Broncos 53-man roster project after preseason opener

The Broncos are more than two weeks into training camp and now have a preseason loss to Arizona under their belts as well.

At essentially the halfway point between report day and the NFL’s new single cutdown day from 90 players to 53 on Aug. 29, let’s take a crack identifying who’s safe and who’s on the bubble for the Broncos en route to a full roster projection.

This exercise is mostly meant to serve as a snapshot. Every year there are wheelings and dealings around the roster cutdown. Of the 90 players currently on Denver’s roster, 42 are new since the end of the 2022 season. That number will only rise between now and the Sept. 10 opener against Las Vegas.

With that in mind, let’s get to it.


Quarterbacks (2)

Locks: Russell Wilson and Jarrett Stidham

Bubble: The Broncos gave Stidham $5 million guaranteed on a two-year deal to be Wilson’s backup, so barring injury the only decision likely to be made in the quarterback room is whether Ben DiNucci makes the 53-man roster even though DiNucci was sharper than Stidham on Friday and has been smooth overall in camp. Most teams these days want to only keep two. This is where coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton will have to put their networks to work and determine whether they can waive DiNucci and get him onto the practice squad or if they sense another team would claim him. The ideal for the Broncos is to get him to the practice squad and save the roster spot for elsewhere.

The call: Take two.

Running backs/Fullback (4)

Locks: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine.

Likely: Michael Burton (FB).

Bubble (one spot): One of the best position battles Denver has going features Tony Jones, Jr., Tyler Badie and Jaleel McLaughlin for probably one roster spot. They each have their strong points. Jones has played for Payton in the past. Badie flashed last year late in the season for the Broncos. McLaughlin showed what Wilson called “great burst” again Friday night. Normally, it’s safest to lean toward experience. But the Broncos need speed and the rookie has it.

The call: McLaughlin, by a whisker.

Tight ends (4)

Locks: Adam Trautman, Greg Dulcich and Chris Manhertz

Bubble (one spot): This is shaping up to be fourth-year man Albert Okwuegbunam vs. undrafted free agent Nate Adkins. Is there a trade partner for Albert O before Aug. 29? There wasn’t last year at the trade deadline. Denver has a variety of traits at the position among its main trio. Back of the roster, what are you trying to stash? Special teams ability and toughness.

The call: Adkins.

Wide receivers (6)

Locks: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims Jr.

Likely: Brandon Johnson.

Bubble (two spots): The Broncos took a big hit when Tim Patrick tore his Achilles early in camp. His absence and KJ Hamler’s waiver creates more room on the bubble for Denver and there are a bunch of contenders. Callaway has the most productive NFL season of the bunch: 698 yards and six TDs with Payton in New Orleans in 2021. There are a bunch of other guys vying for spots, including Kendall Hinton, Jalen Virgil, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Montrell Washington. Washington’s had a nice camp, but Mims, if healthy, might be Denver’s preferred return man.

The call: Callaway and Hinton.

Offensive linemen (9)

Locks: Garett Bolles, Ben Powers, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, Mike McGlinchey

Likely: Cam Fleming, Isaiah Prince

Bubble (two spots): Denver has a bunch of linemen battling for likely a couple of spots. Luke Wattenberg had a rough night Friday and was part of the reason a field goal got blocked. Kyle Fuller has versatility and was the No. 2 right guard against Arizona. Demontrey Jacobs is talented but a rookie who turns 25 in November. Alex Forsyth might be the No. 2 center by the time the end of the season.

The call: Forsyth and Fuller.


Defensive linemen (5)

Locks: Zach Allen, D.J. Jones, Matt Henningsen

Likely: Jonathan Harris, Mike Purcell (if healthy)

Bubble (maybe one spot): Tyler Lancaster missed all of 2022 but has played extensively in the NFL previously. P.J. Mustipher is a big, young interior player. Denver signed Elijah Garcia away from the Rams late in the 2022 season and he logged two sacks against the Cardinals Friday. If Purcell is on the roster a day and goes on short-term injured reserve, maybe two more make it. Or perhaps the Broncos carry six.

The call: Lancaster looks to be next in line pending Purcell’s health, but the above quintet might be how Denver starts the year.

Outside linebackers (5)

Locks: Randy Gregory, Frank Clark, Jonathon Cooper, Nik Bonitto

Bubble (one spot): Thomas Incoom and Marcus Haynes got a ton of playing time Friday after coordinator Vance Joseph said earlier in the week they had been “breaking glass” – trending upward – in camp. Aaron Patrick has special teams ability, but has missed time. Chris Allen is worth developing after two years of injuries, but that can likely be done from the practice squad. Baron Browning (knee) could be shelved well into the season.

The call: Coin toss between Haynes and Incoom for the final spot. The other will see time at some point this season as a practice squad elevation.

Inside linebackers (4)

Locks: Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, Drew Sanders

Likely: Justin Strnad

Bubble: Denver’s top four are pretty well set after Jonas Griffith tore his ACL earlier in camp. The most likely situation at this point is that Seth Benson and Austin Ajiake are practice squad considerations or the Broncos find somebody they like for that role in the wave of Aug. 29 cuts.

Cornerbacks (5)

Locks: Pat Surtain II, Damarri Mathis, K’Waun Williams, Riley Moss

Bubble (one spot): Denver could keep six corners and five safeties instead of five and six as projected here. If the Broncos wanted to give Moss more time to recover from core muscle surgery, they can put him on short-term injured reserve, but only after he’s been on the roster for a day past the cutdown. To facilitate, Denver could try to swing a deal like they did last year with Mike Purcell by agreeing with Williams to cut him for a day and then re-sign him (perhaps guaranteeing slightly more money in the process) after Moss goes on IR. That would make room for an extra player for the first four weeks. If not, it will be a tough call between a strong special teams presence like Tremon Smith or Essang Bassey, a veteran like Fabian Moreau or a young player like Jaquan McMillian or Faion Hicks. McMillian started Friday opposite Mathis with Surtain an onlooker.

The call: Smith has a two-year deal and guaranteed money, so he gets the call. McMillian’s going to be really hard to leave off the roster. Denver might have to find away to avoid that.

Safeties (6)

Locks: Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Kareem Jackson, P.J. Locke

Bubble (two spots): There’s no guarantee Denver will take six safeties, which means Delarrin Turner-Yell and JL Skinner are competing with the cornerbacks and perhaps edge guys on the bubble, too. Some of it will come down to special teams. Turner-Yell’s trending toward being a core guy there, which is good news for him. Skinner, a sixth-round pick this spring, has unique length and range and is healthy after a torn pec this winter, which may have affected his draft stock.

The call: Turner-Yell and Skinner, but it won’t be easy.


Locks: Riley Dixon (P), Mitchell Fraboni (LS)

Bubble (one spot): Brett Maher (PK), Elliott Fry (PK)

The call: Neither made a great case Friday and an argument could be made that the favorite currently is the field, aka somebody from another team available after the roster cutdown. Between the two, Maher has much more experience than Fry and a stronger leg – though Fry snuck one over from 55 against Arizona. Coordinator Ben Kotwica said both are north of 90% conversions in camp so far. In a close race, the edge goes to the more experienced Maher, especially since Payton indicated the only reason they didn’t sign him coming out of the tryout both kickers attended this summer was a difference of opinion about money.

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