Hello, Bronco fans! It’s a couple days late, but I’m still calling it Midweek Musings for consistency’s sake. Let’s get to it, shall we?
I’ve previously discussed that I believe the Broncos will ultimately get a long-term deal for Demaryius Thomas completed. Nick has recently explained how the Broncos might sign Brock Osweiler to an extension. I do not expect an extension for Osweiler — or any other Bronco, for that matter — until the Broncos have Thomas signed to a new deal or until after July 15 (if he hasn’t signed a new deal by that date, he’ll play the season under the tag and I would expect the Broncos to figure he won’t stick around and focus their attentions elsewhere).
But it is a good idea to look at the players who are set to become free agents in 2016 and determine who is most likely going to be in line for an extension. This week, I will look at those players who are entering the final seasons of their rookie contracts (in one case, a player is under the fifth-year option) and who the Broncos are likely to start talking to about extensions.
Von Miller: The Broncos could certainly place the franchise tag on Miller in 2016, but that doesn’t mean they won’t start negotiations before that. Just as the Broncos were talking with Thomas and his agent about a possible extension before the 2014 season began, I would expect the Broncos to do the same with Milller. In Miller’s case, though, the Broncos might continue negotiations during the season, because Miller is not just top five at his position, but arguably top five among all defensive players in the NFL.
I wouldn’t put Miller in the No. 1 spot — that honor belongs to J.J. Watt — but Miller is one of those rare defensive players who is strong at rushing the passer, stopping the run and dropping back into coverage when necessary. That versatility means the Broncos could be likely to make a harder push to retain him, as opposed to making a hard push to retain a top offensive player who isn’t the quarterback.
As for what Miller will command, he likely isn’t going to exceed the total Watt got in his contract, but he will likely command a structure that effectively gives him at least three years of full guarantees. You can look at Watt’s contract for an idea of what total and structure Miller is likely to receive. And if Miller has a strong 2016, worthy of Defensive Player of the Year honors, there’s no way the Broncos will be able to escape several years of full guarantees for Miller.
Brock Osweiler: Since Nick has already discussed a possible extension for Osweiler, I won’t talk much about the money he would likely receive. I will say, though, that John Elway isn’t likely to start talking to Osweiler about an extension until he sees what Osweiler does in the preseason. If Osweiler struggles, he’s not likely to extend him. If he excels, then expect a harder push by Elway.
Malik Jackson: Jackson has gotten better with each season and now enters 2015 as a likely starter at defensive end. Elway will likely want to see how he handles the switch to a 3-4 defense and if he can handle a larger workload. But among the 2012 draft picks, Jackson is the most likely player the Broncos will want to extend.
How much will he command? That depends on his performance this season. He’s not going to receive top-five money, but he might seek money approaching that of Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. Casey was extended last year, receiving his full guarantees in 2014 and injury-only guarantees the next two seasons. Casey can line up at either defensive end or defensive tackle, which likely helped his cause. We’ve seen Jackson do the same in the 4-3 schemes, but it remains to be seen if that translates to the 3-4 Wade Phillips will run. Casey signed his deal when he was 24.
Another possible comparison is Cleveland Browns defensive end Desmond Byrant, who averages less per year than Casey and didn’t get as much guaranteed money. Bryant signed his deal when he was 27. As Jackson is 25, he will likely get more per year than Bryant. But I don’t expect Jackson to get much more, because Jackson isn’t top-five at his position. Still, a good showing in 2015 might convince Elway to do a big sell job to get him to stay.
Danny Trevathan: We know about how productive Trevathan has been for the Broncos, and his presence was missed last season. With that said, I don’t expect the Broncos to extend Trevathan until they get a couple of questions answered.
The first one is obvious: how well has he recovered from his knee injury. The second one is not as obvious: can the Broncos get similar production out of a player who will be with the team next year. Keep in mind that Brandon M. Marshall will be a restricted free agent, and the RFA tender will not be that high to keep him (I would expect a second-round tender, although a top-five caliber season could mean a first-round tender). Also, Todd Davis has looked good this offseason and he will be an exclusive rights free agent. If Davis excels, the Broncos will tender him.
So if Marshall and Davis have strong seasons which indicate they could be the starters next year, the Broncos might believe it’s better to use those tenders and allow Trevathan to depart. That’s particularly true if Trevathan plays so well that the Broncos believe it will take top-five money to keep him. One only needs to look at what Daryl Washington of the Arizona Cardinals makes per year to know that, if Marshall and Davis have strong seasons, it makes more sense to devote money to them in 2016, and keep cap space and cash freed up for other needs.
Therefore, don’t expect the Broncos to be aggressive in extending Trevathan just yet. They will want to see how everyone performs this season to determine whether or not it makes sense to extend Trevathan.
Derek Wolfe: I’m a fan of Wolfe but between him and Jackson, I believe Jackson will be the bigger priority. Of course, if Jackson struggles while Wolfe excels, that will change. I would expect Wolfe to command a salary similar to Desmond Bryant. I won’t repeat anything I covered when I discussed Jackson, but will say that I’m not positive the Broncos will go out of their way to retain Wolfe.
Omar Bolden: Bolden has been a quality depth and special teams player, but that means the Broncos won’t have to pay a lot of money to retain him. His contract negotiations are likely to fall under the radar, given that Miller, Jackson and likely Osweiler will make more headlines. I would expect a situation similar to Virgil Green, in which Bolden might not re-sign quickly, but take a brief period to consider what else is out there. In the end, though, as long as Bolden keeps improving, I would expect him to be retained at an affordable cost.
Next week, I will look at the potential free agents who are finishing veteran contracts to see which ones the Broncos are likely to retain.