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Way-Too-Early 53-Man Roster: The contenders to make the team at each position

Henry Chisholm Avatar
May 20, 2023

It’s time for the second round of cuts… in our way-too-early 53-man roster that is.

If you missed the first part of the series, you can catch up on who got cut out in our first round here. And just in case you need a refresher, here’s where we stand.

The goal of this round is to cut each position group down to the maximum number of players the Broncos could feasibly consider keeping. At running back that’s about five. At cornerback that’s about seven. Then we can run through the final round of cuts to get to 53.

Here’s the second round of cuts…


Remaining: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, Ben DiNucci

Cut: DiNucci

This was one, unfortunately for Ben DiNucci, is too easy. The Broncos aren’t going to carry three quarterbacks on their roster. DiNucci will be the third quarterback, but he’ll hold down that role from the practice squad. He couldn’t get a practice squad job last year, so there’s no reason to think another team will claim him off waivers.

Running Back

Remaining: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Tony Jones Jr., Tyler Badie, Jacques Patrick, Jaleel McLaughlin

Cut: Patrick

This one is tougher. Tyler Badie, Jaleel McLaughlin and Jacques Patrick are competing for one, maybe two spots depending on Javonte Williams’ health.

I can’t cut Badie yet. He was a 1,600-yard rusher at Missouri who was drafted by the Ravens last season. Somehow he dropped into the Broncos’ lap during the season, and he turned his two touches into 24 yards and a touchdown.

I can’t cut McLaughlin yet. He’s the type of undersized, big-play back that has thrived under Sean Payton. His 3,200 yards from scrimmage in the last two years might mean less because he’s coming out of Youngstown State, but he’s a two-time FCS All-American and that should count for something. So should being the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.

That means Patrick has to go. I don’t love moving on from the XFL’s leading receiving back and second-leading rusher, but he probably has the least upside of this trio. He sent the 2020 season on the Bengals’ practice squad, the 2021 season on the Bengals’, Panthers’ and Ravens’ practice squads and the 49ers’ active roster, and he spent 2022 in the XFL. He’d be good insurance for Samaje Perine, and he may be capable of beating out Tony Jones Jr. for a veteran role, but if somebody has to go, I’m going with Patrick.

Wide Receiver

Remaining: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Marvin Mims Jr., KJ Hamler, Marquez Callaway, Kendall Hinton, Montrell Washington, Jalen Virgil, Taylor Grimes

Cut: Montrell Washington, Taylor Grimes

The Broncos are remarkably deep at receiver. All 12 of them on the 90-man roster could make an argument they belong with the team this fall, but that isn’t possible. I’m cutting the group down to eight, which is the maximum possible on the 53-man roster, and is very, very unlikely. That means two more need to go.

Kendall Hinton, Jalen Virgil, Montrell Washington, Taylor Grimes and maybe Marquez Callaway were considerations. In the end, I decided to move on from Washington and Grimes because Hinton is a better, more-polished option in the slot.

Washington could, of course, make the team. He was a fifth-round pick just a year ago. He struggled as a returner, despite having plenty of ability to play the role, but with Tremon Smith and Marvin Mims Jr. now on the roster, the Broncos have options to replace him. Washington probably has two paths to the roster; first, he could prove he’s far-and-away the best option as a returner. Second, he could beat out KJ Hamler for the second speed receiver job. That seems unlikely, but if Hamler isn’t recovered from his torn pec or he sustains a new injury, the door could creep open. Sean Payton may be able to find more work for Washington than Nathaniel Hackett.

Grimes is an exciting slot receiver prospect who posted 2,336 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He’s polished. He might be a stud. I just can’t quite put him in front of Hinton, and I might live to regret that decision. Grimes should be a lock for the practice squad and he might be the first for a call-up if he shows up during training camp. This cut pains me.

Offensive Tackle

Remaining: Garett Bolles, Mike McGlinchey, Isaiah Prince, Christian DiLauro, Alex Palczewski

Cut: DiLauro

The swing tackle job is wide open in Denver. In addition to the list above, Quinn Bailey should be included. He played twice as many snaps at guard than tackle last year, so we’re calling him a guard for now. The Broncos could see him as either, or more likely both.

Christian DiLauro should hold the same role he’s held for the past decade; a reserve tackle on the practice squad. If you need him to play, he can play. But the Broncos should be able to find a better backup tackle or two to hold on the roster.

I initially had Alex Palczewski as a cut here, but I can’t bring myself to do it. He was an All-American last year at Illinois. He has six years of starting experience. He has the frame to be successful. He’s still only 23. The Broncos gave him more money than just about any other undrafted free agent. I’ll probably have to cut him to get down to 53, but it will sting.

Isaiah Prince also moves on. He was a sixth round pick by Miami in 2019 and started two games as a rookie before being waived. The Bengals claimed him for the final month of the season. Prince opted out of the 2020 season, but returned as a swing tackle in 2021. He started at right tackle for the Bengals entire playoff run on their way to a Super Bowl 56 appearance. He missed most of 2022 with an elbow injury and spent his healthy portion of the season on the practice squad.

