AFC West: Nate Jones

Denver and Kansas City got an early start on making cuts Monday. Teams need to cut down to 80 players by Tuesday afternoon. The 53-man roster must be set Saturday afternoon.

Denver cut seven players. The most notable was veteran cornerback Nate Jones, who has been with the team the past couple of seasons. The other players Denver released are running back C.J. Gable, linebacker Braxton Kelley, linebacker Deron Mayo, guard Shawn Murphy, tackle Curt Porter and defensive end David Veikune.

Kansas City cut seven players: linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, running back Tervaris Johnson, defensive back Javes Lewis, receivers Chris Manno and Josue Paul, defensive back Mario Russell and receiver Chandler Williams. Johnson was in the Chiefs’ program the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, there is a group of players vying for the final two rosters spots at receiver in San Diego.

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There is a very interesting development occurring in Denver.

Alphonso Smith is falling behind the curve, and he is in danger of being cut when Denver cuts down to the 53-man roster Saturday. He is probably sixth on Dever's cornerback depth chart behind starters Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman, rookies Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson and veteran addition Nate Jones. However, Jones can also play safety, and that could potentially save Smith if the Broncos keep nine defensive backs.

The issue is, could Denver really cut Smith? It would be like cutting the No. 14 pick of the April draft. Does Denver have the nerve to do it?

During the 2009 draft, Denver shipped its 2010 first-round pick (which turned out to be the No. 14 overall pick) to Seattle to take Smith at No. 37. Smith was considered to be a late-first-round pick. When the dynamic Wake Forest performer fell into the second round, Denver couldn’t resist, because it had him highly ranked. In college, Smith was a terrific cover man who had nice punt return skills.

However, he struggled as a rookie. He was beaten in coverage routinely. He was twice replaced, including once by an undrafted rookie.

Denver added Jones and drafted the two rookies this year. All of them have outplayed Smith. Cox, a fifth-round pick, has been terrific and is expected have a major role on both defense and as a returner. Thompson has also had his moments. It would be very difficult to try to sneak Thompson onto the practice squad, because he would likely be claimed elsewhere. He had a big game against Pittsburgh on Sunday, including scoring on an interception return. He prompted Denver coach Josh McDaniels to say this after the game: "Every time he gets an opportunity, he makes the most of it, and I think that's what you want a rookie to do.”

It’s clear that Smith has been outplayed and overshadowed in Denver. Denver might opt to give him a pass and put him on scholarship because of the price it paid for him. But that could come at the expense of a player who has outplayed Smith. It’s highly doubtful Denver will keep six cornerbacks. If so, Smith will buried deep on the roster.

Something is going to have to give. Will it be at the expense of a player Denver gave up a first-round pick to acquire? We’ll see soon.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- New Denver Broncos running back Justin Fargas is surely grateful for being in an NFL uniform again, even though it’s strange for him to wear the colors of his former enemy.

Fargas has been looking for work since he was cut by Oakland in March. He visited with several teams, but teams were worried about his history of knee issues.

The Broncos signed Fargas after keeping in touch with him for some time. Denver has several running backs injured and Fargas will immediately get a chance to show what he can do. He was on the practice field Wednesday morning after signing earlier in the day.

He knows he needs to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It’s going to be whatever I make it,” Fargas said.

Meanwhile, Denver’s summer of injury has continued. Tight end Marquez Branson suffered a right leg injury and had to be carted off the field Wednesday morning. The team has not given an update on his status yet. Receiver Jabar Gaffney left the field for an undisclosed reason and did not return to the morning practice.

The Baltimore Sun suggests perhaps the cornerback-hungry Baltimore Ravens will pursue Denver starting cornerback Andre' Goodman. The Broncos would likely ask for a decent return for Goodman, who played well last year. If Denver was to deal Goodman, veteran Nate Jones and rookie Perrish Cox, who has been outstanding in camp, would take on increased roles.

In other news, cornerback Champ Bailey is clearly behind coach Josh McDaniels and he made an interesting point about two high-profile former teammates.