ENGLEWOOD — The final roster set Saturday was anything but. It was written on an Etch-A-Sketch. As Broncos general manager John Elway promised, there would be a flurry of activity with waiver-wire players. The Broncos addressed the obvious need based on Saturday's cut, adding a healthy player to back up Joe Flacco. They claimed Rams quarterback Brandon Allen, whose work in Sean McVay's system should overlap with the Rich Scangarello offense.
The Broncos had interest in Brian Hoyer, but the competition for the veteran led them in a different direction. Allen creates more flexibility in how they handle the Drew Lock decision. He will go on the injured reserve (right thumb) with the possibility he returns to practice in six weeks and eventually to the active roster. That seemed less likely if Hoyer was added.
Joining Allen as a a waiver claim were, tight end/H-back Andrew Beck (Patriots), center/guard Corey Levin (Titans), receiver/punt returner Diontae Spencer. They also plan to sign linebacker Corey Nelson, pending a physical, adding depth and a strong special teams contributor. Sunday afternoon, cornerback Davontae Harris, a 2018 fifth-round pick who played in three games for the Bengals last season, said on Twitter he was joining the Broncos. It creates additional depth following the acquisition of Duke Dawson. It also provides protection if Bryce Callahan has a setback with a foot injury that prevented him from playing in any preseason games.
To make room for Spencer, the Broncos cut River Cracraft. Cracraft won the punt return job, but Elway indicated it was likely short term. In Spencer, the Broncos land a player with fourl seasons experience in the Canadian Football League, and who worked as a specialist for the Steelers this summer. Levin's addition pushed offensive lineman Jake Rodgers off the roster. And with Nelson expected to sign, Josh Watson was expendable. The Broncos signed the former Colorado State star to the practice squad.
Let's look at the additions:
Spencer arrives with a role in special teams. The Broncos finished dead last in punt return average at 4.4 yards last season. Spencer gives them a more explosive option. He averaged 14.7 yards on seven punt returns for the Steelers with a long of 38. Spencer returned a staggering 191 punts for a 11.3 average in the past four seasons for Ottawa and Toronto. He also returned two for touchdowns. Cracraft, for me, is an NFL player, but he needs a chance in a receiver mix, not as only a returner.
Nelson projects as a special teams core player with the ability to provide depth at linebacker. Todd Davis' availability is uncertain for the opener because of a calf injury. He hasn't practiced since July 18. Davis said last weekend that he will be ready for Oakland. However, he could be on a play count if he suits up.
Levin has experience at center and guard. The Broncos were looking after their reserves struggled in the preseason. And Beck is worth a shot given the injury cocnerns at the tight end position and his versatility. Noah Fant's ankle has improved, but Jeff Heuerman played little in games because of a shoulder issue, Troy Fumagalli missed all of last season but appears to be finding traction, and Jake Butt underwent a scope on his left knee last week. Beck caught one pass for nine yards and rushed twice for seven yards in the preseason. He could also be a short-term fix before fullback Andy Janovich returns in a few weeks.
The Broncos have roster flexibility. They claimed four players and are expected to add Nelson and Harris. They cut three players. And they will place three players on injured reserve in Theo Riddick, Jake Butt and Drew Lock. Sunday afternoon, they brought back linebacker Keishawn Bierria, a player they cut on Saturday. He is a second-year player with special teams experience who logged significant time at inside backer in the preseason.
Practice squad additions
The Broncos are building their 10-player practice squad. Here is the running list of those added: QB Brett Rypien, RB Khalfani Muhammad, OLB Ahmed Gooden, CB Alijah Holder, DL Deyon Sizer, Fred Brown, Josh Watson.