Deciding what to do with each of Broncos' in-house free agents

  • Lloyd Cushenberry could be in line for a nice pay day
  • Big decisions loom at inside linebacker
  • Several former Saints players are in line to hit the open market

Oct 12, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry (79) lines up against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Oct 12, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry (79) lines up against the Kansas City Chiefs. / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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Now that the 2023 NFL season is officially in the books, the Denver Broncos are about ready to embark on what will be a crucial season for the team.

It will be the second year on the sidelines for head coach Sean Payton, who is going to be tasked with not only finding an answer at the quarterback position but also finding a way to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs, who just won their second Super Bowl in a row.

The Broncos are going to need to make some moves in order to create some spending money ahead of free agency, which begins with the start of the new league year on March 13. Here are some ideas for how they could do that.

But before the team considers outside options, it needs to decide what to do with each of the free agents currently on the roster. That's what is going to be mapped out here.

Looking at each of the team's upcoming free agents and taking into consideration their importance to the team's effort to rebuild as well as what it may cost to keep them around, I am going to give the team my personal take on what to do with each of these players.

Wil Lutz, Denver Broncos
Nov 19, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos place kicker Wil Lutz (16) kicks a successful field goal against the Minnesota Vikings. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Former Saints scheduled to be free agents

Payton has brought over many players from his days in New Orleans, to varied results. It is clear that Payton wants players who are familiar with his system and what he likes to do so that those players can bring their experience to the guys that weren't familiar with Payton.

That makes sense, but only to help the overall building of the team. Once those players stop being useful in that regard, it's time to move on, because there were probably more talented options that the team could have turned to for on-field production.

These former Saints players are all going to be unrestricted free agents.

Wil Lutz, Kicker: When the Broncos decided to move on from Brandon McManus last offseason, no one should have bought into the idea of either Elliott Fry or Brett Maher being long-term options. They were nothing more than placeholders until a better option became available.

That option turned out to be Wil Lutz, who was beaten out by Blake Grupe in the kicking competition in New Orleans. That allowed Payton to send a seventh-round pick to his former team in exchange for the kicker.

Lutz got off to a rough start in Denver before becoming quite reliable as the season wore on. There is no reason to make a change here.

Decision: Re-sign Lutz to a new deal

Michael Burton, Fullback: Most teams in the NFL choose not to use a fullback in today's game but many of the good offenses, such as the one in San Francisco, still do. Payton likes to use one so it would make sense to bring Burton back on a short-term deal.

If you're going to use a fullback, it makes no sense to draft one when you have limited picks and unless you find one as an undrafted rookie, you may as well just bring back the guy who knows your system and plays well in it.

If the Broncos choose not to allocate funds to this spot, Nate Adkins, an undrafted player last season, could be a potential replacement.

Decision: Re-sign Burton to a new deal

Adam Trautman, Tight End: The Broncos had what was probably the worst tight end room in the NFL last season and Adam Trautman just doesn't seem like a player who will ever move the needle. Letting him go makes the position even weaker, but the Broncos need to look for an upgrade in free agency or the draft no matter what.

Decision: Allow Trautman to leave via free agency

Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Wide Receiver: Humphrey caught 13 passes in 2023 and had three of those go for touchdowns and while the team is thin at wide receiver, there is no reason to keep him in the fold unless they are sitting at the end of the preseason this summer and no one has stepped up and looked better.

Decision: Keep Humphrey's number handy and the team could look to bring him back down the road

Dwayne Washington, Running Back: Another former Saints player who was brought in to be a special teams guy. The Broncos will need more depth at running back but Washington is just a role player or practice squad guy.

Decision: Washington can be left out of the team's future plans