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:

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala, The Den­ver Post

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.

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