We are finally here. The 2017 NFL regular season is just a day away! I can barely contain my excitement. Following the final preseason game, it is now time to examine where the Denver Broncos sit heading into the season.
The biggest news out of Broncos camp was the release of three-time veteran Pro-Bowl Safety T.J. Ward. Ward came to the Broncos back in 2014 after four seasons in Cleveland. He was an integral part in helping Denver to its first Superbowl in 16 years. Now, with the emergence of the younger core of Will Parks, Justin Simmons, and undrafted rookie Jamal Carter, Wards time in Denver was done. This move will save the Broncos $4.5 million in cap space, which is a boon for them and also give the young guys a great shot at making an impact as they carry on the legacy of the “No Fly Zone” into the future. As unfortunate as it is to see Ward go, at the end of the day the NFL is a business and what is best for the team is what is best for the team, personal bias aside.
The next big news that broke late Saturday afternoon was the re-signing of former, and now probably back-up, Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft and was thought to be the future at the quarterback position for the Broncos. After spurning the Denver Broncos and signing a mega deal with the Houston Texans after the 2015 season, Osweiler led the Texans to the playoffs in 2016. However, he was ultimately shipped off to the Cleveland Browns following last season. As someone thought to compete for the starting job, he was recently cut by the Browns in lieu of third-round rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and has now found himself back with the Denver Broncos on a much smaller contract, the league minimum. What a whirlwind of events.
Speaking of quarterbacks, undrafted rookie quarterback Kyle Sloter, out of the University of Northern Colorado, was cut by the Broncos shortly before the Osweiler move and signed on with the Minnesota Vikings practice squad. God speed, Kyle!
Rookie running-back Carlos Henderson was officially placed on IR, ending his inaugural season and although this is a hit for the Broncos, Henderson should return stronger in 2018. Rookies Jake Butt (TE) and Chad Kelly (QB), who are both recovering from college injuries, were placed on the Non-Football Injury list which is a good sign and gives them the possibility to return in 2017. Butt was one of the top tight-end prospects headed into the draft and could provide defenses with a nightmare of a match-up.
The Denver Broncos have the leagues hardest schedule in 2017, so there is not much expected out of them. I predict they will eek out another 9-7 season, but fail to make the playoffs.