Even though all seems mostly well in the Broncos Country with the additions of Sean Payton and reinforcements in free agency, there are still some players who desperately need to improve/break out to stay with the team. Sean Payton is in town, and he has the final say on the rosters.
The players who were brought in during the John Elway and George Paton eras have no sort of connections with Payton for the most part, so I do not think it would be outrageous to see Payton part with some of these players if they don't perform the way they should.
There are quite a few players on the team who aren't necessarily facing any sort of make-or-break season. Some are young players who are still in the early stages of their development or perhaps are already established on the team.
Others, on the other hand, need to have a big year in 2023 or their future with the Denver Broncos might be in question. Let's use an "urgency meter," ranking how urgently these players need to show up in 2023. Obviously, 1 is the lowest, and 10 is the highest.
Urgency Meter: These Broncos have a ton at stake in 2023
Russell Wilson: 10
Russell Wilson is obviously at a 10 this year. His Urgency Meter is maxed out. Wilson was a disaster in 2022 and is on one of the most lucrative QB contracts in NFL history. The Broncos could move on from Wilson at the end of the year, and with Payton speaking very highly of Jarrett Stidham, I don't think Wilson is a given to even start each game in 2023 for Denver. This is the biggest year of his football career.
Jerry Jeudy: 7.5
Even though Jerry Jeudy had the best year of his NFL career in 2022, there is still much at stake for the fourth-year player. Payton's comments about Jeudy have indicated that he is going to play a massive role in the offense, and for good reason, as he is their best skill player.
The Broncos did pick up his fifth-year option, so he is under contract for two more seasons, but if he can't build on what he did in 2022 playing for one of the best offensive minds the NFL has seen, Denver surely might look in a different direction for their WR1 of the future.
Lloyd Cushenberry: 10
Lloyd Cushenberry is currently one of the worst starting centers in the NFL and I am shocked that the Broncos did not replace him in free agency or the draft. Now, rookie draft pick Alex Forsyth can surely end up winning the starting job or replacing him in a future season, but I just don't see what Denver sees in Cush, who has been one of the worst centers in football since coming into the league out of LSU in 2020.
He's a free agent at the end of this year and unless he shows noticeable improvement, he'll hit the market and Denver will likely then turn to someone like Forsyth. This is a big year for Cushenberry.
Randy Gregory: 9
Randy Gregory needs to have a huge year if he wants to stay with the Denver Broncos. The five-year deal he signed with the team last year is actually, practically just a two-year pact, so the Broncos can easily move off of Gregory at the end of this season. With young guns potentially waiting in the wings, namely Nik Bonitto, Chris Allen, and Jonathon Cooper, it's no surprise that Gregory, who can't stay on the field, needs to have a big year.
Unless he truly makes a huge impact, he's gone at the end of the season.
Zach Allen: 5
I think there is some form of urgency with Zach Allen, who was one of the Broncos' many free agent additions this offseason. He comes in and essentially replaces Dre'Mont Jones, who departed for the Seattle Seahawks, and I think the big thing with Allen is that the Broncos are likely expecting him to take a step from year four and a step from what Dre'Mont Jones did for the team in 2022.
Allen has gotten better each year and has spent each year of his career with Vance Joseph. He's still in his mid-20s and likely has his entire prime ahead of him. With him entering year five in the same system, there is likely going to be some pressure on Allen to not only fill the void left by Jones but take another logical step forward.