ENGLEWOOD, Colo.— The Denver Broncos faced unenviable decisions today, trimming their roster down to the final 53 players. It's a time on the football calender the coaches dread and it's not easy for the front office either. However, the real brunt is borne by the players whose NFL dreams come crashing down around them.
“Obviously, this is always a tough time of year," General Manager John Elway said today. "Getting down to the 53 is always tough. We had to let go of a lot of good football players. We’re fortunate that we had great competition and we have had to let go of a lot of good football players. We feel like a lot of them will get some opportunities someplace else, too.”
It's the business side of football. And it's no fun at all.
Here's a full list of the players waived or released today by the Broncos.
The biggest surpises come in the form of Steven Johnson, Tony Carter, Ben Garland and Lamin Barrow—all veterans who spent 2014 on the active roster. The Broncos chose to keep just four inside linebackers, which surprisingly left Johnson on the outside looking in. Barrow, a fifth round pick last year, hasn't played well in preseason action. The decision meant Todd Davis and Corey Nelson, also a 2014 draft pick, made the final squad.
“We went with four inside backers, but we really tried to pick the best 53 players that we could pick," Elway said. "However that worked out as far as the numbers at each different position, we tried to pick the best 53 guys that would help us win. With that mindset, we ended up with four on the inside.”
Letting Carter go meant cutting ties with a known quantity—an experienced veteran. The real surprise, however, came in the decision to keep Curtis Marsh over him. Marsh becomes one of the primary candidates to hit the road when the Broncos bring T.J. Ward back from the suspended list. Elway illuminated the decision today.
“I think if you look with Marsh and his special teams ability, we thought that he’d be that sixth guy that could help us on the special teams," he said. "So, that’s why we decided to go that way.”
The decision to keep Montee Ball is a sign of the team's reticence to cut ties with a 2013 second round pick. Elway has actively tried to shop Ball, and will likely continue to do so, until the trade deadline comes around. As the No. 4 RB, Ball is poised to be a gameday inactive in 2015, unless an injury strikes.
“We still think that Montee, hopefully, can continue to improve," Elway said. "He was in the top 53 in our minds, so that’s why Montee’s here and we still have high expectations for Montee.”
Trevor Siemian's impressive preseason performance earned him a spot on the final 53. The Broncos obviously didn't want to risk losing him on the waiver wire and see a bright future ahead of him.
“We’re really excited about him," Elway said. "He played really well in the preseason. I think that this offseason, plus coming off of the knee surgery that he had last year and getting into training camp, the way that he played in the preseason, he did well and earned a spot.”
One of the most interesting developments in the current juxtaposition of the final roster is the tight end situation. The Broncos chose to carry just two true tight ends—Owen Daniels and Virgil Green. Fullback James Casey is experienced enough to step in, should the need arise. Elway made it clear today, however, that changes could come.
“We’re comfortable right now," he said. "We’re stuck with the 53 that it is right now, so it’s always fluid. It’s fluid now and it will be fluid throughout the season. Again, going back to philosophy, we kept our best 53.”
With the final cuts, the Broncos streak of 11 consecutive seasons of an undrafted rookie making the final roster came to an end. Elway's not losing too much sleep over it. It's about keeping the best 53.
“I’ll tell you right now that heads are going to roll in the personnel department because they didn’t find a CFA out there (laughing)," he said. "We’ll cross that bridge. We didn’t find that needle in the haystack, but it [speaks to] the roster that we have. It’s a lot deeper than it used to be and there are several people that could have made the roster this year, but we ran out of spot.”
After a dominant preseason performance that saw him lead the NFL with four sacks, Shaquil Barrett was a no-brainer for the final roster. Surprisingly, the Broncos chose to keep Lerentee McCray, who missed most of training camp and all of the preseason with a groin injury. The team felt he was too talented to waive.
“Yeah, I think that’s the hard thing is that sometimes guys that are injured that you have high hopes for—Lerentee is an example," Elway said. "We didn’t get to see him a whole lot in preseason because of the injury, but we know what he can do, so hopefully he comes off of that and can help us this year.”
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