Earlier Saturday, the Broncos trimmed the roster to 53 players by waiving or releasing 24 players and putting three more on injured reserve.
The decision-making process began with the coaches and front office staff watching tape of the Arizona preseason game yesterday then meeting with Head Coach John Fox and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway at about 4 p.m. for two-and-a-half hours, going over the roster position-by-position.
This morning, players set to be waived or released got the news by first meeting with General Manager Brian Xanders, then Coach Fox before saying goodbye to position coaches, the training and equipment staffs and their teammates.
This afternoon, Xanders spoke with the media about what he called “Emotionally, one of the toughest (days) of all.”
“When you bring 27 guys in and look at them in the eye, you’re ending an NFL dream, and it’s tough,” Xanders said. “It’s just something that’s part of the business.”
ON THE ROSTER
Despite the difficult nature of Saturday, Xanders said he and the rest of the front office are excited about the 53 players that make up the team’s regular-season roster.
“I think there will be some younger players to contribute more, earlier in the process. Coach Fox has been great about letting these guys compete for roles. [LB] Von [Miller], [T] Orlando Franklin and [S] Rahim Moore are going to start. [TE] Julius Thomas might get in there and start at some different roles based on how we use him. [S] Quinton Carter is going to play. [LB] Mike Mohamed has played all three linebackers. [LB] Nate Irving is competing in special teams. [TE] Virgil Green, same thing, talking about the fullback versus utility with Virgil. [CB] Chris Harris, [DT] Mitch Unrein — there’s a lot of young guys that are going to play. We feel good about the mix. There’s a lot of good experience in there and some good young players coming up.”
As for how the roster will progress throughout the season, Xanders alluded to what Fox told the players in a recent meeting.
“They still have to earn their role every week,” he said. “Coach met with the team, and he said, ‘It’s an honor and a privilege to make the Denver Broncos, but that seat, you have to earn it every day, and it’s a production-based business.”
Since the order is determined by last season’s schedule, the Broncos have the No. 2 priority for all waiver claims through the third week of the regular season. Beginning in Week 4, waiver claim will be based on the current standings.
“We’re going to look at everybody on the waiver wire,” Xanders said. “We’re excited about that process today; we’ve worked hard at it for three or four weeks now, and today is the day you finally get to realize who’s out there. We feel good about our football team. We’re going to always work the bottom of the roster and try to figure out better players that we can bring in.”
The deadline to put a claim on a player waived by another team is 10 a.m. MDT Sunday morning, and then the team will hear from the league whether they were awarded any players, in addition to whether any of the players waived from the Broncos were claimed by another team.
“There are a couple names that are interesting on the wire, but we’ll see how it goes and what the shake-out is. Do you claim that person over someone we’ve trained for five weeks?”
In addition, the team can begin building its eight-man practice squad on Sunday, which could feature some of the players waived Saturday.
“We came through with some practice squad candidates — hopefully we get some of them back,” Xanders said.
Xanders also addressed some of the injured players that made the 53-man roster, including Demaryius Thomas, who he said has been cleared by doctors to practice.
On Demaryius Thomas: “He’s cleared to practice; he’s ready to go. We’re excited about him. The receiver cut-down was tough. A lot guys did really well; a lot of guys competed hard, and Demaryius worked really hard to get back, so he’ll be on the 53 [-man roster].”
“He did great job rehabbing himself during the lockout, then, he came in and had a great five weeks with us. Out on the field, the doctors allowed him to work more routes, and more explosion exercises—jumping. There’s a lot of stuff to do with the Achilles tendon there, but he did really well, so they cleared him to go.”
On when Thomas can play in a game: “I can’t really speculate. That’s really up to the trainers. They’re going to monitor him really closely. Our coaches are obviously going to monitor him. He’s going to be running scout team cards eventually in full pads and we’ll see how he is. We’ve got to get him in shape leg wise, quadriceps, hamstrings and all of that has to be working good. He could be good in a couple weeks. We’ll see how he does, hopefully it’s sooner than later.”
On Ty Warren: “We’re hopeful he can come back. With the triceps surgical repair, it could be 10 to 12 weeks. We’ll see; it could be longer, but we’re going to keep him inactive and get him rehabbed and ready to go.”
Xanders also said he can’t speculate on when Marcus Thomas will return to action, but hopefully “sooner than later.” In addition, he said he hopes Broderick Bunkley could return as soon as this week.
On DE Derrick Harvey making the roster: “He’s a big athlete. He’s long; he’s explosive. He can play more stout against the run, and he has some pass-rush skills, and when we stunted him, he was hard to block in there. He can provide a backup left end/ right end behind [DE] Elvis [Dumervil] and [DE Robert] Ayers.”
On the receiver position: “The receivers, some teams keep five, some keep six. We felt there was a lot of competition there. [WR] Eddie Royal and [WR Eric] Decker were going to make it and [WR Brandon] Lloyd obviously led the league in receiving, and then [WR] Demaryius [Thomas] came back and [WR Matthew] Willis was a special teamer and provided some good production in the preseason, really the last two preseasons. [WR] Eron Riley did excellent. [WR D’Andre] Goodwin did well on special teams, had some nice catches. So, there was a lot of competition there.”
On waiving CB Perrish Cox: “No roster spot is safe; his was based on the four preseason games and the five weeks of training camp. It’s unfortunate to make a cut like that when he had started for us the year before, but the coaches talked to him about what he needs to improve on for his career.”
On waiving DT Jeremy Jarmon: “He fit as a three technique and a backup left end. He competed really hard; he was another tough cut. We picked the guys that competed hard in there, and he tried really hard and had to move to two positions.”
On waiving S Kyle McCarthy: “We graded the whole thing over four weeks. We graded the games, the special teams, the practices, the evaluations of how they’re doing here. With him, some guys came on at the end and that’s how it works out sometimes.”
On waiving QB Adam Weber: “Some teams do that and bring a fourth quarterback in for practice squad. We’ll see what happens with him on the waiver wire. We’re going to try to build the best practice squad we can and we’ll see what happens.”