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Paton’s Spaces: 2021 State of the Broncos’ Roster

Where did George Paton’s first offseason leave the Broncos roster? Are they ready to contend?

Denver Broncos First Round Draft Pick

The major parts of George Paton’s first offseason are now in the book. The Broncos signed a couple of players in free agency, brought back most of their own on one year contracts, and threw a bunch of darts in the NFL Draft.

Questions remain, but there is little doubt this Broncos roster is better than the one that finished the 2020 season. How much better remains an open debate.

The Broncos current roster, depth chart projected

Specialists

Sam Martin, Brandon McManus, Jacob Bobenmoyer

  • It never made sense for Paton to spend a ton of resources here this offseason, so I’m glad they didn’t.
  • During March the Broncos restructured McManus’ contract and it would now cost $8,925,000 in dead money to cut him this year.
  • Sam Martin has two years remaining on his contract, it would cost a little under $1 million to cut him.

Defensive backs

Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Patrick Surtain II, Michael Ojemudia, Caden Sterns, Jamar Johnson, Trey Marshall, Duke Dawson, Parnell Motley, Essang Bassey, Nate Hairston, Chris Cooper, P.J. Locke III, Kary Vincent, Mac McCain III

  • The position battles here will be fascinating. Broncos will probably carry 10 or 11 DBs on their final roster.
  • Fuller, Darby and Simmons look like locks for the roster due to their contract status.
  • Fuller, Callahan, and Jackson have contracts set to expire in 2022.
  • If the Broncos move Callahan before the season it would carry a $1,333,334 dead cap hit and create just over $7 M in cap space.
  • Jackson’s contract makes it unlikely he plays for anyone else in 2021, it’d cost $4.75 million to cut him. There’s no dead cap if he’s traded.

Linebackers

Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Natrez Patrick, Baron Browning, Curtis Robinson

Edge

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Derrek Tuszka, Malik Reed, Jonathan Cooper, Andre Mintz

Defensive Line

Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams, McTelvin Agim, Shamar Stephen, Deyon Sizer, Isaiah Mack, Marquiss Spencer

Wide Receivers

Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, DaeSean Hamilton, Kendall Hinton, Trinity Benson, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Seth Williams, Warren Jackson, Devontae Dukes, Branden Mack

Offensive Line

Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Ja’Wuan James, Netane Muti, Austin Schlottmann, Patrick Morris, Quinn Bailey, Quinn Meinerz, Drew Himmelman, Nolan Laufenberg

  • The Broncos probably carry between eight and 10 offensive linemen on their final roster. I expect at least three of these players will be tackles. Bolles, James, Glasgow, and Risner are locks due to contract status and/or performance.
  • I expect Cushenberry to make the roster due to his draft pedigree, contract, and promise. Worth noting that it would cost the Broncos $236,544 in dead money if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
  • It would cost the Broncos $51,448 in dead money if Muti fails to make the final roster out of camp.
  • No other veteran lineman on the Broncos has a contract with guarantees. It would cost Denver nothing to move them.
  • For the second consectutive year, the Broncos did not draft a single offensive tackle. When asked about it as his post-draft press conference, Paton had this to say:

“We targeted a few that were taken right before we took them, but it didn’t fall our way. We still feel good about our depth. We’ll continue to look on the market—the free-agent market. I think we’re signing five offensive linemen from college free agency. Sometimes it just doesn’t fall. We had a tackle we liked but he was taken right before, that’s just the way the draft goes.”

There’s a number of veteran options on the free agent market that could make sense for the Broncos, including Demar Dotson, Alejandro Villanueva, and Dennis Kelly.

Tight Ends

Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Austin Fort, Shaun Beyer, Landon Rice

  • The Broncos carried four tight ends on their active roster in 2020. Fant and Okwuegbunam look like locks.
  • Beck is an H-back who also logs snaps at fullback. It’d cost nothing to move him if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
  • Fort profiles as an H-back, but has yet to log a single regular season snap due to injuries. It’d cost $1,168 if he fails to make the roster out of camp.
  • Paton was asked about how he felt about this group during his post-draft press conference:

We have three guys that we like. We’ll continue to look, and we’ll sign some in college free agency. We’ll work the free agent market, and we’d like to add another big guy that can block. We’ll continue to look. Definitely.”

I expect the Broncos to explore the free agent market to try and sign a Y-tight end who can play inline. Three who make sense: Jesse James, Virgil Green, and Richard Rodgers.

Fullbacks

Jeremy Cox, Adam Prentice

  • The Broncos may not carry a single fullback on the final roster, I doubt they carry two.
  • It would cost the Broncos nothing in dead money if Cox fails to make the final roster.
  • I suspect Prentice was brought in solely for special teams. He’s too short to serve as a realistic H-back option and Pat Shurmur very rarely uses a fullback. Cox logged 19 snaps on offense last season despite playing in seven games.

Running backs

Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Royce Freeman, Mike Boone, LaVante Bellamy, Damarea Crockett

Quarterbacks

Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien

“It does seem the Broncos kept their options open at quarterback.”

  • When asked about the free agent QB market at his post-draft press conference, George Paton said the Broncos are happy with Lock and Bridgewater.

“We’re always looking. You know what the market looks like right now. It’s not great. We’ll see if there is someone who can upgrade what we have, but we like our two. I like Drew and I like Teddy. I think it’s going to be a great competition.”