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Cutdown day is in the books.
The Broncos made some surprise moves. They cut Kendall Hinton, who was a virtual lock to land on the roster spot for most of the season. They cut McTelvin Agim, who was coming off a massive performance in the final preseason game. They kept Brett Rypien over Josh Johnson, which nobody expected when the Broncos added the vet this offseason.
Even the Malik Reed trade, which seemed like the most likely of all trade possibilities since Day 2 of the draft when the Broncos chose Nik Bonitto, sent shockwaves throughout Broncos Country.
But cutdown day is only half of the chaos.
Starting on Wednesday, the second phase of the biggest roster overturn of the year continues when teams claim players off of waivers and start to build their practice squads.
So that’s what we’re talking about today: Who will the Broncos claim, and who will they put on their practice squad?
Plus, I’ve got my official predictions for the NFL season.
The Broncos will probably make another move or two before the real opening-day roster is finalized. It’s tough to project which of the 800 or so players cut over the past few days will pique their interest, but we can make a couple of guesses.
There are no grand slams in the group, mostly because of the Broncos’ positions of need, but here’s who the Broncos could sign or claim off of waivers before Wednesday morning’s deadline.
LB Jarrad Davis
The former first-round pick broke out in 2018 but quickly fell back off the map. He jumped from the Lions to the Jets last offseason then back to the Lions this summer. A team looking for cover ability at linebacker could be intrigued. The Broncos fit that bill.
CB Tariq Castro-Fields
The long Penn State product was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers this offseason. He struggled this preseason, including allowing six catches on six attempts against the Vikings, but his 4.38 speed gives him tremendous upside. With Faion Hicks, a seventh-rounder, just missing out on the roster, the Broncos could be interested in Castro-Fields as a final cornerback.
DT Malcom Brown
The veteran defensive tackle is coming off a down year, but there’s plenty to like about his first six NFL seasons. If the front office sees him as an upgrade over Mike Purcell, then this is an easy option. If not, adding another run stuffer could free up DJ Jones to play more on third downs.
DT Armon Watts
The Broncos are lacking some experience in the trenches, making Armon Watts a potential target. He was drafted by the Vikings when George Paton was on the staff, which adds to the appeal. With nice sacks as an part-time starter at defensive tackle last year, Watts is likely to be claimed.
WR Jalen Reagor
This would be the biggest possible splash. The former first-round draft pick has struggled in two NFL seasons but a change of scenery could unlock the speedsters potential. The Eagles didn’t cut Reagor but his named was passed around in trade rumors all day. He could be an interesting final piece to the Broncos’ receiving room, though the team is unlikely to give up any of its few draft picks.
OL Alex Leatherwood
One of the biggest surprises of cutdown day was the Raiders’ 2021 first-round pick. He struggled as a rookie, but improved a little when he moved from right tackle to right guard. Leatherwood was cut a few days after giving up five pressures on 27 pass blocking snaps against the Patriots as right tackle. He won’t be claimed, since that would cost nearly $6 million in cap space. It would be worth kicking the tires, though. Especially since Cam Fleming should get to the practice squad, if needed.
C Alec Lindstrom
Before the draft, Lindstrom was seen as one of the top centers in the available. For some reason he went undrafted and then was cut by the Cowboys. The Broncos are unlikely to add Lindstrom—since they chose Luke Wattenberg over him in the draft—but maybe they’ve changed their mind about the situation. The draft nerd in me had to include him in this list.
Dream Practice Squad
Those who lost their jobs this week could be getting them back quickly.
The NFL allows 16 players to sign to each team’s practice squad, including four players with an unlimited amount of experience in the league.
I built my mostly-realistic dream practice squad:
WR Kendall Hinton – More than anything Hinton is a guy you want to have in your locker room. He might not be the biggest, fastest or strongest but he’s a consistent option. He may wind up on an active roster. For the Broncos’ sake, hopefully he slips through the cracks.
S JR Reed – The veteran safety doesn’t offer much for upside but he can provide depth. If one of the Broncos safeties goes down, they’ll still have plenty on the roster. If two go down, having Reed available for a week or two is a solid option, especially for special teams.
