Broncos find cuts are harder to make this year
ENGLEWOOD — It’s a good bet that some of the players who’ll be asked to turn in their playbooks in Denver will be scooped up by other teams this weekend.
The roles were reversed not long ago and the Broncos were the ones scouring the waiver wire to plug holes in their roster.
Then, GM John Elway lured Peyton Manning to Denver in 2012, and together they’ve helped attract several other notable free agents. This year’s class includes DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, Marvin Austin and Emmanuel Sanders.
The AFC champs have reached that enviable point in which scores of scouts attend their preseason games to scope out players on the Broncos’ bubble.
When the Broncos convened for the start of offseason work following their Super Bowl debacle, coach John Fox called this his deepest roster yet.
“I still feel that,” Fox said after the Broncos capped an impressive preseason with a 27-3 win at Dallas on Thursday night. “Obviously, there are some very hard decisions we have to make over the next 48 hours. That’s never the fun part of this job, but we will do our very best to take the best 53.”
Rosters have to be trimmed to 53 active players by Saturday afternoon, and lots of eyes are on Denver.
With practice squads expanding from eight to 10, the Broncos are hoping that many of the players they cut will be back next week, but they also know they’ll probably lose some of them.
“We have some young guys that I think are quality players,” Fox said. “As I’ve told them all along things may not work out here but you put your resume on tape and it may work out somewhere else.”
Here’s a look at some players who might find themselves in another uniform soon:
KAPRI BIBBS: The Broncos figure to keep four running backs, including Duke’s Juwan Thompson, who led the team with 143 yards rushing in the preseason. That would make Bibbs, another undrafted college free agent, available. He led the nation with 31 touchdowns last year at Colorado State and then led the Broncos with three TD runs this month.
Bibbs said his goal was to “leave it all on the line, make the decisions for the coaches even harder and make other NFL coaches take a look at you as well.”
ISAIAH BURSE: He finally showed some flash against Dallas with 151 all-purpose yards. If Denver doesn’t bring in another burner, Bubba Caldwell and Omar Bolden will return kicks and Wes Welker could return punts. (Welker ran routes for Manning before the Dallas game, a sign that his latest concussion wasn’t as serious as the two he had last year).
“If I end up not in Denver, I won’t be heartbroken,” Burse said, “because I played my heart out tonight.”
SHAQUIL BARRETT: The former Colorado State star had two sacks at Dallas. But he’ll be hard-pressed to crack a seven-deep linebacker corps. He’d have to beat out Steven Johnson, who was one of the game captains against the Cowboys and had two preseason interceptions.
BENNIE FOWLER: The undrafted rookie wide receiver from Michigan State has prototypical size — 6-1, 213 pounds — but the Broncos are set at his position with Demaryius Thomas, Sanders, Welker, Caldwell and second-round pick Cody Latimer.
ZAC DYSERT: He made the 53-man roster last season as the third QB but it looks like the Broncos don’t have that luxury this year. So, it’ll likely just be Manning and his protege, Brock Osweiler, who had a stellar preseason.
TONY CARTER: The sixth-year cornerback had two interceptions in the preseason. But the Broncos are stacked in the secondary and Carter could be the odd-man out if the Broncos keep 10 DBs. His ball-hawking skills might have forced them to make room for an 11th, however.
KEVIN VICKERSON: The nine-year veteran was slow to recover from a dislocated hip and Mitch Unrein is a younger, healthier, cheaper option. Still, Vickerson put on a show in the preseason finale, continually clogging the lanes and tying for the team lead with five tackles.
“Just trying to play hard, show them I’ve still got it, show them I can still play this game,” Vickerson said.