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2021 way-too-early Broncos’ roster prediction

Who makes it to the final 53? Here is my way-too-early Denver Broncos roster projection.

OTAs and the mandatory Minicamp are behind us, which means it’s time to take a very early stab at how the roster battles will shake out on the Broncos. What follows is my first guesses based on what I’ve heard, read, know, and studied so far this offseason. Keep in mind this isn’t based on rooting interest so much as how I see the preseason playing out. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Specialists - 3

P Sam Martin, PK Brandon McManus, LS Jacob Bobenmoyer

Defensive backs - 10

Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Patrick Surtain II, Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia, Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Jamar Johnson, PJ Locke III

Linebackers - 4

Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Baron Browning

  • The Broncos will probably try to carry four off ball linebackers on their final roster, and Browning is a lock due to his draft status. His recent injury could put a damper on his chance to make an early contribution, and Fangio suggested he could become a rover between off ball and edge linebacker this season. Which means there’s a decent chance he’s a backup at both with very limited snaps to veterans as he figures out the spots.

“I don’t know the exact [injury]. It’s a lower leg injury. It’s more of a bone thing than a ligament thing. He’ll be full go and ready to go by training camp. That’s been probably the biggest negative of this offseason work—him not getting the work that he would have gotten. We’re still very high on him and very optimistic. Hopefully he’ll be able to carve out a role on the team, both defensively and in the kicking game. I’m anxious to get him back working in training camp. I still like him all the same and he has versatility. He could play some outside for us and he could play some inside. We’d like to settle him in one spot, but we may not be able to, especially with the injury. We’ll see how that evolves.”

  • Reports out of training camp last year suggest Justin Strnad was pushing Jewell for playing time before he suffered his second season ending injury in as many years. There’s been a vocal segment of Broncos Country who continue to see him as a future starter, but Fangio seemed to pore a little cold water on his odds at defensive snap on Monday:

“Justin—other than him being in meetings last year, he really is a rookie. He got hurt last year in camp very, very early in practice five, six or seven.He’s really like a rookie on the field, but he’s doing well. We like the way he moves, and we like his attitude. He’s definitely a very conscientious player. He wants to carve out a role for himself with the defense. It’ll be critical for him to be a mainstay on our special teams. Your backup linebackers have to do that. Overall, we’ve all been pleased with Justin and where he’s at. So far, he’s shown no ill side effects of the wrist injury he had. We’re going to try and be cautious with him in that regard. Eventually he’s going to have to use it and he has been. We think the future is bright for him.”

  • The Broncos bringing in Shaquem Griffin and Gabe Sewell for workouts does not bode well for Josh Watson’s odds at the final roster. The third year pro only logged 183 special teams snaps last year and Browning and Strnad hurt his value to the defense.
  • I suspect Curtis Robinson is fighting for a practice squad spot.

Edge - 4

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed, Peter Kalambayi

  • The Broncos will probably carry four edge rushers in 2021. Miller, Chubb, and Reed are locks.
  • Kalambayi is a bit of an unknown as a late addition since the NFL Draft, but he’s logged 784 special teams snaps for the Houston Texans across the last three seasons. With the big three and eventually Browning around to eat up edge snaps, the ED4 probably needs to impress Tom McMahon.
  • If they can’t beat out Kalambayi, I suspect Jonathan Cooper, Andre Mintze, and Derrek Tuska are fighting for a spot or maybe two on the practice squad.

Defensive Line - 6

Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, McTelvin Agim, DeShawn Williams, Shamar Stephen

“I think [DL] Shamar [Stephen] has been a good pick up; we got [NT] Mike [Purcell], [DE] Shelby [Harris]. We think Mike and Shelby will be full go once we get back to camp. ‘Sosa’ (DL McTelvin Agim) has looked better and hopefully he’ll continue that. [DE] Dre’Mont [Jones], [DL] Jonathan Harris is back after a year on the shelf; [DL] DeShawn [Williams] is back, and we’re looking for the other guys to show us something, to hopefully punch a ticket to join that group.”

  • I suspect there’s going to be at least one defensive lineman on the practice squad.

Wide Receivers - 6

Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer

QUTE?

  • I suspect Seth Williams, Warren Jackson, Devontae Dukes, and Branden Mack to fight for a spot or two on the practice squad. With Sutton’s and Patrick’s contracts expiring after this season, it’d make sense to try to groom a potential X receiver.
  • Kendall Hinton and Trinity Benson look like they’re fighting against the tide to make the roster. Both are older players who don’t offer the kind of size and catch radius Paton seemed to prioritize this offseason. Root for Hinton and I suspect we’ll hear about him for a good while yet because he’s the kind of story reporters love to tell, but the numbers game doesn’t favor him at all.

