Following the first two preseason games for the Denver Broncos, the team has received quite a bit of clarity regarding positional battles on their roster that seemed to be neck and neck during training camp. However, more particularly after their preseason Week 2 performance against the San Francisco 49ers did the Broncos find clarity at the cornerback and running back position.
With the deadline quickly approaching for NFL teams to trim down their rosters from 90 to 53 players, there is a belief that a wave of cuts may take place this week as the Broncos prepare for their joint practices and final preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. For a large portion of players on the team, this will be the most important week of their football career and unfortunately, 37 of them will be informed of their release or waiver.
1. CB Tremon Smith
Just from an initial look at the 2023 free agent class, GM George Paton and head coach Sean Payton executed an exceptional job constructing a new roster with the amount of cap space they obtained heading into their very first offseason together as a duo. However, the one outlier that stands out from the rest that continues to remain a "head scratching" addition is none other than CB Tremon Smith who was signed to a two-year, $5M contract.
Playing at his natural position of cornerback through the first two preseason matchups, Smith has constantly struggled in both man and zone coverage. He has allowed multiple first down receptions through the first two weeks and even a few touchdowns as well. On the final play of the game against the 49ers, he had a great rush off end of the line of scrimmage with great position to block the kick but simply missed out on the chance as rookie kicker Jake Moody nailed the game-winner. That is essentially two consecutive weeks where the game down to the veteran corner to make a play and he simply failed expectations and did not rise to the occasion. It's time George Paton admits he missed on the signing. Smith will likely remain on the roster for one last opportunity this week against the Rams however, there is no telling if he will regress even more.
2. RB Tyler Badie
Despite having a great start to training camp and even having an edge in the competition for third string running back at times during the offseason, second-year player Tyler Badie seems to be battling for a practice squad spot at best now. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, his hip injury suffered last week held him out of Saturday's game against the 49ers and ultimately paved the way for rookie RB Jaleel McLaughlin to lock in a spot on the 53-man roster. It's unfortunate for Badie who only needed more opportunities to prove his worth on the roster with underrated skillsets of speed and contact balance at his position however, the NFL is a business and experiencing injury will only hold a player back from making a needed impression on a new coaching staff.
There is still a chance for Badie to make the roster depending if Payton decides to carry four running backs heading into the regular season however, it's unlikely given Payton's history of reluctance to do so. The Broncos will most likely designate a spot or two to both Badie and Tony Jones Jr. on the practice squad and will keep them prepared during the season in case of injury to the starters.
3. CB Art Green
Being signed as a rookie UDFA cornerback out of Houston, it was always a pipe dream for Art Green to make the 53-man roster in a very crowded room. However, at the time of the signing, there was still a sliver of hope amongst the fanbase that Green could make a serious impression on the defensive staff, especially given the contract that was awarded to the 23-year-old.
Following the NFL draft in late April, the Broncos almost instantly signed Green to a three-year, $2.7M deal that included a $180K fully guaranteed salary in just his first season. This eventually stood out as the most expensive guaranteed money the Broncos handed to an undrafted rookie subtly hinting that they had high hopes for him.
On the other hand, Green has not had the brightest offseason with the Broncos in his first year in the NFL. He was mostly a liability on the field during the start of training camp and was beat in coverage on several occasions during Saturday's preseason showing against San Francisco. It is difficult to imagine any scenario where Green is making the roster at this point with other corners such as Fabian Moreau and Delonte Hood who have outperformed him and bring more valuable special teams ability. A redshirt year for Green on the practice squad this season is the most realistic scenario foreseeable.