety spot came down to the returner position. Since I kept Louks, it pushed Bolden out. Madison and Bush aren’t at the level to make the 53-man roster yet. So, Furman wins, due to process of elimination. He is also the only true strong safety backup the Broncos have.
Only one of these three positions still has a battle going. McManus and Brewer have their spots already. Colquitt is battling with Lanning, but Colquitt has simply been out performing Lanning in every way. Since McManus won, they don’t need a punter capable of doing kickoffs, either.
Practice Squad: Nathan Palmer, Jordan Taylor, Josh Watson, Chuka Ndulue, Gerald Rivers, Corey Nelson, Zaire Anderson, Taurean Nixon and either Jake Murphy or Dan Light.
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