The Denver Broncos will have to finalize their 53-man roster heading into next week. How many players will Denver keep on offense and defense?

Denver Broncos 53-man roster: Offense

The Denver Broncos will conclude their preseason campaign with Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. After the game concludes, Sean Payton and his coaching staff will begin their final roster evaluations ahead of the league’s August 29 cutdown deadline at 2:00 p.m. MT.

Quarterback (2):

I’ve got the Broncos keeping two players at this position and adding Ben DiNucci to the practice squad after cuts.

Russell Wilson is the clearly defined starter for Sean Payton and has looked significantly better this year in camp and preseason play.

Based on his current contract valuation, Jarrett Stidham will be the Broncos’ backup quarterback behind Wilson. He had a shaky performance against the Arizona Cardinals but was efficient and decisive against the San Francisco 49ers.

Sean Payton’s hands-on approach with the quarterback position has been a noticeable change compared to last season.

Running Back (3):

All signs point to the Broncos keeping three total players at the running back position.

Javonte Williams return from last season’s ACL injury has been a pleasant surprise during training camp. He’s made tremendous strides in his recovery and looked solid in his first action back in the Broncos’ second preseason game.

There’s still a bit of rust to knock off, but he should be ready to roll for Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Behind Williams will be Samaje Perine, who signed with the team during NFL Free Agency. Perine has looked strong in the preseason, including a three-carry, 22-yard performance in a small sample size against the 49ers.

Who makes up the third spot? That should go to undrafted rookie free agent Jaleel McLaughlin.

McLaughlin has been a standout dating back to OTAs and minicamp. He carried over that momentum into training camp and ultimately into the preseason.

He has three touchdowns in just two preseason games, including two on the ground and one through the air.

McLaughlin makes the roster based on his consistency factor and production alone. He will become a potential weapon for Sean Payton to unleash.

Offensive tackle (4):

There are several ways this projection could have gone. Projection-wise, it’s easy to say that Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey are the two starters at the position.

There’s been growing momentum surrounding the players behind the two. Undrafted rookie free agent Alex Palczewski and veteran tackle Cam Fleming are the key players to look for.

Palczewski has consistently risen up the Broncos depth chart with strong performances in training camp and the NFL Preseason. Fleming is a proven, reliable option if an injury pops up to McGlinchey or Bolles.

One scenario that could occur that wouldn’t shock me is if the Broncos moved on from Bolles during roster cuts. Doing so would free up $13.8M in immediate cap space, according to Spotrac. This move would also incur nearly $4M in dead cap this year and $4M next season.

Fleming would step in at left tackle if this move were to happen. Palczewski would be the backup option on either side.

Center (2):

Lloyd Cushenberry is the clear-cut starter for Sean Payton at the center position. He’s looked drastically better this offseason than he has throughout his first three seasons in the NFL.

Cushenberry is playing in a contract year, and a strong season for him could lead to a second contract with the team.

Behind him, I have the Broncos bringing along seventh-round rookie center Alex Forsyth behind him. His placement behind Cushenberry will help him continue to develop under Payton’s direction and offensive line coach Zach Strief.

Offensive Guard (3):

Quinn Meinerz and Ben Powers are ready to take the reigns as the Broncos’ next guard duo in the Mile High City. Meinerz is considered by many as the best lineman on the roster.

Powers was one of Denver’s top free-agent signings. Despite struggling in his first preseason game and having two reps where he allowed pressure and one sack in his second game, his performance was drastically better.

Hopefully, any of his early struggles in a game-like situation this preseason have passed.

Quinn Bailey is the third option I have at the guard position, making the active roster. He has positional versatility and can play guard and offensive tackle if necessary.

Tight End/Fullback (5):

Considering some of the injuries to various Denver Broncos wide receivers, having several options at tight end could help mitigate the issue of passing weapons for Russell Wilson.

Greg Dulcich and Adam Trautman headline the top names at the position. Trautman has emerged as a security blanket for Wilson, while Dulcich has been a consistent receiving option for every Broncos quarterback throughout training camp.

Chris Manhertz has dealt with an ankle injury that’s hampered his availability for the past two weeks, but it’s clear how much Payton values him as a pass and run blocker.

Manhertz can be a useful addition to help any of Denver’s offensive tackles against premier edge rushers.

Let’s address fullback for a minute. There’s no debate that Michael Burton is the guy here for Payton and his offense.

Undrafted rookie free agent Nate Adkins has been extremely impressive and consistent, but I see Denver sneaking him onto their practice squad.

So, who is the fifth option? Considering Denver’s receiver injuries to Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy, they need somebody else to make plays.

Albert Okwuegbunam has been under the radar for the entire off-season. He’s turned in a strong training camp, and his 6’5 size and legitimate speed pose problems for opposing defenses.

Okwuegbunam is far too talented to hit the waiver wire, where another team will likely pick him up.

Wide Receiver (5):

This was arguably one of the tougher position rooms to factor into the equation, considering how injuries have impacted the optics of it.

Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are the room leaders, but other players must step up with Jeudy’s injury sidelining him for several weeks.

Behind Sutton and Jeudy, second-round rookie Marvin Mims is a roster lock and will continue to gain valuable experience this season. Second-year receiver Brandon Johnson and veteran Kendall Hinton make up this projection’s fourth and fifth players.

