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
- Long snappers tend to be guys you sign and forget about until you can’t, and Bobenmoyer has no competition as I write this. Entering the second season of a rookie contract, he probably won’t this offseason.
- During March, the Broncos restructured McManus’ contract. He’s a lock for the roster.
- Bringing in Max Duffy is a sign George Paton was hoping to go cheaper at punter if the two looked comparable. After spending the beginning of his career in the Australian Football League, Duffy joined the Kentucky Wildcats and earned All SEC honors the last two years. He was also a unamious first-team All-American in 2019. I thought they’d look comparable. I was wrong.
Broncos have waived P Max Duffy per source. Rookie performed well but veteran P Sam Martin a good one and roster spots needed after signing two WRs today. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) June 17, 2021
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
- Even as the Broncos were forced to play 10 corners due to injuries a year ago, Fangio used 5+ DB personnel on 74% of their snaps. Nickel is the most utilized personnel group by a country mile, so odds are Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and three corners will start.
- Surtain, Fuller, and Darby are locks for the roster, while it’s hard to imagine Callahan gets moved barring a surprising trade offer. Broncos will probably carry 10 or 11 DBs on their final roster. If Fangio plans to utilize more dime personnel, it could make sense to carry more DBs.
- If George Paton does move Callahan before the season it would carry a $1,333,334 dead cap hit and create just over $7 M in cap space.
- With 8 of 11 spots probably locked up, the last three spots most likely come down to a player who can adequately fill the nickel role, a boundary guy, and a safety or someone who could play there in a pinch. If the final cut winds up at 10, Johnson’s ability to play the slot could help to play a bit at both safety and nickel.
- Broncos DBs logged 1393 special teams snaps last year and it’s going to play a vastly underrated role in who wins those last spots. Among the DBs, P.J. Locke III played the most with just under 78.56% of the ST snaps, Trey Marshall was second with just under 60%. There is a distinct possibility OJ eats into those.
- I expect Kary Vincent and Mac McCain to fight to make the practice squad.
- I think Essang Bassey and Locke are the bubble guys. Bassey could fall off the roster and make the practice squad, but it may be a numbers game and Fangio mentioned he’ll have a limited workload early as he works back from the ACL tear. That could hurt in a tight competition.
Fangio said most everybody will be ready for the Broncos, but a few will still be coming back off injury and may see some limited action early.— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 15, 2021
Courtland Sutton won't be on PUP, but will have a managed workload.
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.
Broncos have five tryout players at mandatory minicamp— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) June 15, 2021
LB Shaquem Griffin
WR Amara Darboh
TE Kyle Markway
WR De’Mornay Pierson-El
LB Gabe Sewell
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.
Can't wait to see Bradley Chubb line up across from Von Miller again. He's gotten so much better since the beginning of 2019. pic.twitter.com/rj4NGdSFkg— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 15, 2021
Defensive Line - 6
Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, McTelvin Agim, DeShawn Williams, Shamar Stephen
- The Broncos will probably carry six defensive linemen onto the final roster. I believe Harris, Jones, Purcell, and Agim are locks.
- Stephen’s contract comes with guarantees, but moving him would create $1.2 M in cap space. If Deyon Sizer, Isaiah Mack, or Marquiss Spencer impress, the competition between Stephen and Williams could be very interesting. It’s probably a good problem for Fangio after having dealt with the cratering of his defensive line last year.
“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.
Shelby Harris wrecking Josh McDaniels' offense on 3rd and 2 with a quick swim to Cam Newton. pic.twitter.com/gqzRnxOIGs— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 15, 2021
Wide Receivers - 6
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer
- The Broncos will probably carry six receivers on their final roster. Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler look like complete locks barring a trade with the Green Bay Packers. It’d be surprising if Patrick doesn’t make the team.
- A free agent after 2021, Patrick’s contract carries no dead money if he is moved. It would create $3.384 M in cap space.
- Keep an eye on who gets snaps returning the football in camp. One way the Broncos could free up a roster spot elsewhere on the roster is if one of the receivers or defensive backs make Spencer expendable, as he’s a limited contributor to the offense. At present, I expect McMahon to make a push to keep him regardless.
- 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.
A feel good story to keep an eye on in Denver. WR Kendall Hinton, who last season was forced to start at QB for the #broncos vs the Saints, is having a really strong offseason. He he’s in the hunt for a roster spot. I saw him make a few plays yesterday. He’s impressing the staff— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) June 16, 2021
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.
Iowa Tight End Shaun Beyer is interesting as hell. Only 18 career catches but he is an outstanding blocker and a really good athlete. Did the high jump (PR of 6-8), long jump, and ran hurdles in high school. Also played basketball and wrestled. pic.twitter.com/vgZi5tsWlx— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 2, 2021
Running backs - 4
Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone, LaVante Bellamy
- The Broncos will carry at least three backs on the final roster and I expect four. I consider Boone and Pookie true locks, and Gordon is probably safe barring league discipline and a really poor camp.
- KOA’s Mike Klis has reported that if Gordon receives any discipline from the NFL as part of his arrest last year, Paton will go after his guarantees. If that happens, he could be cut.
- If the Broncos carry a fourth back, I expect it to come down to Bellamy vs. Royce Freeman. Moving Freeman creates $249,255 in dead money and frees up a little less than one million dollars in cap space.
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.
"I know he still wants out. Without a doubt. Absolutely. Still wants out"@JayGlazer on Aaron Rodgers— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 16, 2021
"Every time somebody called the #Packers it was immediately shut down. What these teams need to do is continue to call, continue to call" #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/ysMH9UgzoH
Your Broncos’ News
Progress is passing. Passing is progress.
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
The Lewisville, TX native has signed on for another year as a Bronco, but can he make the 53-man roster?
An early look at the potential options.
I spoke to Cory Kinnan of With the First Pick to find out.
The Broncos updated roster post-field day pic.twitter.com/X1VqwzB66i— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 17, 2021
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”