Offensive Line - 9

Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Bobby Massie, Cameron Fleming, Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti, Calvin Anderson

  • The Broncos probably carry between 8 and 10 offensive linemen on their final roster. I expect at least three of these players will be tackles and there will be at least four interior offensive linemen. Bolles, Risner, Glasgow, and Meinerz are true locks, but I’d be surprised if Cushenberry is moved.
  • Muti, Massie, and Fleming are the only other linemen with guarantees in their contracts.
  • I expect Drew Himmelman to make the practice squad if not the final roster as a developmental tackle.

Tight Ends - 4

Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Shaun Beyer

  • I expect the Broncos to carry four or five tight ends, with at least one capable of playing fullback snaps. Fant is a lock, and it’s hard to imagine the Broncos give up on Albert O.
  • Beck looked good enough last year that I expect him to be the H-back.
  • Adam Prentice is going to need to show up on special teams to make the roster as a fullback since Pat Shurmur rarely uses them.
  • Austin Fort turned heads during his rookie camp in 2019 before an ACL tear. He may have a tough time showing out this year with both Fant and Okwuegbunam being capable receivers and Beck a proven H-back. I suspect Shurmur is going to want a blocking tight end who can play inline snaps, a strength of Beyer’s game.

Running backs - 4

Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone, LaVante Bellamy

Quarterbacks - 3

Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Rypien

  • I believe Aaron Rodgers will successfully force his way out of the Green Bay Packers and the current QB battle between Bridgewater and Drew Lock winds up having a bigger impact on QB2 than the starting job. It wouldn’t surprise me if the current stalemate lasts into training camp, but I doubt it reaches the regular season because every single press conference would start with the same question and haunt the Packers’ 2021.
  • It’s no guarantee Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater is traded to Green Bay, but I doubt both will stick around if Rodgers lands in Denver.
  • Trading Lock would cost $779,694 in dead cap space. It’d cost nothing to move Bridgewater via trade.
  • Rypien may find himself pushed to the practice squad if Paton wants to steal a spot for another position group.

Your Broncos’ News

The quarterbacks that ‘broke’ the NFL - Mile High Report

Progress is passing. Passing is progress.

Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon can’t wait until training camp - Mile High Report

RB veteran Melvin Gordon III is excited to be back on the field, and he’s expecting hard work from everyone in the 2021 offseason

Denver Broncos WR Trinity Benson: Roster Review - Mile High Report

The Lewisville, TX native has signed on for another year as a Bronco, but can he make the 53-man roster?

Who will be available if the Denver Broncos are back in the QB market? - Mile High Report

An early look at the potential options.

Could Denver Broncos find a franchise passer in 2022 quarterback class? - Mile High Report

I spoke to Cory Kinnan of With the First Pick to find out.

NFL News

Vaccinated players will be tested once every 14 days - ProFootballTalk

That’s it. Once every two weeks. So in a five-month season from training camp until the end of the regular season, a vaccinated player will be tested roughly 11 times. A non-vaccinated player will be tested at least 150 times. Players who haven’t been vaccinated and who don’t intend to be vaccinated may not like this, but that’s the practical impact of being vaccinated. Setting aside all other benefits to those who have chosen to receive the shot(s), players who have received the vaccination won’t have a swab jammed up their noses every day, every day. Every. Day.

85 percent of Dolphins, Saints players fully vaccinated or in the process - ProFootballTalk

Albert Breer of SI.com reports and PFT has confirmed that the Saints are one of two teams that have 85 percent of their players either fully vaccinated or on the way to reaching that status. The Dolphins are the other team in that category.

Patrick Mahomes on his toe: I don’t see any problems moving forward - ProFootballTalk

“I don’t see any problems moving forward,” Mahomes said during his Thursday press conference. “Obviously, I’ll have to continue with the rehab, continue to work on those things — strengthen it, do all that different type of stuff. But I feel like I had a good OTAs, a good minicamp. I was able to move around, scramble around and do the things that I needed to do.”

Raiders sign Darron Lee, De’Vante Bausby - ProFootballTalk

Bausby split the 2020 season between the Broncos and Cardinals, appearing in a total of 11 games with three starts. He had five passes defensed. Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Bausby’s played for the Chiefs, Bears, Eagles, Broncos, and Cardinals in the NFL, plus the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders.

Matt Nagy makes clear Justin Fields is behind Andy Dalton but ahead of Nick Foles - ProFootballTalk

Nagy said he sees little chance of that order — Dalton, then Fields, then Foles — changing. “There will be a process and a plan,” Nagy said. “We will stick to that. That plan is not going to change tomorrow. The plan is not going to change in training camp. The plan is a plan — and it’s been thought out. . . . All three of those guys know that you need to produce, you need to play well, you need to compete, you need to be the best quarterback you can be. And then it’s going to be really pretty easy for us to see who that is and how that goes.”