It’s the eve of the final pre-season game for the 2013 season, and that means that it’s the last chance for the guys scratching and clawing their way into the NFL to make an impression on coaches, scouts, and GMs not just for their teams but all around the league.
That’s why the pre-season is so intriguing to me.
But, the ugly reality is that a lot of players are going to get cut around the league. Thousands of young men are going to have their dream cut short, or at least hit a big speed bump. As of right now, every team in the league has their roster at 75 players and by Saturday, they will all be cut down to 53 with a practice squad made up of eight players.
The Broncos have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL right now, so making the final cut means you’re among the best of the best. Keep in mind that players who have been suspended to start the season or are on the PUP/reserve list do not count against the 53 man total.
Thus, this is my initial projection of the Broncos’ final roster, based on what has been seen and heard to this point.
Quarterback (2/53) — Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler
I think the Broncos will carry two quarterbacks and depending on what seventh round pick Zac Dysert does in the team’s pre-season finale, they should be able to stash him on the practice squad. The only catch here is that some team might be shallow enough at QB (see Buffalo Bills) that they might be willing to open up an active roster spot to snake Dysert away from Denver. If the Broncos get a sense that Dysert won’t clear waivers, then they’ll keep three quarterbacks and just make him a gameday inactive.
UPDATE: Adding Zac Dysert
There are too many QB needy teams in the NFL right now, and after the team’s final pre-season game, I don’t think Zac Dysert would clear waivers. He showed some athletic ability that I didn’t know he had, and he made some really solid plays. You have to add Dysert to this list now.
Running Back/Fullback (6/53) — Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball
Right now, it’s a toss up between whom the Broncos will keep with Lance Ball and Jacob Hester fighting things out. Hester may be a better receiver out of the backfield, but Ball has been with this team for quite a while and is a good special teams player. He also showed some explosiveness in the team’s preseason game against St. Louis.
I thought Ball’s career with Denver was over when C.J. Anderson appeared to be taking over the #4 RB spot, but his injury opened the door for Ball and Hester.
I think that Anderson will clear waivers and make it to the practice squad, but he will be with the team in some capacity. He was running with the 2nd team in goal line situations prior to hurting his knee. I don’t think Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, or Ronnie Hillman will be cut whatsoever. Those three spots are set in stone.
Wide Receiver (12/53) — Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Andre Caldwell, Tavarres King, Trindon Holliday (KR/PR)
I think the Broncos’ WR spot is pretty well set in stone, wouldn’t you say? Trindon Holliday might not offer the most at the WR position, but he is an elite return specialist and is listed on the roster as a WR. Tavarres King, the team’s fifth round pick, has flashed explosive ability in practice but hasn’t gotten many opportunities in the pre-season.
Andre Caldwell as I wrote a couple of days ago has played his way onto the roster and has some very intriguing upside as a backup.
Youngsters Gerrell Robinson and Lamaar Thomas are good candidates for the practice squad at this position.
UPDATE: Keeping Gerrell Robinson
Robinson played out of his mind in the final pre-season game, and I don’t think it’s out of the question whatsoever for this team to keep six WRs plus Trindon Holliday, who is almost strictly a return specialist. Robinson has a great chemistry with Brock Osweiler dating back to their college days, and he’s been somewhat of a security blanket for Os.
Tight End (16/53) — Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas, Virgil Green
I think there’s a possibility the Broncos roll with just three TEs assuming they are going to use more 3WR sets, but I don’t see a guy in this group that I’d really want to cut. Jacob Tamme has trade value, but the Broncos need not trade a player like that who was so valuable last year and made a ton of plays.
Julius Thomas’ emergence could force Denver to make a move on Tamme, but hopefully not until next offseason. There have been rumors that he is being shopped, but I’m not a fan of that move. I don’t think the Broncos are going to want to sell low on such a talented player.
Offensive Line (25/53) — Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark, Chris Kuper, John Moffitt
Couple of surprise cuts possibly here. The Broncos used a fourth round pick–acquired in the Tebow trade–to select Philip Blake. He was injured all of 2012, and is the third string right guard right now. He is a practice squad candidate, but he obviously hasn’t been able to seize a huge opportunity this offseason with varying injuries along the Broncos’ offensive line.
Vinston Painter, the team’s sixth rounder, has some upside. He will probably make his way to the practice squad since Chris Clark can back up both tackle positions.
UPDATE: Cutting Ryan Lilja
Lilja has not received favorable marks from analysits, and appears to be a potential bust of a signing for Denver. Manny Ramirez has played better than expected this pre-season, and the team just traded for John Moffitt last week. That could push Lilja out the door and allow the Broncos to keep an emergency C on the practice squad.
Defensive Line (33/53) — Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, Quanterus Smith, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, Sylvester Williams, Mitch Unrein
The only real surprise here would be former seventh round pick Jeremy Beal, who has some pass rush upside. I’d like to see the Broncos try and squeeze him on the practice squad as well because he could be an emergency fill-in if anyone on the edge is to get injured.
Otherwise, this is pretty straight forward. Perhaps some would be surprised to see Mitch Unrein to make the final roster, but the guy is extremely valuable from what I can see. He is a hard worker who actually plays in all phases of the game, and he’s shown some playmaking ability from the interior DL position.
Quanterus Smith won’t make it through waivers to get on the practice squad, and the Broncos need all the pass rushers they can get at this point anyway.
Linebacker (39/53) — Shaun Phillips, Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan, Nate Irving, Steven Johnson, Lerentee McCray
Well, the Broncos have done it again. This linebacker group is really a model of hard work. All three of Wesley Woodyard, Steven Johnson, and Lerentee McCray are former undrafted free agents who have made/could make the final 53 man roster.
The Broncos would have to obviously cut one of these players to make room for Von Miller when he returns, but I like this linebacker group. The team just signed Paris Lenon, and it’s not often you see veterans like that get signed and then immediately cut, but Steven Johnson was with the team all of last season and Shaun Phillips offers the veteran presence in this group, along with Wesley Woodyard.
Lerentee McCray has shown some explosive pass rush ability and could be a situational rusher for the Broncos to start the season with Miller out.
Cornerback (45/53) — Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris, Tony Carter, Omar Bolden (moved to S), Kayvon Webster
This is the deepest position on the team, so don’t be surprised when the Broncos keep all six corners and probably five safeties. The Broncos have so much talent at this position it’s scary.
Expect this unit to be a strength all year long for Denver.
Safety — (50/53) Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, David Bruton, Mike Adams, Quentin Jammer
I was trying to figure out when projecting this final roster which DB was not going to make the team, but it turns out, there’s room for everybody. You hate to see a guy like Quinton Carter go down on IR, but that opens the door for the Broncos to keep both veterans Mike Adams and Quentin Jammer, depending on what they do with the rest of the roster.
This is another very intriguing position and one under a bit of pressure after the breakdown last year against the Ravens.
UPDATE: Cutting Quentin Jammer
This would be a move to get Zac Dysert on the active roster. I don’t think Jammer showed enough this pre-season to warrant a roster spot at the Broncos’ deepest position. Plus, with Omar Bolden switching to safety, it gives the Broncos some versatility and allows them to keep a preferred number of 10 defensive backs.
Special Teams (53/53) — Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt, Aaron Brewer
Any questions here? These guys are highly paid (save for Brewer) and locked into roster spots. You could throw Trindon Holliday in there as well but I put him with the WR group.