Unless you're a guy like Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, the next NFL season is never promised. The average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years.
There are several Broncos players on last year’s squad who gave their best and were core contributors, but are hoping to stay relevant with a crop of young rookies pining to prove they belong.
Broncos GM George Paton flooded the zone with new players slotted to be day-one starters. Which players will be the most tested by the new personnel and coaching blood?
Here are three Broncos whose careers could be on the line.
Malik Reed | OLB
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound outside linebacker is the Broncos' 'break glass in case of emergency' defender. During his four years, Reed has seen substantial playing time due to injuries to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Filling the shoes of two former first-rounders, renowned for their ability to place opposing quarterbacks under intense pressure, is no easy task. To Reed’s credit, he’s filled in admirably when called upon.
Reed simply executes his responsibilities. He is stout against the run and brings a high level of energy when rushing the passer. Last season, he contributed 39 tackles (27 solo) and six sacks.
Paton opted to pair a 100% healthy Chubb with former Dallas Cowboy Randy Gregory. When playing at the top of his game, Gregory can be a disruptive force.
After Gregory's signing, Paton was not done reloading the rush linebacker position, drafting Nik Bonitto in the second round and moving Baron Browning from inside to outside linebacker.
Reed is a player new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero can count on. Reed understands his assignments and plays at a consistent level. Unless the injury Grim Reaper returns, Reed will be in a dogfight for playing time.
Tyrie Cleveland | WR
Last season, Cleveland earned a spot on the Broncos' roster as a core special teamer with his determination and raw athleticism. During a recent press conference, head coach Nathaniel Hackett praised the 6-foot-4 Cleveland for his energy and attitude during OTAs.
Unfortunately, Cleveland has limited offensive game tape for review, having caught one pass last season. He has a Herculean task of finding a spot on the roster at the team's deepest position group with Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler as shoe-ins to make the squad.
The team also drafted Montrell Washington, who has already been earmarked to be the Broncos' designated return specialist, leaving Cleveland to face off against the multi-role Kendal Hinton for the remaining spot.
In a cage match between two gifted contributors, this race may be too close to call, but Hinton may still have the inside track. In speaking with reporters, Russell Wilson has effusively praised both Washington and Hinton.
Jerry Jeudy | WR
There is no scenario imaginable where Jeudy is not in Orange and Blue this season. However, the seat could be getting a bit warm as the Broncos have not seen the expected production of a former No. 15 overall draft pick.
To be clear, Jeudy possesses the speed, elusiveness, and catch radius to be a top-tier receiver. Despite less-than-ideal production, he earned a Pro Football Focus rating of 70.5 receiving and 68.7 overall, respectively.
With an All-Pro quarterback at the helm, Jeudy has the perfect opportunity to show the league that he can convert potential into production.
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