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What we learned from John Elway and Vic Fangio at the 53-man roster deadline

Andrew Mason Avatar
September 5, 2020

It’s not the final roster. There is no such thing as a “final roster.” It’s more accurate to call the players the Broncos kept their “initial 53.”

Here’s some of what we learned about that initial 53 from Broncos general manager John Elway and head coach Vic Fangio during their Zoom conference with Denver-area media Saturday:


And that means the 2018 first-round pick may be on a play count, although Fangio noted that it has not been decided yet.

“We’re going to see how he does. He’s not 100 percent yet,” Fangio said. “There’s a lot to overcome when you’re dealing with an ACL injury that he’s had, particularly the position he plays where he’s leaning on people a lot and taking on the offensive linemen.

“It could be a pitch count, but I don’t think it’s a conditioning pitch count. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Chubb did not practice this past week after leaving last Saturday’s session at Empower Field at Mile High when his knee flared up.


Within 48 hours of the 53-man roster deadline last year, the Broncos claimed four players off waivers and signed three players — including one they had cut at the deadline, linebacker Keishawn Bierria. These moves followed a deadline-day trade for cornerback Duke Dawson.

Don’t expect anything like that this year.

“No, we don’t,” Elway said when asked whether he expected the Broncos to be active claiming players on the waiver wire. “I think that we feel pretty good about our football team.

“Obviously, we’re going to look at everything and look at all possibilities and see if there’s a chance that somebody would be out there to help our football team. I think we feel pretty good about where we are, kind of excited about the football team we have.”

That includes feeling good about the depth at safety. The Broncos have only three listed safeties on their 53-man roster: starters Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons and backup Trey Marshall. But other players on the roster such as cornerbacks Michael Ojemudia and Duke Dawson can work there in a pinch.

“We have some guys with versatility that are listed as corners, that in an emergency could go play safety for us,” Fangio said. “Also, our three safeties that we have that will be active — that’s the only position they will play. It’s not like one of them moves up as a nickelback as some teams do.”

Fangio added that the Broncos would sign “at least one” safety to their practice squad. The team waived safeties Alijah Holder, P.J. Locke and Douglas Coleman on Saturday.


Hamler has not practiced with the team since injuring his hamstring early in training camp, but Elway said that he will keep the second-round rookie on the roster and not place him on injured reserve.

“He’s getting close. Hopefully he starts running around this week,” Elway said. “We’ll take him day-to-day. He’s going to stay on the 53.

Hamler was one of seven wide receivers kept by the Broncos, who emphasized pass-catchers in general in setting their initial regular-season roster.

The wide receivers were joined by five tight ends, including Jake Butt, who made the team after enjoying a pain-free camp following three years of dealing with knee problems that limited him to just three games in those seasons — all in 2018.


Denver kept seven wide receivers, and for Cleveland and Diontae Spencer, it was all about their work in the third phase. Spencer will be the team’s kickoff and punt returner, as expected. Cleveland’s role will be broad-based.

“He’s a big guy that can really run,” Elway said. “I think that his willingness, his toughness — he put his nose down in the running game in practice, but also what he can do on special teams.

“He knows that for him to make this football team he has to really show a lot on special teams. He did that. He also showed that he’s a very capable wideout. He’s obviously very young and has a long way to go, but he proved that he’s big, he’s physical and he can catch the football.”

Cleveland became the first seventh-round rookie to stick on the Broncos’ 53-man roster at the cutdown since punter Riley Dixon in 2016. Fellow 2020 seventh-rounder Derrek Tuszka, taken two picks after Cleveland, was waived, although he is a prime practice-squad candidate. Denver did not make a seventh-round pick in 2019. Their seventh-rounder in 2018, David Williams, was waived at the deadline. The 2017 seventh-round pick, Chad Kelly, was placed on the non-football-injury list at that year’s deadline.


Denver had just two selections on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft, and both hit the waiver wire Saturday.

The decision to waive wide receiver Juwann Winfree, a sixth-round choice in that year’s draft, was not a surprise. Winfree missed time with a hamstring injury in recent weeks, and Cleveland effectively pushed him out of a potential spot.

Letting go of linebacker Justin Hollins was a mild surprise. A fifth-round pick last year, Hollins’ primary attributes were athleticism, speed and the potential to work at all four linebacker spots. But he only seemed to find traction as an edge rusher, and even then he fell behind Malik Reed, an undrafted rookie last year who moved into the starting lineup when Chubb tore his ACL in Week 4.

Hollins opened training camp this summer working on the edge, then moved inside in the wake of injuries to Todd Davis and Justin Strnad. But the additions of Mark Barron and Austin Calitro rendered Hollins unneeded on the ILB depth chart.

“He was the odd man out at this time,” Fangio said, adding, “He’s a good football player, and if he doesn’t get claimed today, he’s a guy we’ll have interest in [for the practice squad].”


  • Denver kept 26 offensive players, 24 defensive players and three specialists.
  • Twenty of the Broncos’ 53 active-roster players are rookies or second-year players.
  • Cornerback Essang Bassey made the initial 53-man roster, meaning that the Broncos have had at least one undrafted rookie on the team on their first 53 in 15 of the past 16 years. Long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer is also considered a rookie because he was not with any team in the offseason or training camp last year, although he did have a May 2019 tryout with the Broncos.
  • With the decision to place tight end Troy Fumagalli on the waived/injured list, the Broncos have five of their 10 draft picks from 2018 remaining on the roster. Seventeen of the 53 players the Broncos kept were drafted since 2017.
  • Tight end Austin Fort was placed on injured reserve following arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 14. This will be Fort’s second consecutive year on IR; he missed all of his rookie season because of a torn ACL suffered in a preseason loss at Seattle.

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