The Denver Broncos will host the Dallas Cowboys for joint training camp sessions before the two teams face off in a preseason outing at Empower Field in Mile High on Saturday.
Throughout training camp, a few younger Broncos made an impression, and that could mean the team could part ways with some veterans when the final cuts are made.
In some cases, the Broncos have already pledged money to these players, but they might decide it’s better to walk away from them and give the younger players behind them their moment to shine.
However, a lot can change between now and Final Cuts, especially when it comes to how players perform in game situations. Let’s look at the Broncos veterans who have the most to prove in preseason games.
Josh Johnson | QB
The 36-year-old journeyman quarterback signed a one-year contract with the expectation that he would become Russell Wilson’s primary replacement.
Johnson wasn’t particularly impressive in training camp, however. Meanwhile, third-year QB Brett Rypien has been solid, although he’s had his troubles too.
Still, it may make more sense to go with the younger Rypien as a backup passer. The Broncos have already paid Johnson a $100,000 signing bonus but may decide it’s better to let Johnson go, keep Rypien as a backup and potentially add another young QB to the practice team.
Travis Fulgham | WR
Fulgham has played 17 games in his three years in the NFL, including a brief appearance for the Broncos at the end of the 2021 season. However, the veteran could get caught up in the numbers game.
Even with Tim Patrick’s injury late in the season, younger receivers are in a better position to claim deep points. Montrell Washington was particularly impressive, and Brandon Johnson seems to have developed a relationship with Wilson.
And there’s also no guarantee Fulgham will be on the practice team, although he would be eligible. However, Fulgham is not entitled to a guaranteed salary, so the Broncos would be on the hook for no money if they cut him.
Eric Tomlinson | TE
Tomlinson signed a one-year contract with the Broncos last March and received a $1 million guarantee. The expectation was that he would become the Broncos’ primary blocking tight end.
However, the Broncos then brought Eric Saubert back on a one-year contract, and he’s been impressive in training camp. The Broncos also signed Andrew Beck, who is a few years Tomlinson’s junior.
The Broncos would have to swallow a lot of guaranteed money if they cut Tomlinson, although there would be netting clauses should he sign with another team. But if Beck and Saubert stand out preseason, the Broncos could find their hand forced.
Cameron Fleming | OT
Fleming came on late and signed just as the Broncos started training camp. He was added to give the Broncos a veteran presence, with Billy Turner and Tom Compton going on the PUP list.
But Calvin Anderson has made progress in training camp and has a chance to start the right tackle job with a good performance in preseason. Also, the Broncos guaranteed Compton and Turner a sizable sum.
That likely means Fleming will be the underdog when the final cuts take place. The exception could be if the Broncos have to put either Compton or Turner on injured reserve to open the season — in which case the Broncos will likely cut Fleming but then bring him back after Week 1 so he’s not guaranteed his base salary gets the Vested Veteran Rule.
Mike Purcell | DL
We’ve talked about Purcell many times, but he’ll have a lot to prove to prove he should make the final lineup given his $3 million base salary plus a $750,000 roster bonus per game.
Despite this, Purcell has argued during training camp that he deserves to stay here. However, the appearance of rookie fourth-place finisher Eyioma Uwazurike in training camp is something special.
If Uwazurike impresses in preseason games, it could only make Purcell’s situation worse. But a good preseason performance from Purcell could help his case stay put.
Malik Schilf | OLB
Though Reed isn’t under a veteran’s contract, his $2.43 million restricted free agent offer is still a sizable sum — especially for someone further down the depth chart now.
Baron Browning’s transition to edge rusher has gone well so far, and rookie second-rounder Nik Bonitto has made a good impression. And then there’s Aaron Patrick, who did well and would be a much cheaper option for edge-rushing depth.
Reed likely has commercial value even at a salary of $2.43 million because he would have to go through waivers. That said, teams that need edge rusher depth that are further down the waiver priority will have an interest.
Sam Martin | P
Martin is entering the final year of the three-year deal he signed in 2020. He wasn’t bad in his two years with the team, although he didn’t stand out either.
The Broncos added Corliss Waitman to contend for the punt job, and Waitman has looked good in training camp. If he continues like this, the Broncos could part ways with Sam Martin.
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Martin will be entitled to a base salary of $2.25 million. So if Waitman outperforms him, cutting Martin will be an easy decision. We’ll see how both players fare in the three preseason competitions.
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