I touched a little bit on this topic on the winners & losers article right after the 2022 NFL Draft ended, but I wanted to expand on the losers after some more thinking on this topic. With how the Denver Broncos have been seeking more 2023 draft capital and how much of a transformation the team is undergoing thanks to George Paton and Nathaniel Hackett, I felt it was prudent to discuss players who I felt like are on the roster bubble following the 2022 NFL Draft.
Lloyd Cushenberry III
Cushenberry’s fit with the new outside zone offense was always going to be an iffy one. With two years of film to show that he’s just not been the guy the Broncos hoped he could be when they drafted him in the third round, there’s little reason to think the Broncos weren’t interesting in fixing the center spot long-term.
Enter Luke Wattenberg, their fifth-round center from Washington. Wattenberg’s age and play strength were why he fell so far, but he’s a clear scheme fit in their new outside zone offense, and he has the ability to be a long-term option there. With Graham Glasgow likely sliding over to center and Quinn Meinerz locking up the right guard spot, Cushenberry feels like he’s on the outside looking in. The team’s not going to roster three centers, so Cushenberry might be dealt to a new team as the offseason goes on.
Ojemuedia has so far been more hope than substance with the Broncos. He struggled as a rookie and then missed virtually all of 2021 due to injury. While new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is keeping a lot of the same principles as Vic Fangio’s defense, Ojemudia was always a weird scheme fit there and likely still is.
The Broncos signed Blessaun Austin, who is already familiar with the scheme and has years of good play in the NFL already. Then the team drafted two corners and signed a third as a UDFA. With Ojemudia being a pick of the previous front office and new faces being brought in that match the scheme better, it doesn’t feel like Ojemudia is long for Denver.
This goes hand in hand with Ojemudia above, so I’ll just address it here. Bassey hasn’t really proven much in the NFL, and he doesn’t have any draft status to back up his name. 7th-round corner Faion Hicks is a more promising prospect than Bassey was coming out of Wake Forest, and UDFA Ja’Quan McMillian got the second-highest payout of all Broncos UDFAs. Without a standout offseason, Bassey probably doesn’t make the 53-man cut.
This might be a controversial take, but it’s not entirely far-fetched. Jamar Johnson only played 38 snaps this season, and all of them were on special teams. While many were expecting him to be the third safety at one point this offseason, the team brought back veteran Kareem Jackson and signed JR Reed.
Then the Broncos spent another fifth-round pick at safety in Oklahoma’s Delarrin Turner-Yell. From a roster construction standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep that many safeties around, even if they are planning on playing a significant amount of dime. The Rams played six all season, but one of those was Eric Weddle coming in during the postseason and the Rams cut JuJu Hughes as well. George Paton has already shown he doesn’t mind moving on if something isn’t working out, and the team’s been looking to add as much 2023 capital as they can.
I’ve maintained my status on Malik Reed, and the numbers just don’t add up in his favor. Reed was already behind Jonathon Cooper on the depth chart off of quality of play alone, and then the team moved Baron Browning over to EDGE (dumb but that’s a topic for a different day).
Worse for Reed, the team spent their first pick on Nik Bonitto from Oklahoma, who is already a better pass-rusher, and then spent big on UDFA Christopher Allen out of Alabama, who is also a better pass-rusher but struggled with injuries. Given that the Broncos can move on for virtually no penalty and they’d save about $2.3M, his roster spot doesn’t feel guaranteed at all.