Icon Rod Stewart once sang, “The first cut is the deepest,” and for several Denver Broncos hopefuls, they are feeling that unpleasant sting.

The final cuts for the 53-man roster have been made, and that leaves some talented candidates on the outs while others don their orange and blue jerseys, ready to contribute in the NFL arena.

In total, 28 players were waived, released, designated for injury or traded over the last 48 hours. Some will find their way back onto the Broncos, or some other NFL team’s practice squad, and others will simply see their NFL dreams end.

The Broncos had a supremely deep 90-man roster this season with battles at nearly every position group, making the cuts especially difficult for George Paton and crew. And as always, there were a number of players that Broncos Country was surprised to see as casualties.

OT Cameron Fleming

Cameron Fleming’s release wasn’t too surprising based on the tape and reps he put together as a Bronco, but more so due to the idea that he was one of the players competing for the starting right tackle spot when he was acquired by the team.

Once Ja’Wuan James was released earlier this off-season, Bobbie Massie and Cameron Fleming were brought in to create competition for James’s vacant roster spot. It became evident that Calvin Anderson and Massie put in the work and ended up outplaying Fleming throughout camp, leaving him as the odd man out.

Since he has been released, Fleming is now a free agent, able to sign wherever he can find employment. That means his time with Denver has likely come to an end unless he is added to the practice squad.

WR Seth Williams

As a sixth-round pick, Seth William looked like a potential draft steal. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound receiver led Auburn in receiving in 2019 & 2020 and looked every bit an NFL caliber receiver.

In a log-jammed wide receiver group, Williams had a quiet camp, but every once and a while would show his potential.

What may have been a hurdle for him is the fact that the Broncos already have two big-bodied jump-ball receivers in Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton that are proven NFL talents.

Williams still has a good shot at making the practice squad if he clears waivers but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him scooped up by another team banking on his upside.

OLB Derrek Tuszka

When assessing the outside linebacker position, the addition of Andre Mintze and Jonathon Cooper may have ultimately spelled doom for Tuszka’s opportunity with this team.

Special teams would have been the biggest opportunity for Tuszka to buy himself a spot on the 53-man squad, but clearly, he did not give the coaches enough good tape to give them confidence in his ability to help a perennially underachieving unit.

A hard-nosed player and grinder, Tuszka’s heart and work ethic will never be questioned as he always left it all out on the field, but he was just simply outplayed by two very exciting and talented young players.

CB Nate Hairston

In another very deep and talented group, it was clear that difficult cuts would need to be made. Nate Hairston, a player with a strong reputation with the coaching staff and in the locker room was released in another tough decision by the team.

Hairston was a player who always appeared to be in the right spot and was extremely consistent in his play on the field, putting together a few nice showings in the preseason. Those nice showings even got him some run with the second team — alongside Michael Ojemudia and Patrick Surtain — fueling some optimism about Hairston’s roster chances.

That said, the five-year vet was on the bubble with the wealth of cornerback talent on the team and really needed to stand out within the cornerback group.

Fortunately for him, it sounds like the team still hopes to sign him to their practice squad. It also seems like the move was motivated more by concerns about losing rookie corner Kary Vincent Jr. to a waiver claim than about being disappointed with Hairston.