DL McTelvin Agim – Losing the third-year lineman was probably one of the toughest decisions for George Paton. Agim was always going to be a project and he flashed big time in the final preseason game, with two forced fumbles, two PBUs and a sack. But he’s a rush-first defender and the Broncos have other options, plus a couple of rookies to keep around. Agim could be a great patch for an injury or a good depth option for next season.
QB Josh Johnson – Keeping three quarterbacks in the building is a must, and there’s no reason to replace Johnson with somebody else.
OG Netane Muti – The big-bodied guard was competing for a starting job but a knee injury two weeks ago sidelined him. Muti was one of the most surprising cuts and the 23-year-old will probably be claimed by another team. If not, he’d be a great addition to the practice squad. There’s no reason he can’t be a worthy starting NFL lineman in a year or two.
CB Faion Hicks – The rookie cornerback was the only Broncos draft pick to miss the initial 53-man roster. In his post-deadline press conference, George Paton said the team wants him on the practice squad and would be willing to bring him up as early as Week 1. The preseason was a battle for Hicks, but the tools are there. For a second it looked like Hicks could take Essang Bassey’s roster spot.
WR Seth Williams – The second-year receiver was deep in the competition for the last receiver spot but just barely missed out. He’s a solid option as a possession receiver and a year to refine his route-running could make him a solid depth piece in the future. Especially if he can provide more of a special teams presence.
CB Bless Austin – With 17 starts under his belt, Austin could be a victim to the waivers. Given the youth in the Broncos’ secondary, a veteran option is a good thing. He had a solid preseason.
OLB Jonathan Kongbo – The 25-year-old edge rusher has the physique of a freak athlete but didn’t provide much in the preseason, outside of a Week 1 sack. Still, he could fill an Aaron Patrick-like role in the future. With the depth and youth at outside linebacker, Kongbo isn’t a key piece to retain though.
DL Jonathan Harris – You could make the case that the 26-year-old had a better preseason than Matt Henningsen or Eyioma Uwazurike. I wouldn’t. But it’s close. Harris is an easy call-up if another lineman is needed.
LB Jeremiah Gemmel – The rookie linebacker out of North Carolina was a late addition but he showed some cover skills in the final preseason game. The Broncos are light on depth at linebacker and a veteran might make sense on the practice squad. It’s easy to see a path to the roster for Gemmel in 2023 and beyond.
OL Arlington Hambright – We’re transitioning into out of house options now. The seventh-round pick in 2020 picked up a spot start at guard for the Bears as a rookie and spent 2021 on the Chicago practice squad. He was waived by the Patriots on cut day and may be convinced to come to Denver, considering he played collegiately at Colorado. He would provide a developmental option at guard or tackle. I’d prefer Will Sherman in basically the exact same role for the exact same reasons but I don’t think he’ll leave the Pats.
CB Javelin Guidry – I don’t expect Guidry to clear waivers, but he’s a high-upside option in the slot after serving in that role for the Jets in the past. I think he’s attainable because, since a practice squad offer from the Broncos should be more desirable than one from the Jets. Playing collegiately at Utah gives him ties to the region.
TE Kenny Yeboah – The rookie, former Ole Miss tight end didn’t stick with the Jets. Like Guidry an offer from the Broncos could be intriguing. He averaged 75 yards per game over seven contests and picked up six touchdowns when he last played in 2020. With five solid options, the Broncos can afford a high-upside play with the practice squad spot.
OLB Quincy Roche – The explosive pass-rusher out of Miami was a surprise faller in the 2020 draft. He picked up three starts in 14 games in his second season after bouncing from Pittsburgh to the Giants and put up Jonathan Cooper-like numbers in a similar amount of work. He’ll probably get claimed but, like the players above, a move from New York to Denver could be appealing. Unlike those player, there are no previous ties.
RB Phil Lindsay – I’m picking with my heart here, but it might be possible. I don’t think Lindsay will be claimed on waivers and maybe a homecoming could make sense. I think the Broncos would be wise to find their practice squad back elsewhere, despite a solid performance from Devine Ozigbo in Week 3. Lindsay would get the fans going and if there’s an injury, he’d become a very solid third option.
