The Denver Broncos will have to make some difficult roster decisions soon. George Paton and the front office have assembled a roster with a lot of depth at every position, but they will have to cut their roster down to 53 players by August 30.
Here are Heavy’s predictions for the Broncos’ final 53-man roster for the 2022 season.
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1. Russell Wilson
2. Josh Johnson
With the amount of depth at other positions, it is difficult to justify carrying three quarterbacks on the roster. Johnson and Rypien both had their moments during the Broncos’ preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys, but I’ll go with Johnson here.
Johnson is a safer option, as he brings more experience to the table. Over his NFL career, he has appeared in 37 games and made nine starts. He has also played in the AAF and XFL.
In 2021, he looked sharp in limited action. He completed 67.1% of his passes for 638 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Running back (3)
1. Javonte Williams
2. Melvin Gordon III
3. Mike Boone
IR: Damarea Crockett, Tyreik McAllister
Following the season-ending injury to Crockett, the Broncos signed Max Borghi, JaQuan Hardy, and Stevie Scott III. All three players were underwhelming in their first preseason game. As a team, the Broncos had 22 carries for 39 yards. Borghi was cut on Tuesday, so Hardy and Scott are now competing for the fourth running back spot.
However, it would be unwise to award either player a roster spot over a standout player at another position (wide receiver, edge rusher, cornerback). The Broncos have three strong running back options, and they could just sign Hardy or Scott to their practice squad.
Wide receiver (6)
1. Courtland Sutton
2. Jerry Jeudy
3. KJ Hamler
4. Montrell Washington
5. Brandon Johnson
6. Jalen Virgil
IR: Tim Patrick
This is the most competitive position group on the Broncos’ roster. Brandon Johnson, Jalen Virgil, Seth Williams, Tyrie Cleveland, and Kendall Hinton all have cases to make the roster. Williams and Cleveland are good special teams contributors, but undrafted rookies Johnson and Virgil have too much upside to give up.
Both players have been making highlight plays throughout training camp, and they were the Broncos’ two leading receivers against the Cowboys. Virgil had three receptions for 83 yards, while Johnson had four receptions for 64 yards.
With Tim Patrick sidelined, both players have the potential to develop into meaningful contributors for the Broncos this season.
Tight end (4)
1. Albert Okwuegbunam
2. Greg Dulcich
3. Eric Saubert
4. Andrew Beck
Last season, the Broncos carried four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster, and I think that trend will continue this season. Okwuegbunam and Dulcich are locked into the top two spots, and Beck’s hybrid role as a fullback gives him additional value. So, the fourth spot is a battle between Eric Saubert and Eric Tomlinson.
Both Saubert and Tomlinson are utilized primarily as blockers. Last season, Saubert was a blocker in 210 out of his 290 offensive snaps per PFF, while Tomlinson was a blocker in 251 out of his 319 offensive snaps per PFF.
I’ll give the edge to Saubert, who generated some positive training camp buzz.
Offensive line (9)
1. Garett Bolles
2. Quinn Meinerz
3. Dalton Risner
4. Lloyd Cushenberry III
5. Calvin Anderson
6. Billy Turner
7. Graham Glasgow
8. Luke Wattenberg
9. Netane Muti
PUP: Tom Compton
Free-agent addition Tom Compton remains on the PUP list, so I’ll leave him there for the time being. Garett Bolles, Quinn Meinerz, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Calvin Anderson should comprise the starting unit, while veteran Billy Turner could make a push for the right tackle spot.
After restructuring his contract, there is no upside to cutting Graham Glasgow, as it would trigger a $9.1 million dead cap hit. Luke Wattenberg was a fifth-round pick, and he was listed as the team’s backup center on their first unofficial depth chart. So, he should be safe.
Netane Muti is on the roster bubble, and he is expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a knee injury. Compton’s status could impact him.
