So, something happened earlier today, right?
I’m sure every Broncos fan is thrilled that the Broncos and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas agreed to terms on a new contract. Many of us have talked about this previously, that it was likely the Broncos would have to pay him well, but they wouldn’t have to approach Calvin Johnson’s contract to do it. Based on the contract numbers Mike Klis has reported, it’s safe to say the Broncos and Todd France, Thomas’ agent, compromised on a few things.
The Broncos compromised by giving Thomas fully guaranteed money that is similar to what Johnson got, and keeping the contract at a reasonable length that allows Thomas a chance to be rewarded again if he continues performing at a high level. France compromised by agreeing to less money per year overall, even as Thomas gets a lot of money up front, and to allow the Broncos one year in which they can pay Thomas a reasonable salary in case his performance declines, and get out of the deal after that.
Thomas wins because he’ll collect $35 million in two seasons, and he’ll have an additional $8.5 million most likely waiting for him after that. The Broncos win because they can point out that they rewarded Thomas well for two years, thus having no reason to renegotiate in the third year, and can keep him at a cap number that does not constrain them too much. After three years, the Broncos can decide whether to keep him or let him go. If they keep him in the fourth year, the door likely opens for an extension in the fifth year to reward Thomas again while keeping his cap numbers reasonable.
With the Thomas deal done, what happens next? Let’s go over it, step by step.
1. Veterans who have no guaranteed money this season are on the clock. Andre Caldwell is at the top of the list, and not because he was called out so much by Broncos fans last season. With Cody Latimer expected to take a bigger role, and other young receivers impressing in the offseason, the Broncos could free up $1.35M of cap space by cutting Caldwell. I don’t see the Broncos making that move until during training camp, as they want to be sure those young receivers keep improving. But Caldwell will be fighting for a roster spot in August.
The other notable veteran is Britton Colquitt, who is battling Karl Schmitz for the punting job. I’ve previously discussed that, if Schmitz impresses, Colquitt is likely gone. Cutting Colquit would free up $2.25M in cap space. Assuming Schmitz wins the punting job and younger receivers beat Caldwell, the Broncos could gain $3.65M in cap space.
2. Once the Broncos know how much space they’ll have after cutting any veterans with no guaranteed money, they can focus on younger players who they want to extend, but aren’t worthy of the franchise tag. An impressive preseason by Brock Osweiler puts him on the list. I still see Malik Jackson as this year’s Chris Harris, in which Elway waits to see what the player does, then if he sees strong play, to make the hard sell for a player who hasn’t made much money so far. Jackson is due $1.52M this season, but if he impresses, he could be in line to get a signing bonus midway through the year for a job well done, while allowing Elway some flexibility with future cap years.
3. I expect Von Miller will get the franchise tag in 2016, but that doesn’t mean talks won’t start until that point. Very likely, Elway will start talks with Miller’s agent to get an idea of where both sides are at. I would expect the negotiations to take time, as each side gets an idea of what the other expects, and figures out the best way to come to a deal that everyone is happy with.
In other words, don’t expect the sides to reach an agreement quickly. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but if it does, feel free to turn cartwheels. But just keep in mind that the more likely scenario is negotiations with Miller will take time.
4. I can tell you that at least one of the three players I will mention won’t be a Bronco next year: Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Ryan Clady. At this point, Ware is the likely cut, but that could change if Manning retires or if Ty Sambrailo impresses at left tackle — or both. We’ll only know what happens as the 2015 season unfolds, but at least one player with a high 2016 cap number will be gone.
5. The Broncos will certainly keep an eye on the progress of Cody Latimer to determine if he can be the No. 2 receiver next year. If so, it might mean the Broncos try to trade Emmanuel Sanders, assuming Sanders plays well in 2015. I think we know that, if Sanders keeps playing well, he’s not likely to be retained after his current deal expires. Sanders will have one year left on his deal, so that means the Broncos could try to seek a trade, allowing Sanders to get long-term security from another team. I doubt teams would wait for the Broncos to cut Sanders if he performs well, because teams don’t do that to players who perform well and still have upside. If nobody wants to trade, the Broncos will just keep Sanders, knowing that 2016 would be his last season with the team.
6. I think we can all relax and look forward to the start of training camp, knowing every Bronco on the roster will be there. Hard to believe it’s just two weeks away.