January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos executive John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen celebrate the 26-16 victory against the New England Patriots following the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to this week’s installment of the Mile High Mailbag. In this column, we answer your questions via social media on pressing matters that concern the Denver Broncos. You can read the last edition by clicking here.
This is a great question. And it’s a little bit complicated. The top 3 tight ends, Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, and Virgil Green, are all locks to make the team. The question really comes down to Gerrell Robinson.
Robinson, a converted wide receiver, flashed in OTAs a month and a half ago. The Broncos are definitely high on him.
Going undrafted out of Arizona State in 2012, Robinson was picked up by the Broncos. Since then, he’s bounced around to the Arizona Cardinals but now he’s back and has absolutely embraced his new role as a tight end.
The Broncos carried 4 tight ends last year. This year, even though the option is there, there are other roster ramifications to consider.
For example, the Broncos brought in a ridiculously talented class of rookie UDFAs. Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay, Shaq Barrett, and Isaiah Burse, all have NFL talent and all represent areas of need for the team.
With Von Miller still recovering/rehabbing from his torn ACL, the team may look to bolster it’s linebacker corps. Lerentee McCray earned a heap of praise in last year’s training camp, before his injury and subsequent I.R. designation. He figures into the Broncos’ plans at strong side linebacker.
Danny Trevathan, Nate Irving, and Lamin Barrow are locks to make the final 53, too. Then you have to figure in special teams stalwart, Steven Johnson. Between those four, Miller and McCray, that adds up to 6 LBs.
The Broncos also have to consider rookie 7th rounder, Corey Nelson, too. Shaq Barrett could make it difficult for Nelson to make the 53 in 2014. But either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team chose to carry 7 LBs this year.
Then there’s the safety position. Rahim Moore, T.J. Ward, and David Bruton are locks to make the final roster. Quinton Carter, Duke Ihenacho, and John Boyett will all be fighting for a roster spot.
Traditionally, the Broncos carry 4 safeties, but have also moved corners to safety when they find themselves in a tough spot, like last year with Omar Bolden and Quentin Jammer. I could see the Broncos keeping 5 safeties this year. Carter and Ihenacho, make the roster, in my opinion. But Boyett will give them a run for their money.
At wide receiver, the Broncos recently re-signed Andre Caldwell. Then they brought in Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and drafted Cody Latimer, to go along with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. That adds up to 5 WRs.
However, the Broncos don’t want any of these guys returning punts and kicks. At least, that’s our opinion at PO, which means that they need to find a return specialist elsewhere.
Enter Isaiah Burse. If he continues to flash in training camp and throughout the preseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the final roster.
What am I getting at here? Long story short, what I’m saying is, just because the Broncos released Joel Dreessen, doesn’t mean that they’re going to automatically carry 4 TEs on the active roster. There will be some really tough decisions made leading up to September 7th. And if I had to answer the question now, before training camp, I’d say that the Broncos will only carry 3 TEs this year.
The release of Dreessen, from what I can tell, frees up about $2.5M. Per OverTheCap.com, the Broncos now have about $7.2M in available cap space.
For a team who spent big, but wisely, in free agency, that’s a nice cushion to have going into the war of attrition that is the NFL regular season. Our own Sayre Bedinger, recently sketched out a list of 5 free agents that the Broncos could target.
Of his list, the one that intrigued me the most was Pat Angerer, but alas, the Falcons swooped him up not long after Bedinger made the post. Personally, I think that if the Broncos choose to use some of that space on a veteran, it would either be a middle linebacker, or a running back.
Ronnie Brown would be my first choice, should the team focus their attention on the backfield. He’s a wiley veteran who can still run the ball effectively, catch passes and pick up the blitz.
As mentioned in the Bedinger piece, Desmond Bishop is still available, but he’s struggled with injuries. Almost any young linebackers with experience, still available, have medical jackets replete with attacks by the injury bug.
Dan Connor and Nick Barnett are also out there. Connor played under John Fox in Carolina, so that could be a good fit. Barnett was once one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL, but injuries derailed his career.
The only way the Broncos will decide to sign a middle linebacker is if they just don’t feel confident in what they see out of Nate Irving and Lamin Barrow in the early stages of training camp. I don’t think that will be an issue, however. Irving is going to step up.
Will the Broncos use some of that cap space on free agents? Ultimately, I don’t think they will, unless camp injuries strike and they have no choice.
FROM ENEMY TERRITORY…..
Pat Bowlen’s legacy is one of high success and class. Under his ownership, the Broncos have won 6 conference titles and 2 Super Bowl rings. Think about that for a minute.
Since 1984, when Bowlen took over as owner, the Broncos have appeared in a whopping 20% of Super Bowls played. Let that sink in.
Under Bowlen’s ownership, the Broncos have become the 13th most valuable franchise in pro sports, with a $1.6B value, according to Forbes. Whoa.
And if it weren’t for Pat Bowlen, we wouldn’t have our beloved Duke of Denver, even John Elway, back in the saddle, guiding the Orange and Blue.
We have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we, Broncos Country? When the Broncos host the Lombardi next February, have no doubt that the words that come out of John Elway’s mouth will be, “This one’s for Pat.”