This started as an idea for a comment in a post HoosierTeacher did last week looking at the Broncos moves during the reloading season (link here). It also dovetails with a post I had done looking at which Broncos will make it to training camp. (link here) In that post, I theorized that only 6 of the 8 safeties currently on the roster will make it to training camp.
The top four are pretty obvious - John Lynch, Hamza Abdullah, Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel. The other four on the roster are Steve Cargile, Roderick Rogers, Marviel Underwood and Vickiel Vaughn. It seems the conventional wisdom is that Cargile pretty much has a spot locked up, but I don't think that is the case. Here's why.
I agree with HoosierTeacher that Denver looks better at safety than last year. I also agree that this is a short term fix. Lynch is most likely done after this year. Both Abdullah and McCree are scheduled to be free agents although either of them could be resigned during the season. But for 2008, the top four look pretty solid.
With that in mind, I think that Denver is going to be looking towards 2009 with any other safeties they keep on their roster. While there may be room for a fifth safety on the 53 man roster and even a sixth one on the practice squad, there is generally room for only 4 safeties on the 45 man active roster on game days. Right now if they can stay healthy (a huge assumption I know) the top 4 listed above should have those spots locked up.
As a result I do not see a lot of room for a ST contributor like Cargile to be active on game day. If he is going to earn a spot on the roster (and even to training camp) it will have to be based on his play as a safety. It is very possible that he has progressed enough to get that spot, but if Denver does not think that he will ever be a player they can use on defense they may decide to cut ties now. (I do not mean to diminish the value of special teams. I did watch the Chicago game last year :( But I don't think either Cargile, or Paul Smith for that matter, are good enough special teamers to merit a roster spot based solely on ST play.) Based purely on safety play, I rank Cargile as third or fourth of the bottom group.
I would put Rod Rogers at the top of that list. He was undrafted out of Wisconsin last year, but made the practice squad then worked his way up to the active roster for the last couple games. Dominique Foxworth is high on Rogers and Rogers could turn out to be a diamond in the rough like Abdullah is shaping up to be (hopefully). I don't think he is ready to contribute this year, but by 2009 he may be improved enough to deserve playing time.
Next on the list is Marviel Underwood, who was a fourth round pick of GB in 2005 and had a decent rookie year before blowing out his knee in the preseason his second year (2006). He was pretty much out of football last year with short stints in GB and then Denver. Denver cut him when they promoted Rod Rogers to the active roster, but resigned Underwood once the season ended. It is said that a player is fully back from knee surgery in his second year. If Underwood is recovered, he is a solid safety prospect and could compete for a starting job in 2009.
Last up is Vickiel Vaughn who was the second to last pick of the 2006 draft and spent the season on IR with the 49ers before they cut him at the end of camp last year. I really don't know much about him and have a feeling he will be cut before training camp starts. My uneducated guess would put him neck and neck with Cargile as an NFL safety.
Summing up, if Denver does not add a safety during the draft and if they only bring 6 safeties to camp, here is how I think things will work themselves out. Lynch, McCree, Manuel and Abdullah are coming to camp. Rod Rogers is pretty close to a lock. Underwood will be given a chance in mini-camps and other team activities to show that he is fully healthy. If he can show that, he gets the sixth training camp invitation. If not, it will probably go to Cargile over Vaughn. In fact, I would say that Vaughn could be cut in the next couple weeks as Denver tweaks its roster with vets and signs college free agents after the draft. But the end result is that I see Cargile's future with the Broncos being far from secure.