Denver Broncos final 53-man roster projection: Jerry Jeudy's injury complicates wide receiver decisions (2024)

  • Denver Broncos final 53-man roster projection: Jerry Jeudy's injury complicates wide receiver decisions (1)

    Jeff Legwold, ESPN Senior WriterAug 27, 2023, 05:04 AM

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      Jeff Legwold is a senior writer who covers the Denver Broncos and the NFL at ESPN. Jeff has covered the Broncos for more than 20 years, joining ESPN in 2013. He also assists with NFL draft coverage, including his annual top 100 prospects. Jeff has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors since 1999. He has attended every scouting combine since 1987.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos open the 2023 NFL regular season against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 10 at Empower Field at Mile High.

Sean Payton, hired in January as the fifth different Broncos head coach since the start of the 2016 season, has said that he and his staff would go by "what we see.'' And given that the Broncos traded away five first- or second-round draft picks over the past two years, this is a roster in need of depth and will be in flux all season.

So, that means the Broncos might be one of the cruelest teams in the league as August turns to September, because there may be several players who make the cut of 53 who are then waived or cut a day or two later as the Broncos scour the waiver wire. Rosters leaguewide will be cut to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Here is the final roster projection:

Denver Broncos final 53-man roster projection: Jerry Jeudy's injury complicates wide receiver decisions (2)

QUARTERBACK (2): Russell Wilson, Jarett Stidham

In Payton's last season with the Saints (2021), the team kept four quarterbacks and ended up starting all four in at least one game that season. There will be an attraction to keep a third player, but the Broncos may have too many decisions to make elsewhere for Payton to roster a third QB.

RUNNING BACK (4): Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Tony Jones Jr., Jaleel McLaughlin

There might be more questions in the big picture here than any other spot on the roster and the decision to sign a veteran when cuts are made elsewhere remains in play. Williams' recovery has been remarkable from his season-ending knee injury last October, and if McLaughlin inexplicably isn't in Denver to start the season, he should make another team's roster.

FULLBACK (1): Michael Burton

Payton's playbook has plenty of pages with two-back sets on them, especially for reliable pass-catchers like Burton, who also has a full menu of special teams capabilities.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Courtland Sutton, Marvin Mims Jr., Kendall Hinton, Marquez Callaway, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson

Jerry Jeudy 's right hamstring injury on Thursday in the second joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams complicates matters. The Broncos could go with five receivers if they believe they need a spot elsewhere, but Tim Patrick's season-ending Achilles injury, KJ Hamler 's heart ailment and now Jeudy's injury have jumbled things. Hinton has ability on special teams, return option and catching and blocking in the run game. It's difficult to believe both receivers who had time with Payton with the Saints -- Callaway and Humphrey -- could get caught in the squeeze if the Broncos only keep five.

TIGHT END (4): Greg Dulcich, Chris Manhertz, Adam Trautman, Albert Okwuegbunam

Nate Adkins, right now, would offer more help on special teams, but Okwuegbunam, including a touchdown catch that was part of a 100-yard receiving night Saturday against the Rams, has rallied in recent weeks for a team that is in sore need for players with the explosiveness to win matchups on offense. This team will play plenty of two tight end looks all season so it's a priority for them to play with physicality and Okwuegbunam has shown more of late to force a tough decision.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Garett Bolles, Ben Powers, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Quinn Meinerz, Mike McGlinchey, Cam Fleming, Kyle Fuller, Quinn Bailey, Alex Palczewski

Even if they bump the line to 10 or 11 overall on the initial cut, this is still another position where, in the days following the roster cut-down to 53, a change or two could come among the backups. Fleming was a late addition in the offseason program -- May 23 -- because the Broncos were thin on depth and he is the only reserve tackle behind Bolles who has started an NFL game at left tackle other than Bolles. That could be a position where they take a long look before the cuts.

DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Zach Allen, Matt Henningsen, D.J. Jones, Jonathan Harris, Mike Purcell

Purcell was moved to the active roster this week and practiced Thursday against the Rams. Jones' availability -- he's been in the concussion protocol -- could impact how this position shakes out. The Broncos will work out of a 3-4 for the most part under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. And not that past performances guarantee future results, but as a point of reference, the Broncos kept seven defensive linemen in a 3-4 in Joseph's first year as head coach in 2017, six defensive linemen in his second year. Harris has quietly had one of the team's best camps, and Elijah Garcia has done enough to make it, but to keep him would force a trim elsewhere.

LINEBACKERS (8): Randy Gregory, Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, Frank Clark, Jonathon Cooper, Nik Bonitto, Drew Sanders, Justin Strnad

At a crowded position, the curious case of Clark may bear watching. On one hand he's guaranteed $5 million this year whether he's on the roster or not, but on the other it would be hard to say he's one of the "best 53'' as Payton has talked about. He's played all of 27 snaps in the preseason -- all of those in one game -- made one tackle and has not made many splash plays in practice. The Broncos need more from him if he stays. Special team snaps are a priority for the reserves here and Strnad plays a pile of special teams plays while Aaron Patrick is a name to watch as well.

CORNERBACK (6): Pat Surtain II, Damarri Mathis, K'Waun Williams, Riley Moss, Fabian Moreau, Essang Bassey

Moss had core muscle surgery -- Payton called it a sports hernia -- early in camp, so if the Broncos believe he will miss the first month of the season. He could be designated for a return off injured reserve, which would make room for Tremon Smith or Ja'Quan McMillian. Williams has also missed plenty of time with an ankle injury, so he's another player who may need more time to heal and forces a roster adjustment.

SAFETY (5): Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Caden Sterns, JL Skinner, P.J. Locke

Locke, who was carted off the practice field earlier in training camp with a lower left leg injury, will be the fifth player at this spot if the Broncos feel good about his return. Payton has only said Locke will be "fine,'' but he was still in a walking boot a week ago and has just started practicing on a limited basis.

SPECIALISTS (3): Riley Dixon (P), Brett Maher (K), Mitchell Fraboni (LS)

Maybe yes or no on Maher since the Broncos are expected to take a long look at available kickers. Payton said Maher is competing against kickers from the other 31 teams, including seven clubs that had kicking competitions in camp and preseason.

Denver Broncos final 53-man roster projection: Jerry Jeudy's injury complicates wide receiver decisions (2024)

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