Broncos players with the most to prove in 2017
These five have the most to gain — and lose — based on how they perform this season:
Cody Latimer, WR
It could be argued that Latimer sits on the hottest seat in Denver. The former second-round draft pick enters the final year of his rookie deal and faces his last chance to secure the No. 3 wide receiver job, behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He faces steep competition from Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor and the arrivals of speedy rookies Carlos Henderson and Isaiah Mckenzie.
Aqib Talib, CB
Talib graded out as the third-best cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus after turning in a career year. To some, it was a surprise because he turned 31 in February and came back from a gunshot would suffered last summer. While Talib may again be one of the Broncos’ defensive stars in 2017, his age and contract work against him. The remaining three years of his deal are nonguaranteed, and he carries only $1 million in dead money in 2018, meaning the Broncos could easily cut him after this season.
T.J. Ward, S
The Broncos safety who was signed as part of John Elway’s 2014 defensive overhaul enters the final year of his deal. Although he too had a career year in 2016, the Broncos added safeties Will Parks and Justin Simmons, who may be groomed to replace the veteran. Ward, 30, has said he wants to stay in Denver beyond 2017. But money talks.
Todd Davis, LB
This inside linebacker was given a second-round tender as a restricted free agent this summer, ensuring he sticks around for at least another year. If he stands out this season, and if the Broncos’ run defense that struggled big time in 2016 drastically improves, Davis could be in line for a big-time payday as an unrestricted free agent.
Donald Stephenson, OL
The Broncos signed Stephenson to a three-year deal in 2016 with the hope that he could parlay his time with the Chiefs into a successful run in the Broncos’ zone-blocking scheme. But Stephenson finished among the NFL’S lowest-ranked tackles last year after allowing three sacks and racking up seven penalties. Under his restructured contract, he will collect the other $2 million of his salary this year only if he makes the 53-man roster.