Alex Forsyth

Latest On Broncos’ Center Competition

The cap-strapped Broncos saw one of last year’s top offensive performers, center Lloyd Cushenberry, sign with the Titans in free agency, leaving Denver with a major question mark at the pivot as it ushers in yet another new era at quarterback. 2022 fifth-rounder Luke Wattenberg will certainly have a chance to become the club’s starting center, but as Ryan McFadden of the Denver Post writes, the Broncos are also high on 2023 seventh-round selection Alex Forsyth.

McFadden says that the team views Forsyth as a potential starting-caliber center, which jibes with the comments that GM George Paton made on the matter earlier this year. Forsyth’s candidacy is buttressed by the fact that he served as the snapper for quarterback Bo Nix, the No. 12 overall selection in this year’s draft, when the two were at Oregon in 2022.

Wattenberg, meanwhile, started 16 games at center while in college, but he has played sparingly in his two years in the professional ranks, with most of his reps coming at the guard positions. And though his 129 total snaps certainly qualify as a small sample size, he has not played particularly well in that limited action.

The Broncos did sign Sam Mustipher to a one-year contract in April, and he has the experience that Forsyth and Wattenberg lack, having played 52 games (42 starts) in the NFL. He served as the Bears’ full-time pivot from 2021-22, but the fact that he was non-tendered by Chicago last year and had to settle for a one-year pact with the Ravens — and the fact that he did not even crack Baltimore’s initial 53-man roster — underscores his middling performance in the Windy City. The soon-to-be 28-year-old blocker did start two games for the Ravens last season in relief of the injured Tyler Linderbaum, and he performed reasonably well as a stopgap.

As McFadden notes in a separate piece, Wattenberg was working with the first-team offense in OTAs earlier this week, while Forsyth worked with the second unit. Still, the center competition in Denver appears to be wide open, despite the fact that Forsyth did not see any action at all in his rookie campaign. Sooner rather than later, Nix will take the reins at quarterback, and there is a good chance he will have a familiar face snapping him the ball.

Broncos Expected To Keep Courtland Sutton, Want Tim Patrick Back At Reduced Rate

Two of the NFL’s top trade chips leading up to the past two deadlines, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy remain in Denver. Offers have come in at various points, but the Broncos stood pat. They may not this year, as Sean Payton begins his second offseason.

Rumored to be considering disbanding this duo at long last, the Broncos do not appear ready to part with Sutton. Emerging as the team’s top weapon in Payton’s first season, Sutton has two years left on the four-year, $60MM extension he signed in 2021. That is a below-market rate for a No. 1 wide receiver, and 9News’ Mike Klis notes the six-year veteran is expected back next season.

[RELATED: Russell Wilson Wants To Stay With Broncos, Still Expects Release]

Sutton, whom the Broncos nearly traded to the Ravens prior to the AFC North team’s Odell Beckham Jr. addition, does not have any guarantees remaining on his deal. Notching a number of acrobatic receptions for an offense that did not have much in the way of reliable weaponry last season, Sutton is due a $13MM base salary in 2024. $2MM of Sutton’s 2024 base ($13MM) becomes guaranteed on March 17. The former second-round pick is going into his age-29 season.

This would point to another round of trade rumors involving Jeudy, who is coming off a disappointing season. Although Jeudy’s 758 yards nearly matched Sutton’s total (772), the shiftier target struggled to be a steady target for Russell Wilson in Payton’s offense. A new quarterback almost definitely coming could change Jeudy’s standing in Denver, and the 2020 first-round pick’s trade value likely dropped due to his spotty performance and the $12.99MM guaranteed salary that comes with his fifth-year option.

The Broncos held out for a second-round pick for Sutton and a first-rounder for Jeudy last year. No such proposals are believed to have emerged, though Jeudy is reported to have drawn an offer including third- and fifth-rounders before the deadline. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos finally move on, as they have Marvin Mims likely to assume a bigger role in 2024.

While Tim Patrick remains on Denver’s roster, the former Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater target looms as a cut candidate due to a $9.5MM nonguaranteed 2024 salary and the fact he has not played since the 2021 season. Still, Klis adds the Broncos would like Patrick back at a reduced rate. If the parties cannot agree on that lower price, Patrick would be on track to be cut. Patrick going into his age-31 season will not help his value, making it rather important for the former UDFA to have signed an extension before his injury-plagued stretch.

ACL and Achilles tears over the past two training camps have kept Patrick off the field since his 734-yard showing in 2021. The surehanded 6-foot-4 wideout remains tied to the three-year, $30MM deal he signed just before Sutton back in fall 2021.

It is safe to assume the Broncos will not bring back all four of their top receivers next year, with Jeudy and Patrick on the radar to be moved. As of now, however, the team — which is $16MM-plus over the cap — is determining a plan early in an offseason in which Wilson is likely to be cut to bring an $85MM dead-money charge (over two offseasons, via a post-June 1 designation).

This cap situation will make it difficult for the Broncos to re-sign center Lloyd Cushenberry, who made a contract-year leap. After two healthy but unremarkable seasons to start his career, the former third-round center investment missed much of the 2022 season due to a groin injury. Cushenberry bounced back, ranking 11th among interior O-linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric. The Broncos want to re-sign the four-year starter, but GM George Paton said the team is high on 2023 seventh-round pick Alex Forsyth and fellow holdover Luke Wattenberg. While the Broncos should not be ruled out from making a center move, early signs point to one of the rookie-deal cogs winning the job.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/9/23

Teams are moving quickly on inking their Day 3 draftees to their four-year rookie deals, with this process involving a slot system that does not feature many complications for late-round players. Here are the latest such agreements to commence:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • OL Colby Sorsdal (fifth round, William & Mary)

Jacksonville Jaguars

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

An additional quintet of fifth-round picks is now under contract. Last year, the slot system pegged Round 5’s contracts between $4.1MM and $3.9MM over four years, with full guarantees ranging from $361K to $243K.

Brown finished his Fighting Illini tenure with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,643-yard slate as a senior. He joins a Bengals team that did not outbid the Broncos for Samaje Perine and had been expected to ask Joe Mixon for a pay cut. Post-draft, Zac Taylor issued a vote of confidence for Mixon to be back. Abdullah combined to tally 19.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Louisville.