Johnson had an important role and has picked up the offensive scheme, which gave him the prime positioning after Tim Patrick’s injury. Hinton has turned in a consistent training camp and emerged as a security blanket for Russell Wilson last season.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey will likely sneak onto the practice squad. Marquez Callaway has had a very quiet training camp and preseason campaign, which has been surprising.

Somehow, either of those two could make the roster, but based on what I’ve seen, I don’t think they’d be the options that give Denver an advantage ahead of Johnson and Mims.

Total offensive players: 24

Denver Broncos 53-Man Roster: Defense

The Denver Broncos defense has been their strong suit since Super Bowl 50. With a large portion of their nucleus returning, Denver could see some changes ahead of roster cuts.

Cornerback (5):

Patrick Surtain and Damarri Mathis headline the team’s cornerback room this season. Surtain’s ascendance as arguably the NFL’s best corner gives Denver an advantage on defense that most teams strive for.

Mathis will see plenty of action if teams avoid targeting Surtain’s direction. Several intriguing names have emerged behind them to make up solidified depth.

Ja’Quan McMillian has taken all of the momentum he generated last season and has run with it this off-season. Based on his preseason play and strong training camp, he’s emerged as the top backup to Surtain and Mathis.

Not only can he play on the outside, he also can play inside the nickel.

Speaking of the nickel, the Broncos hope K’Waun Williams will be ready to roll for the Week 1 opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. With Williams sidelined, Essang Bassey has taken the lead as the starter during camp and has been an impact player in the preseason.

Through two games, he has snagged two interceptions. One came while playing in the nickel, and the other came from his ability to play safety.

If the Broncos ever needed him to, he could also play on the outside. Bassey and McMillian’s positional versatility and core-four special teams roles elevate their standing to make the active roster.

Rookie cornerback Riley Moss is still recovering from core muscle surgery. He’ll be on the active roster, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he lands on short-term IR after cuts initially happen, freeing up another roster spot.

Safety (4):

Denver’s safety room has dealt with some injuries ahead of the season, but all signs point to their core four being healthy once the regular season begins.

Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, P.J. Locke, and Kareem Jackson comprise the four players I projected here. This was a tough position because, typically, we have seen five players at this position, but other positions have taken precedence for more depth.

Sterns and Locke will play key roles on special teams as well. Jackson won’t likely have much of a role on special teams, which makes his spot interesting.

An argument can be made for Delarrin Turner-Yell because of his role on special teams. He’s also had a solid training camp at the safety position and doesn’t shy away from coming up in the run.

If the projection plays out how I’ve envisioned, Turner-Yell and JL Skinner could find themselves on the practice squad. There’s also a scenario where DTY makes the roster, and the team moves on from Jackson.

Outside linebacker (6):

Randy Gregory and Jonathon Cooper headline the Denver Broncos outside linebacker group. Behind them, veteran Frank Clark and second-year player Nik Bonitto are next in line.

With Baron Browning expected to remain on the PUP list at the start of the season, a short-term IR placement is in play, which could free up a roster spot elsewhere after initial cuts are made. This is where Aaron Patrick comes into play.

After taking big strides in his ACL recovery, Patrick could be a rotational edge rusher if needed but is arguably one of the Broncos’ best special teams players.

These six players make sense on the outside.

Defensive line (7):

Trench warfare is important in the eyes of Sean Payton. He understands how important it is to impose dominance to establish the run game on offense but impose dominance to stop the run defensively.

Zach Allen, D.J. Jones, Mike Purcell, and Jonathan Harris are the team’s top four defensive linemen. In Denver’s scheme, each player can play multiple roles, which is valuable to Vance Joseph and defensive line coach Marcus Dixon.

Who are the players to make up the depth behind them?

Matt Henningsen, Elijah Garcia, and Tyler Lancaster are the players in my projection.

Henningsen has shown he can be a valuable role player and has had an impressive preseason. Garcia has emerged here in the preseason, tallying two sacks and snagging an athletic diving interception last week.

Lancaster has been solid as a nose tackle throughout camp and the preseason. While Purcell continues getting back into football shape from off-season surgery and D.J. Jones dealing with various bumps and bruises, Denver needs as much insurance as possible to help plug the A-gap.

Lancaster provides the team with that option.

Inside linebacker (4):

This might have been the easiest position group to project on defense.

Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton return this season as the Broncos starters on defense. After Jonas Griffith suffered a season-ending ACL injury a few weeks ago, the picture of the position became slightly clearer.

Third-round rookie Drew Sanders has taken tremendous strides since the start of training camp and is firmly in the next top option at the position.

Justin Strnad will make up the fourth spot at inside linebacker and has played well at inside linebacker dating back to OTAs. His role as a core four special teams player elevates his stock more.

Other inside linebackers, Austin Ajiake and Seth Benson could be in line for the team’s practice squad after initial cuts.

Total players on defense: 26

Broncos special teams (3):

This should be the easiest positional outlook to project. Riley Dixon is the clear-cut punter, while it appears Brett Maher is in line to be the team’s kicker this season.

Mitchell Fraboni will be the team’s long-snapper after releasing Jack Landherr IV earlier in the week.

When formulating this roster projection, there were many different ways it could have gone at various positions. Ultimately, this is where things landed, considering some of the team’s circumstances with injury and personnel.

In just five days, we’ll know what the active roster officially looks like.