2016 Broncos Offseason Road Map

So we’re three days away from the Super Bowl, and no matter what happens, that will the conclusion of the Broncos’ outstanding 2015 season. For John Elway and the front office, there will be time to either celebrate or grieve, but that time will be limited. That’s because Elway will face what will easily be the most challenging offseason during his tenure as general manager. There is much that needs to be done, and it needs to be done in only a month’s time, as the start of the 2016 league year—and thus free agency—is on March 9.

So, because I may not get time to post this promptly after the Super Bowl, I’ll provide you with my 17-point road map as to how I would navigate the rocky offseason terrain that lies immediately ahead. Suffice to say, with 17 points it’s highly likely that not all of them will be fulfilled to my satisfaction, either to Elway wanting a different direction or players disagreeing on their value. But barring something truly extraordinary on Sunday I doubt the Super Bowl is going to change my mind much.

1. Get a timely answer from Peyton Manning on whether he wants to play in 2016

Unlike in 2015, the Broncos can’t really afford to wait until right before the start of free agency for Manning to decide what he wants to do, as the cap space he’s currently occupying needs an answer as to whom it is going to be used on. I would set a deadline of February 17—10 days after the Super Bowl and three weeks before the start of the new league year, for Manning to tell the Broncos what he wants to do in 2016.

1a. If Manning retires, then hold a ceremony and wish him a fond farewell.

1b. If Manning doesn’t retire and you want to move on, immediately cut him.

As we know, the Broncos will realize $19 million in 2016 cap savings if Manning departs, either from retirement or from being cut. That’s a lot of cap dollars that will immediately be put to other use.

1c. If Manning doesn’t retire and you want to keep him, say goodbye to Brock Osweiler and be sure to draft a QB high in 2016.

You’d have to do some real cap acrobatics to fit in both Manning and Osweiler on veteran QB contracts, so I think they’ll have to choose between one or the other. This is not my preferred scenario since there’s more risk being able to get a viable rookie QB with only one year of training behind a very old Manning, as opposed to the four years in training you’ve already invested in Osweiler. But I include it as an option just because it the quarterback decision is a momentous one either way.

2. If you go with Osweiler, try to offer him a contract similar to Nick Foles.

Contract comparables have been so difficult for Osweiler, but now that he has a few games under his belt, I think there’s enough to justify a Foles-style deal. I’m not going to bother trying to list an APY with Osweiler, because if you look at Foles’s contract you’ll see how misleading it is—both sides can be flexible with that. I’m more concerned about the 2016 cap number, and if Foles could be had at $4 million, I think Osweiler could be had at $5 million. If Osweiler does walk, as a veteran QB he’s a very good candidate for a 3rd round 2017 comp pick, and likely no less than a 4th.

3. Cut Britton Colquitt.

This move remains obvious, and one of the first moves the Broncos should do. $3.25 million in 2016 cap savings will be realized when Colquitt is cut.

4. Retain Von Miller.

There’s little question that the Broncos will not let Miller come even close to sniffing unrestricted free agency.

4a. It is preferable to extend Miller quickly and avoid using the franchise tag on him

With the limited cap space the Broncos have against all the free agents they have to deal with, locking up tens of millions in a franchise tag may not be wise when they need that elsewhere. Thankfully, Justin Houston’s contract is available to copy for Miller. Such a deal will feature a high signing bonus (probably around $22.5 million after accounting for cap inflation) that the Broncos normally aren’t comfortable with, but if you’re going to commit yourself to a player long term, Miller is the one to do it with. With that estimated $22.5 million signing bonus prorated over 5 seasons, if you keep 2016’s base salary low, such as the $1 million Houston got, you could come away with a 2016 cap number of $5.5 million.

4b. But if an extension can’t be had before the start of free agency, be sure you have the cap space to franchise tag him.

We don’t know what the 2016 franchise tag amount will be yet, but it was $13.169 million for Houston last year. With a rise in the salary cap and Houston’s deal in the books, it would not surprise me if it pushed above $15 million. As you can see, a difference of as much as almost $10 million in cap space to work with is a lot.

 

5. Do something with DeMarcus Ware’s contract

Given the cap challenges that lie ahead for the Broncos, there simply is no way that Ware’s $11.66 million cap number can stay, given Ware’s advanced age and with Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett waiting in the wings. I won’t completely rule out the chance of Ware staying, because while he is past his prime physically, you can make an argument that his leadership on the defense is still valuable.

There are three ways to address Ware’s contract:

5a. Cut Ware.

This is the simplest thing to do, and the one that appears the most likely, given that the Broncos will realize $10 million in cap savings when it happens.

5b. Ask for a pay cut.

There’s not much to be lost in trying this as long as you’re prepared to cut him if he balks at it. It would have to be quite a hefty pay cut to make it worthwhile, though. let’s say for the sake of argument in point 5c below, it’s a pay cut that saves $6 million in 2016 cap space.

5c. “Extend” Ware to spread out his cap hit.

This is generally not a recommended cap trick as it causes headaches in the future, but it’s on the table if you really want to keep Ware for 2016. Here’s one way you could work it in this scenario: create a two year “extension” that really contains an automatic void in 2017. Then, convert $9 million of Ware’s $10 million base salary into a prorated signing bonus that creates $6 million in cap space for 2016, but also results in $6 million of automatic dead money against the 2017 cap.

