Denver Broncos: projecting the 53-man roster

The coaching staff of the Denver Broncos has some very tough decisions to make in the coming weeks. Several players who contributed significantly to the 2013 Super Bowl run will not make the roster, and some talented young players will be playing for other teams after August 30th. Although the decisions are tough to make, this is a good problem to have as it indicates the depth and talent of the current team.

Already at this point in the preseason the roster is loaded with sure bets to make the roster. I see 47 players that are a lock (or near lock) to make it, leaving a battle for six spots between 20 players who have a legitimate shot at sticking.

Barring injuries, this is how the roster will shake out for opening day.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (3)

Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert

Running Backs (4)

Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson

Wide Receivers (5)

Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, Cody Latimer and Andre Caldwell

Tight Ends (3)

Julius Thomas, Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme

Offensive Line (10)

Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark, Winston Justice, Ben Garland, Will Montgomery, Michael Schofield and Matt Paradis

denver broncos

The Denver Broncos are a deep and talented team this year

Defense (25)

Defensive Tackles (4)

Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams, Marvin Austin and Kevin Vickerson

Defensive Ends (5)

Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, Quanterus Smith and Kenny Anunike

Linebackers (7)

Von Miller, Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan, Lerentee McCray, Lamin Barrow, Brandon Marshall and Corey Nelson

Cornerbacks (5)

Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Kayvon Webster, Bradley Roby and Omar Bolden

Safeties (4)

T.J. Ward, Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter and John Boyett

Special Teams (3)

Matt Prater (P), Britton Colquitt (K) and Aaron Brewer (LS)

The two players making the grade, who may come as a surprise to some people, are Matt Paradis and Corey Nelson. Some have opined that the Broncos will try to sneak them onto the practice squad. Nelson is the most likely candidate for that, but I doubt the Broncos will risk sending both players through waivers in an attempt to get them on the practice squad. I just don’t think the Broncos are willing to let two of their drafted players, who have shown promise at times during practice, play for other teams.

The biggest reason Paradis will make the roster is Will Montgomery. Since Montgomery can play center or guard, his versatility will give the Broncos flexibility to hang onto an additional prospect at any spot on the interior of the line. If a starter at guard goes down with an injury, Montgomery will be the first to fill that spot and Paradis would then become the back-up center and Ben Garland will remain the back-up guard.

Nelson will make it for two reasons; he will show he can contribute significantly on special teams in the next two preseason games and has more upside than Steven Johnson. I really like Johnson, but for some reason the coaching staff isn’t sold on him and Nelson is more athletic. They may very well go with one of their draft picks this year because of the upside and the team will need a back up weakside linebacker until Danny Trevathan returns from injury.

A few notable cuts are Steven Johnson (see above), Mitch Unrein, Duke Ihenacho, David Bruton and Jordan Norwood.

Norwood has been playing well, but neither he nor anybody else for that matter has really made the coaching staff take notice in the return game. Unless he makes a huge splash on returns in the next two preseason games the Broncos will settle on Omar Bolden for kick-offs and Wes Welker returning punts (mostly fair catching them).

Last year the Broncos only carried four receivers on the roster and a return specialist. This does not bode well for a sixth receiver on the roster in 2014. Trevathan’s injury has also added to the pressure of not keeping that sixth receiver. Norwood or another returner would have to be a game changer to make the Broncos cut someone else to make room, but so far that just isn’t the case. With this offense, having great punt returns isn’t a necessity, hanging onto the ball and not losing yards are, however. (Update: Norwood suffered an unknown leg injury in practice today)

Unrein, Bruton and Ihenacho are good players who are going to be pushed out by better players. Unrein has been valuable and has played solid this off-season, but Marvin Austin has just been so much better. Ihenacho has not been very good this off-season, especially in coverage, but he has skills and contributed last year. The Broncos will have a tough time keeping Bruton because John Boyett has out played him. John Fox really loves veteran players, but Boyett is so much better in pass coverage than Bruton. He has also been around the ball consistently on special teams. Bruton is from the old regime and has never lived up to his potential. Fox will agonize over this cut, but Boyett has earned the shot at the expense of both Bruton and Ihenacho.

This Broncos team has talent and depth at almost every position. Cutting players, especially veterans who have become fan favorites is never easy. Letting go of solid players is a testament to how stacked this roster is heading into the regular season.



  • Michael Madison

    Just found you, and enjoyed the read. You’re bookmarked. I hope with all my heart they find room for Mitch.

    I was at the first bronco game in ’60 and every home gave through ’84 when I moved to the sunshine to play golf and now root for the Sun Devils. I doubt there is a soul alive who has seen more games than I. I can’t recall any more the opponent of the last game I didn’t see one way or another, but I remember it was a division game in 1987 when I was in Alaska for a week, maybe the Sea Hawks. I often went to great lengths to keep the streak alive in the days before 20 screen sports bars, most commonly driving to Tuscon, (they adopted the Broncos for years because there were several UofA players on the team in the Vance Johnson days and no Cardinals in AZ yet to destroy the TV contract) Albuquerque, San Diego, or LA to catch a TV broadcast. Of course, when those options weren’t there, I had to occasionally buy a ticket and fly back to Denver and stay with other life-long fans. I’ve spent a retirement worth of money on travel and tickets alone!! I was at three of the Super Bowls, unfortunately the first three, all increasingly painful losses.

    From section OO, row 49, seat 5 at the old Bear’s stadium, to my seat in front of the 60 incher today, I still love every minute of it (well almost). I look forward to reading your future posts. Forgive an old man for rambling.

    • Thomas Hall

      It is great to hear from a fellow Broncos fan. Thank you for reading. I enjoy writing about the Broncos and reading other fan’s stories such as yours. I have seen the Broncos live three times, the last one being the recent Super Bowl. It was painful to watch as well, but hopefully this is the year they bring home the trophy.

  • Eric Baiyee-Cady

    Ben Garland will never beat out Painter. Have you see how big and quick the guy is?

    • Thomas Hall

      I like Painter’s potential, but he has been bad as a blocker. I was hoping he would put it together, but not so at this point. His size and speed has not translated to the field. Garland has been pretty solid so far and the team and fans love him. It will be a tough decision, but Garland has outplayed Painter. It may be a close call, but Garland can beat him out.

      • captainkangaroo

        The Broncos organization loves Garland (Military background). They have done everything possible to find a spot for him on the roster.

  • captainkangaroo

    It looks like the Norwood dedicision has already be made with his ACL injury. Will the Broncos keep him on the long term injury list? I think I have to agree with you everywhere else. Unrein and Bruton are brutal cuts eh?

    • Thomas Hall

      Yes, Norwood will go on IR for the year. I love Unrein. He plays his heart out and does everything asked of him. He is a good teammate. He just isn’t better than Austin. If it wasn’t for Jackson and Wolfe being able to play tackle on passing downs they may have been able to keep him, but alas that is not so. Bruton is a great special teams player, but he has never been able to cover in the secondary well. Both will be tough cuts.