The Denver Broncos completed the painful process of cutting their roster from 80 down to 53 on Tuesday, and in doing so, made a handful of somewhat surprising decisions that sent waves through the roster.
Which moves were the biggest and most surprising? Let’s look.
From the moment Josh Johnson was signed, he was the heavy favorite for the backup quarterback job, but as training camp got underway and the second preseason concluded, the tide began to shift in favor of Brett Rypien.
Both backups routinely struggled in camp, but Johnson’s accuracy woes were consistent and impossible to miss. The BB gun attached to Rypien’s right shoulder occasionally got him in trouble and forced turnovers, but his accuracy and field vision led to him outshining Johnson.
Given Johnson’s relationship with the coaching staff, this is somewhat of a surprise, though Johnson should stick around the team on the practice squad.
In a move that might shock some members of Broncos Country, the Denver Broncos traded Malik Reed — who led the team in sacks over the past three seasons — and a seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in exchange for a sixth-round selection.
Looking at the box score might lead one to worry about the lack of compensation in this trade, but Reed’s sack count has always been pretty hollow. Reed has a terrific motor that never runs cool, allowing him to tally coverage sacks late in the down.
That said, his pass-rush win rate (ranked 38th out of 39 qualifying edge-rushers in 2021) and pass-rush productivity rate (ranked 39th out of 39 qualifying edge-rushers) paint a more accurate picture of some of his shortcomings rushing the passer.
Now factor in the addition of Randy Gregory, Baron Browning and Nik Bonitto to the room — all of whom look promising — while Jonathon Cooper enters year two, and Aaron Patrick adds a lot on special teams, and one can see how the Denver Broncos came to the conclusion that Reed was expendable.
Kendall Hinton & Seth Williams
The Denver Broncos also made two cuts at the receiver position that raised eyebrows.
Kendall Hinton has the sentimental qualities of filling in for the Broncos when they desperately needed a quarterback, and therefore technically being a Hall-of-Famer, but there were strong football arguments for keeping Hinton too.
Receivers Nos. 4-6 for the Denver Broncos now have a combined six receptions for 63 yards in the NFL. That’s a lot of inexperience in that room. Plus, Hamler has only tallied 35 receptions for 455 yards over the course of his two-year career, so there’s some worry about experience there as well.
Hinton would have provided them with a more experienced option that could be a reliable route-runner with soft hands for Russell Wilson.
Seth Williams’ exclusion from the roster was a less shocking development, but it was still noteworthy considering the Broncos also moved Brandon Johnson off the roster, and Williams’ remarkable performance against the Minnesota Vikings.
Last but not least, we have Netane Muti.
Muti was competing with Dalton Risner and Quinn Meinerz for a starting guard spot for much of camp, but a knee injury suffered during practice seems to have interfered with his roster outlook.
The move is definitely a surprise considering how much the second unit of the offensive line struggled in the preseason, but it demonstrates the Broncos must have confidence in Graham Glasgow and Luke Wattenberg to be their reserves until Tom Compton is activated off the PUP list.