Evaluating the Denver Broncos' Cuts
The Denver Broncos needed to trim their roster by 22 players today to get to the league mandated 53-man roster. As with every season, the Broncos made some surprise moves cutting experienced veterans and moving towards youth by bringing in inexperienced rookies.
Let’s breakdown the biggest surprises and predict the short-term future of some of the young players and their chances at making the practice squad after clearing waivers.
Biggest Surprise: CB Drayton Florence
Drayton Florence has the most veteran experience and leadership skills compared to any other Bronco player released today. Coming into camp he was speaking with the rookies, setting an example, and working hard.
Florence’s skills seemed to really decline during preseason games. He was outplayed by the Broncos’ incumbent nickelback, Chris Harris, who was the most impressive rookie (undrafted or otherwise) in the Broncos secondary last season.
Harris has a bright future. Florence may find a team later in the season for a team in contention needing help after secondary injuries, but he won’t be in Denver.
Syd’Quan Thompson was the team’s other cornerback to be released. He was fighting for a roster spot and appeared to be the odd man out after the Broncos drafted Omar Bolden, and brought in Jim Leonhard during the preseason. He might catch on with another team needing cornerback depth, but he is likely past the due date for the practice squad in Denver.
Veteran Release: T Ryan Harris, WR Jason Hill
Ryan Harris hasn’t been the same since leaving Denver after the 2010 season. He has been on the decline ever since his departure and he couldn’t outperform Chris Clark, who stuck with the squad.
Clark’s ascension has directly correlated to Harris’ descent. Harris couldn’t compete any longer at an NFL-level and the team decided to part ways with the six-year veteran tackle.
Jason Hill was another talented receiver the Broncos brought in with a few other new offensive weapons, but he couldn’t carve out a spot on this team. Hill was mostly unspectacular in preseason games. He finished with just four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown in garbage time against the Chicago Bears.
Tony Hills, a fifth-year tackle was also released. He never really impressed anyone on the offensive line and was part of the atrocious manhandling of the third- and fourth-string teams that let the game slip away against the San Francisco 49ers earlier in preseason.
Offensive Line Cuts: G Wayne Tribue, T Adam Grant
Both Wayne Tribue and Adam Grant’s releases on the offensive line were not unexpected. They both have less than a year experience and didn’t turn heads on the field. However, both of these players are good candidates for the practice squad. The Broncos could continue to let them develop with other young players.
Offensive Skill Player Cuts: Adam Weber, Jeremiah Johnson, Cornelius Ingram
Quarterback Adam Weber was released, but he’ll likely land back on the team’s practice squad as he was during his rookie season last year. Jeremiah Johnson was the victim of the Broncos adding Ronnie Hillman to the team through this season’s draft.
Johnson does qualify for the team’s practice squad and he will likely be added, as the running back position can be the most brutal spot for any player on the field.
Greg Orton and Cornelius Ingram were a couple more talented young guys that were just caught in a position oversaturated with talent and bodies. Orton is a good candidate to stay with Denver through the practice squad. Ingram may not make it.
Gerell Robinson was one of Brock Osweiler’s favorite targets at Arizona State. He has some raw talent, size and speed to stick around with the practice squad. Robinson needs to really hone his skills and work on routes before he will be ready for primetime.
Defensive Line Cuts: DE Ben Garland, DT Sealver Siliga, DE Jamie Blatnick
Seeing both of these guys go is disappointing. Garland is a home-grown, Air Force Cadet with lots of hustle, drive, passion and enthusiasm, but he can’t really compete. It’s too bad that he couldn’t stick on this team. His chance to make the practice squad is slim.
Sealver Siliga is a beast at 6’2”, 307 pounds. Unfortunately, the Broncos had a couple other older, more experienced beasts ahead of him. If Ty Warren goes down and the Broncos put Siliga on the practice squad (if he clears waivers), then Siliga will be back with the team.
The Broncos have struggled with depth on the defensive line more than any other position for the past few seasons. Injuries have been fairly common to anybody on the defensive line in Denver.
Jamie Blatnick was an undrafted rookie free agent who showed some promise on the field this offseason. He remains a popular candidate for the practice squad for Denver in 2012.
Defensive Back Cuts: Rafael Bush, Duke Ihenacho, Mike Mohamed, Jerry Franklin
Rafael Bush is a talented player. He has made his biggest impact on special teams in his one season on the active roster with the Broncos. The Broncos bigger special teams star was David Bruton, who is still with the team. Bush got the shaft after the team brought in a more proven safety and special teams guy in Jim Leonhard.
Duke Ihenacho is a talented strong safety that remains a good candidate for the practice squad for Denver in 2012. He has shown some flashes and is both humble and teachable.
Mike Mohamed was drafted by Denver last season and has failed to meet expectations. He was released last offseason and placed on the practice squad. If the Broncos feel he still might be able to become who they were looking for when he was drafted last year, he could find new life on the practice squad. Otherwise, he could be out of the NFL for good.
Jerry Franklin, an undrafted rookie linebacker was another defensive back cut from the team today. He was another product of crowding at the linebacker position.
Injured Reserve/Suspended List: Jeremy Beal, Virgil Green, D.J. Williams
As expected, the Broncos kept both D.J. Williams (who never played a snap during preseason games) and Virgil Green, who were suspended six and four games, respectively.
The Broncos don’t gain anything by waiving Williams, who has been a headache and distraction with the six-game suspension, multiple failed drug tests, showing his playbook to twitter and a DWI conviction.
The Broncos have another eight weeks to decide how important Williams is to their team as they watch his replacements vow for playing time in his absence.
Virgil Green will likely be back with the Broncos following his suspension since he excels as a blocking tight end, was drafted by John Elway and John Fox and is a quality player whenever he’s called upon.
Jeremy Beal left the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday with a left knee injury, which was serious enough for the Broncos to place him on injured reserve for the season, ending his 2012 campaign.
More to Come?
The Broncos could release one or two more players if they find tempting skill players on other teams’ transaction list after the league-mandated cuts today.
The best candidates for the Broncos are weakside linebackers or defensive linemen who have excelled this offseason in stopping the run, a perennial Achilles heel for the Broncos in seasons past.