The experience is there for the 25-year-old, but the performance leaves plenty to be desired. He gave up five pressures in the Super Bowl, which led to a 2.4 PFF grade. That was a low point, and it was two years ago, but I’m concerned about Prince as the Broncos’ swing tackle, and that’s how I justify keeping Palczewski around.


Remaining: Lloyd Cushenberry III, Kyle Fuller, Luke Wattenberg, Alex Forsyth

Cut: Wattenberg

The Broncos have a competition on their hands at center. Lloyd Cushenberry III hasn’t lived up to expectations through his three years as a starter, which opens up that door. The options aren’t ideal though.

Kyle Fuller was a free-agent addition from Seattle this offseason. He’s gotten about 80% of his work at center but has versatility along the interior. But the 25-year-old Cushenberry has played more than four times as many snaps as the 29-year-old Fuller for a reason; he’s been better.

Luke Wattenberg was a fifth-round pick last season but he struggled mightily. His three sacks allowed on 55 total pass-blocking attempts leaves plenty to be desired. A poor rookie performance in a small sample size doesn’t mean his career is done, but it does mean that I’m betting on the other options to beat him out in camp.

Alex Forsyth, the Broncos’ seventh-round draft pick this year, has just about every tool you could look for in a center. He’s a two-time All-Pac-12 performer and three-year starter. He didn’t give up a sack as a senior. The Ducks scored multiple touchdowns because he was allowed to check runs at the line of scrimmage. As a pure people-mover, Forsyth has plenty of room to grow, but everything else is there.

Outside Linebacker

Remaining: Randy Gregory, Baron Browning, Jonathon Cooper, Nik Bonitto, Aaron Patrick, Chris Allen, Thomas Incoom, Marcus Haynes

Cut: Haynes

During the Broncos’ rookie minicamp, Sean Payton said his goal was to make sure none of the players invited went on to make an impact for a different team. The position group I’m most worried about that happening is outside linebacker.

Holding on to seven outside linebackers will be tempting, but almost impossible.

Take Chris Allen for example. In 2020, he was a second-team All-SEC selection and the conference leader in tackles for loss. He picked up six sacks. Then, in the 2021 season-opener against Miami, Allen got a sack but sustained a Lisfranc injury that kept him out the rest of the season and prevented him from being drafted. The Broncos made him their highest-paid undrafted free agent, but he wasn’t ready to go in time for the season and sat on IR for 2022. Now he’s back to compete, and could be a steal if healthy.

Thomas Incoom spent four years playing Division II ball, before transferring to Eastern Michigan for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He outperformed his role in his first year then finished third in the country with 11.5 sacks last season. At 6-foot-2 and 262 pounds, Incoom was able to bully opponents in a way that might not be sustainable in the NFL, but the production speaks for itself. A year of polishing on the practice squad could be best, but could the Broncos leave him there all year without another team signing him? Incoom brought in the most guaranteed money of any Broncos’ undrafted free agent in this cycle, which indicates there was competition for his services.

Marcus Haynes is probably the odd man out. His production at Old Dominion fell from six sacks in 2021 to four sacks in 2022. His high football IQ will help him out at the next level but his 233-pound frame will need some work. Haynes will have a shot to make the team like everybody else but, given the talent in the room, landing on the practice squad would be a great result.

And the two holdovers most likely to lose a job to one of the new faces are Jonathon Cooper and Aaron Patrick. Cooper has 14 starts for the Broncos in his two seasons, which makes it tough to believe he could be cut. Patrick played in 12 games with one start in 2021 and made the team in 2022 thanks to his special teams abilities but is recovering from a torn ACL that cut his season short after five games. If we’re comparing collegiate achievements, it’s worth noting that Patrick was one of three finalists for the FCS defensive player of the year award in 2019.

I should probably rip the band-aid off and cut a second linebacker, but we’ll only cut Haynes for now.

Inside Linebacker

Remaining: Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, Drew Sanders, Jonas Griffith, Justin Strnad

Cut: Strnad

Keeping five inside linebackers wouldn’t be too outlandish of an idea, but given the tough cuts that will be made around the roster, holding onto Justin Strnad is a difficult sell. The 2020 fifth-round pick has been a constant part of the Broncos’ special teams units, but he didn’t play a single defensive snap in 2022. Maybe the special teams contributions will keep Strnad around, but a reserve spot on the Broncos’ practice squad makes the most sense.


Remaining: Pat Surtain II, Damarri Mathis, K’Waun Williams, Riley Moss, Tremon Smith, Essang Bassey, Ja’Quan McMillian, Art Green

Cut: McMillian

Ja’Quan McMillian did some great work in his lone 2022 appearance, which was a start against the Los Angeles Chargers in the season finale. A strong camp could earn him a roster spot, but as of now I’m taking undrafted rookie Art Green as the favorite for the seventh spot. Green is a big corner who runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, and he’ll be much tougher to sneak onto the practice squad than McMillian. Whether the Broncos can keep seven cornerbacks on the roster is up for debate.

The Roster

After two rounds of cuts, here’s where we stand. The red names are the first round of cuts and the yellow is the second round.

We’ll make the final 12 cuts next.


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