Defensive line (6)
1. D.J. Jones
2. Dre’Mont Jones
3. DeShawn Williams
4. Mike Purcell
5. Eyioma Uwazurike
6. Matt Henningsen
Mike Purcell has been mentioned as a cut candidate due to his contract. If the Broncos waive Purcell, they can save approximately $3.6 million in cap space.
Nevertheless, with Russell Wilson on the roster, the Broncos are in win-now mode, and Purcell has performed at a high level in the past. In 2019, he had a PFF run defense grade of 91.0. Even if Purcell does not regain his 2019 form, he is still a good depth option.
Eyioma Uwazurike (fourth round) and Matt Henningsen (sixth round) were both selected by the Broncos in the 2022 NFL draft.
One glaring omission is McTelvin Agim. Agim was a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He has played sparingly over the last two seasons recording a total of 231 defensive snaps. On a very competitive depth chart, has Agim done enough to separate himself from the pack? Remember, Agim was drafted by John Elway, so Paton could value Uwazurike and Henningsen over him.
Inside linebacker (3)
1. Josey Jewell
2. Jonas Griffith
3. Alex Singleton
Josey Jewell and Jonas Griffith were listed as the starters on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. Unfortunately, Griffith dislocated his elbow.
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett hinted Griffith could return for Week 1.
“Just looking at him and talking with him after the game, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s there for Week 1,” Hackett said on August 15.
The Broncos did sign veteran Joe Schobert, but Alex Singleton is a more valuable player due to his special teams play. Over the last three seasons, Singleton played 710 total special teams snaps for the Philadelphia Eagles.
If Griffith is placed on the PUP list or IR, Schobert or Justin Strnad should make the roster.
Outside linebacker (6)
1. Randy Gregory
2. Bradley Chubb
3. Nik Bonitto
4. Jonathon Cooper
5. Malik Reed
6. Baron Browning
IR: Christopher Allen
Cutting Malik Reed would be a grave mistake. It needs to be said. Reed has inexplicably been mentioned as a guy on the roster bubble by analysts. Reed has led the Broncos in sacks since 2020 (13), and he is only entering his fourth NFL season. A team should never let a young, productive edge rusher just walk out the door.
Aaron Patrick is a tough loss here. Patrick is a good special teams player, but the team should not move on from Reed, Baron Browning, or Jonathon Cooper.
1. Patrick Surtain II
2. Ronald Darby
3. K’Waun Williams
4. Damarri Mathis
5. Michael Ojemudia
6. Blessuan Austin
Cornerback is another loaded position group. Last season, six cornerbacks made the Broncos’ initial 53-man roster, and I stuck with that number here. Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby, and K’Waun Williams are locks, while Damarri Mathis and Michael Ojemudia are safe bets. That leaves Blessuan Austin, Essang Bassey, and Faion Hicks as the strongest candidates for the sixth spot.
The Broncos actually cut Bassey last December; they claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers in January. So, Bassey seems more likely to miss the cut than Austin or Hicks. Hicks was a seventh-round pick, and he has potential. Austin brings much more experience to the table, however. Austin has started 17 NFL games, and he can play on special teams. He is a nice, all-around player to have on the roster.
1. Justin Simmons
2. Kareem Jackson
3. Caden Sterns
4. P.J. Locke
5. Delarrin Turner-Yell
After waiving Jamar Johnson, the Broncos’ safety group appears to be taking shape. Caden Sterns and P.J. Locke have looked good throughout training camp. In addition, Locke had two inteceptions during Thursday’s practice.
It is also hard to picture the Broncos cutting Delarrin Turner-Yell, who was a fifth-round pick.
J.R. Reed has potential, but he faces an uphill battle in a crowded field.
- Kicker (1): Brandon McManus
- Punter (1): Sam Martin
- Long snapper (1): Jacob Bobenmoyer
Brandon McManus is a no-brainer. Sam Martin is competing with Corliss Waitman, and it is interesting that the Broncos have worked out several long snappers. Nevertheless, I think the front office will stick with the status quo.