I’m ready to make some official predictions.
I ran through the NFL schedule (with the help of our friends over at PlayoffPredictors.com) and picked every game, all the way through the Super Bowl. The idea was to focus on each individual game and not on how it impacted the bigger picture.
First, here’s how the Broncos fared:
If anything, the Broncos finishing 10-7 feels a little bit conservative. Picking a Chiefs sweep is painful but I can’t take the Broncos given the history. The sweep over the Chargers balances it out.
The point isn’t the Broncos in particular, though. The point is the whole league.
Here’s how the AFC fell:
Half of the conference finishing with 9 or 10 wins feels like a bit of a copout but there’s a strong middle class in the AFC. The Colts win the South and I feel good about that. The Ravens edge out the Bengals in the North and I feel even better about that. The Broncos snag a wild card spot thanks to a tiebreaker.
In hindsight, I might take a win away from the Dolphins or Patriots. Maybe the Steelers, too. The Jets, in hindsight, probably don’t make it to five wins.
Here’s the NFC:
The Packers take the top spot, mostly because they can clean up against the NFC North. I probably would’ve given the Vikings nine wins and the final playoff spot. I did this before the Chauncey Gardner-Johnson trade, and would’ve moved a win from the Saints to the Eagles in theory. Any of the six-win teams could win fewer. The Lions and Panthers might be able to win more.
And the playoffs:
After losing in Baltimore in Week 13, the Broncos win in Baltimore in the Wild Card Round. The Lamar Jackson playoff narrative builds. The Chiefs complete a 3-0 sweep of the Broncos in the second round.
If I was hand-picking all of these scenarios, I’d go with what I’ve said all summer: Von Miller’s Bills will end the Broncos’ season.
I’ve got a 45-1 ticket on the Packers to beat the Bills in the Super Bowl and I’m sticking with that here.
Overall, this was a pretty vanilla projection. Once the actual season starts, Jalen Hurts is going to dominate the league, or Trevor Lawrence will take a massive step, or somebody will be obliterated by injuries. As of now, I stand by my picks, though.
Ronnie Stanley – Baltimore’s star tackle was removed from the PUP list this week.
Jimmy Garoppolo – The veteran quarterback restructured his contract to stay with the 49ers as a backup this season.
Teven Jenkins – After months of trade rumors, the Bears announced that Jenkins would start at right tackle this season.
Aaron Donald – The best football player alive tore helmets off of a pair of Bengals during a joint practice and swung them windmill-style at his opponents. He will not be disciplined because the NFL somehow doesn’t have jurisdiction over joint practices.
Boomer – Bill Belichick was delighted by Chris Berman’s presence at his media availability this week.
Sauce Gardner – The Jets’ rookie cornerback did not allow a target in 24 coverage snaps this preseason.
Tyron Smith – The Cowboys’ already-weak line suffered a major blow when its star left tackle went down with a knee injury that will keep him out for most of the season.
Brian Robinson – The Commanders’ rookie running back was stealing first-team reps before surviving multiple gunshot wounds during an attempted carjacking this week.
Brett Kern – The former All-Pro punter was released by the Tennessee Titans this week.
Matt Araiza – The Bills released their rookie punter after a civil suit alleged he and two others gang-raped an underaged girl last year while attending San Diego State.
Laviska Shenault – The former second-round pick was traded from Jacksonville to Carolina in exchange for sixth- and seventh-round picks.
Shaquem Griffin – The linebacker announced his retirement from the NFL after four seasons.
Wes Welker – The retired wide receiver released a letter denying him reimbursement for medical costs after he didn’t prove his injuries were football-related.
Tweet of the Week
This shouldn’t be funny. A grown man tore his ACL.
But when he does it while dressed up like a cartoon bird, I can’t help but laugh.
The Braves’ mascot beating up these kids takes a close second in the mascot storyline of the week race.
Hopefully I didn’t miss the cutoff time.
Late to comment?? I just call it the clutch factorCullin for Mullens, the champ
You’re the Chris Streveler of the comment section.