Denver Broncos projected 53-man roster: Troy Renck's early prediction

Denver Broncos projected 53-man roster: Troy Renck's early prediction
Posted at 12:40 PM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 16:49:31-04

DENVER -- On Monday, as roughly 88 of his teammates paced into the locker room, Kalif Raymond stayed on the practice field. He threw spirals into the back of the end zone to Hunter Sharp, the receivers rifling passes to each other to work on two feet down in bounds. 

This is the NFL in late August -- where dreams go to die. Those on the bubble can leave no regrets or reps. So Raymond and Sharp repeated small details, hoping it forces them into the Broncos' picture picture with a play on Thursday night.

"I am going to show them I can ball," Raymond said. "I want to take one to the house."

Raymond exists as one of the last players in or out depending on how injuries and the pursuit of a third quarterback shake out. It once seemed unlikely the Broncos would keep Raymond and Isaiah McKenzie, diminutive players with similar skill sets. However, with Cody Latimer no longer a guarantee to make it -- he's been shopped and could be released -- Raymond could sneak onto the roster as a kickoff returner.

Along with quarterback Kyle Sloter -- maybe you've heard of him, Southern Miss quarterback turned receiver turned quarterback at Northern Colorado -- Raymond represents one of the reasons to watch the exhibition finale. 

Few jobs remain. In fact, the starting spots, save for left guard where I believe Allen Barbre beats out Max Garcia, exist. Before kickoff turns into chaos with 1,184 players cut and roughly 320 retained to practice squads Friday and Saturday, let's get to my a-little-too-early 53-man roster projection, noting that trades could muddy the waters, and the increasing likelihood that safety T.J. Ward will be dealt or released. 

Quarterbacks (3) Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Kyle Sloter or Player X

Trevor Siemian starts and all he has to do is prove to Broncos country he's not a career backup. No biggie. Paxton Lynch walked into the kickoff luncheon Wednesday with his sprained right shoulder in a sling Wednesday. He's not playing anytime soon. As a result, the Broncos could use a third, young quarterback the first 2-to-4 weeks of the season. The Broncos like Sloter, but it is difficult to see them pivoting enough to trust him as their lone backup when they were prepared to cut him 10 days ago. They would prefer not to sign a vested veteran and guarantee the player's salary for the season for two potential weeks of clipboard duty. They could go with a young guy for a monthlong fix. Or wait until the second week of the season to land a veteran whose salary would then not be guaranteed.  The latter scenario could open a window for Sloter to make the team initially.  Options for young and veteran players on the waiver wire or through trade include: Cody Kessler, Matt Barkley, Connor Shaw, Jeff Driskell and the like.

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Offensive line (9) Garett Bolles, Allen Barbre, Max Garcia, Matt Paradis, Ron Leary, Menelik Watson, Donald Stephenson, Connor McGovern, Ty Sambrailo.

The Broncos boast more depth than a year ago, reflected in multiple starters becoming backups. Michael Schofield, who will catch on somewhere, loses out in the numbers crunch. Sambrailo is saved by his draft status, and potential versatility as he has been playing tackle and center. Guard Billy Turner could slip onto the roster under some scenarios. 

Tight end (3) Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, A.J. Derby (Jake Butt injured)

The lack of production from this position remains alarming. Butt represents the best option in the passing game, it appears, but he's recovering from knee surgery. Green sounds like a man ready to take advantage of an opportunity. "I do get excited about my role because I feel that I am way more athletic than (Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates and (Chargers' Hunter) Henry. I just think if I get in the open field, get the ball, I can do a lot of things -- still even six-, seven years in the league."

Wide receiver (6) Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor, Isaiah McKenzie, Kalif Raymond (Carlos Henderson IR).

This represents a fluid situation. I expect Cody Latimer to be traded or released after he didn't play last Saturday. Can Raymond win a job? The opening is ripe on kickoff return, formerly Latimer's spot. Taylor should be a lock because of the plays he's made and his chemistry with Siemian. 

Running backs (4) C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson, Devontae Booker

The only doubt was whether Jamaal Charles could prove his health. He answered the question last week. He's on. So move on. Booker will be out likely the first two weeks as he recovers from a broken wrist. 

Fulllback (1) Andy Janovich

I wonder what his role will be if the offense continues to tilt toward uptempo, shotgun sets. But he is valued on special teams, and needed with Latimer's expected departure.

Defensive line (7) Derek Wolfe, Jared Crick, Domata Peko, Zach Kerr, DeMarcus Walker, Adam Gotsis, Shelby Harris

Wolfe (ankle) and Crick (back) remain on track to play in the opener. Wolfe said this week he would be ready, even if he's not 100 percent. Peko has been solid addition in the middle and in the locker room. Harris earned the spot created by Billy Winn's season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

Inside linebacker (4): Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, Zaire Anderson.

This is not definite. I give Kevin Snyder more than a puncher's chance to stick because of his special teams acumen. Marshall and Davis need to make big plays this season if the defense is going to create additional turnovers. 

Outside linbacker (4): Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett, Kasim Edebali

The Broncos looked into Ahmad Brooks, but didn't pursue the free agent before he signed with the Packers. This is a spot where they could add a player through the waiver-wire or trade this weekend. There's no guarantee Ray (wrist surgery) will be ready by week three of the regular season. He could require more time to regain strength. There are really five players here because Walker has been working with the backers the entire camp. Vontarrius Dora is in the mix, but was unable to capitalize on valuable reps in the first two preseason games. 

Defensive backs (9) Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart, Bradley Roby, Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Jamaal Carter, Brendan Langley, Chris Lewis-Harris

No Ward. I am biased. I don't like moving on from players who are accountable in every way to their teammates. Ward's fire will be missed, even while acknowledging Simmons and Carter have made impressive statements this preseason. My hope is for Ward to be traded, leaving him in line to make his $4.5 million this season. Tampa Bay could be a fit. 

Specialists (3) Brandon McManus, Riley Dixon, Casey Kreiter

 McManus could eventually be a candidate for a contract extension. He's that good. 


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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at