On Tuesday, the NFL and the NFLPA announced that training camp rosters would be. capped at 80 players rather than their typical 90. That means that between now and when veterans report to camp, the Broncos will have to cut 10 players, without getting a good look at them.
Here are 10 of the top candidates to miss out on a final roster spot.
With Drew Lock cemented as the starting quarterback, Jeff Driskel set to be the backup, and Brett Rypien ready to reprise his role as scout team quarterback and developmental backup quarterback of the future, Riley Neal doesn’t have a clear path to being part of the Broncos’ roster or practice squad.
He was just meant to be a camp arm, and players like that will be the first to go as the roster gets trimmed.
The Broncos signed Jeremy Cox to a futures contract back in December, and along with the undrafted free agents, that group is the most at risk. He is listed as a running back on Denver’s roster, but he projects best as a fullback. With Andrew Beck already on the team, and Pat Shurmur — who rarely utilizes fullbacks — as the team’s offensive coordinator, there’s no need to keep Cox around.
Trinity Benson was an exciting undrafted free agent at Broncos training camp last year that nearly made the roster, but instead had to settle for a spot on the practice squad. Denver could decide to keep him around and give him a shot to compete on special teams, but if he wasn’t able to crack the receiver rotation last year, his odds of making it this year are long considering the infusion of talent at the position.
Kelvin McKnight finds himself in a very similar position to Benson, but he’s in even more trouble considering Benson flashed more special teams ability a season ago.
Undrafted free agents Kendall Hinton and Zimari Manning could be cut instead of McKnight and Benson, but considering the upside of those two players and the fact that they’re lesser-known commodities, they get a slight edge here.
Of the 10 players on this list, Tyler Jones stands the best chance of avoiding the ax. The Broncos kept him around on the practice squad last season and promoted him to the 53-man roster following injuries, but with Lloyd Cushenberry III and Graham Glasgow being added to the roster and Jones being on a futures/reserve contract, he finds his roster spot in serious jeopardy.
Undrafted free agents always have a steep hill to climb in order to make the final roster, and that’s especially true this season. Hunter Watts already has five tackles ahead of him on the depth chart, six if you count Elijah Wilkinson, and no more than four should make the final roster. That’s a tall order for a rookie lineman coming from the FCS level.
The Broncos defensive line room is pretty crowded following the off-season additions of Jurrell Casey, McTelvin Agim and Christian Covington. As all of those three can play the nose tackle role that best fits Heath — not to mention Kyle Peko who has much more history with the franchise — and the Broncos have the least invested in Joel Heath, and it appears he’s an obvious cut candidate.
Speaking of crowded position groups, the Broncos have six edge rushers worthy of a final roster spot, and Malik Carney is far from being one of them. Maybe he would compete for a practice squad job in other seasons, but considering at least one or two of those edge defenders won’t make the final roster, he’s likely to miss out on a scout team opportunity as well.
Douglas Coleman III
Douglas Coleman III is another intriguing undrafted free agent who is facing long odds. The Broncos will likely carry four safeties onto the final roster, and then maybe one more on the practice squad. Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and Trey Marshall have three of those spots secured leaving just three up for grabs. Even though Coleman made flashy plays while at Texas Tech, but was beyond inconsistent. Other safeties on the roster bubble, P.J. Locke and Kehani Smith, are more intriguing and safer bets for the Broncos.
Les Farnsworth/Jacob Bobenmeyer
Which one the Broncos will favor remains a mystery, but it seems highly unlikely Denver will hold on to two long snappers deep into training camp. There may be an initial competiton, but wouldn’t you rather use one of those precious 80 roster spots on a promising positional undrafted free agent than a second long snapper?