6. Place ERFA tenders on Matt Paradis, Todd Davis, Brandon McManus and Bennie Fowler.

The total cost of these expected moves will be $2.325 million.

7. Place a first round RFA tender on Brandon Marshall.

This will probably cost about $3.5 million. I’ve gone back and forth a 1st or 2nd round tender for Marshall, and I think it’s prudent for the Broncos to take the extra $1 million cap hit to assure that no one tries to poach him with a deal with a high 2016 cap number, one that the Broncos likely couldn’t match if they’re up against the cap.

The other reason why I’m OK with this is that it would prepare for the scenario of Marshall holding out in pursuit of an extension, of which he’d have the right to do since he’s not under contract until he signs the tender. If I were Marshall’s agent, I certainly wouldn’t take a holdout off the table. So if your hand is forced to extend Marshall, you’d be committing at least $3.5 million to him in 2016 anyway.

8. Place a second round RFA tender on CJ Anderson.

There shouldn’t be much question about this tender. It’ll likely cost about $2.5 million.

9. Let Malik Jackson walk.

This is the most painful point of all, but it’s one that I think will be in the best interests for Denver. If Derek Wolfe got a $9.175 million APY deal, and a non-starter in Vinny Curry got $9.45 million in APY, Jackson can easily command eight figures on the open market if he wants it, a market that is going to be a buyer’s paradise with Wolfe, Curry, and Mike Daniels all off it, and Muhammad Wilkerson likely to be constrained by the franchise tag.

Wolfe has commanded a $6.8 million cap number. I foresee Jackson doing at least the same (we’ll go with a round $7 million), and that pushes out multiple other mid-level players the Broncos may need. With the Broncos likely already securing elite cap numbers to Demaryius Thomas, Von Miller, and perhaps Brock Osweiler or another quarterback down the road, and several others garnering high level cap numbers, I’m leery about also fitting Jackson into that tier for the Broncos. The salary cap assures that you can’t keep every one of your good players, and if you try, you end up with messes like the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints frequently get into.

The final argument in favor of letting Jackson walk is if he does command an APY of over $10 million, that will mean a highly likely 3rd round compensatory pick for the Broncos in 2017.

10. Try negotiating an extension for Danny Trevathan, but don’t break the bank.

I’d put a limit on Trevathan’s APY at not much more than $5 million, around Stephen Tulloch, and limit his 2016 cap number to about $4 million. If he asks for more due to what the market offers, he’s someone else that might have to walk. At well above $5 million APY, that’s probably worth a 5th round comp pick in 2017.

11. Extend one—but not both—of David Bruton or Omar Bolden.

The Broncos could stand to retain some solid veteran depth at safety.

11a. Try to extend Bruton first.

This is simply because I feel that Bruton is the better of the two. I wouldn’t go much more than $2 million per year, though.

11b. If Bruton can’t be retained, extend Bolden

For Bolden, I’d set a limit of $1 million per year.

12. Give Ryan Harris another 1-year deal.

He has proven that he would be a very good swing tackle. It shouldn’t take much more than $1.5 million to keep him.

13. Consider another 1-year deal for Antonio Smith if the cap room is there.

If you let Jackson walk, it might be a good idea to bring Smith back for depth and to compete with Vance Walker, Kenny Anunike, and any possible newcomers at that position. However, Smith will be in his mid-30s and he got a $2 million deal last year, so I would put his priority much lower, and let him walk if the cap space simply isn’t there. Do not spend more than $2.25 million on him for 2016.

14. Let Evan Mathis, Vernon Davis, Andre Caldwell, and Ronnie Hillman all walk.

Mathis was a nice addition for 2015, but as his age you’re playing with fire for the future, and you have to expect Max Garcia to step up as a starter for 2016. Hillman has played well, but at this point you really need to reclaim that magic of finding an unheralded rookie for the zone blocking system. None of these UFAs should be worth more than a 7th round comp pick, but they will pad your CFA lost/gained level to give you flexibility to shop for low level UFAs without jeopardizing non 7th 2017 comp picks.

15. Be patient with altering Ryan Clady’s contract

Clady has publicly shown a willingness to “restructure” his contract—though that may or may not translate into be willing to take a pay cut. While it’s at least on the surface a nice gesture, it may have been a mistake for Clady to do so. This is because the Broncos are in no position to leverage Clady when the right tackle position is in such terrible shape. The only way it’s fixed right now is if you retain Clady on the left side and put Ty Sambrailo at RT.

Personally (and I feel quite strongly about this), I would be prepared to carry Clady’s full $10.1 million cap hit in 2016 unless and until the Broncos obtain a viable RT solution in free agency or the draft that allows Sambrailo to move to left tackle. But I will admit that if Elway was able to successfully squeeze Peyton Manning of all people, he has the negotiation skills to squeeze Clady. Still, I would exercise extreme caution, and recognize that the Broncos need Clady more than some may think.

16. Right tackle is the only position the Broncos should potentially address in free agency at a value higher than $4M APY.

Barring cap casualties, there may not be a free agent RT worth that much anyway—and remember that the Broncos will want an RT that fits what Kubiak wants to do. The cap space should end as a net gain assuming you cut Clady and move Sambrailo to LT. A limit of $4 million APY should prevent the Broncos from cancelling out any potential 3rd-5th round 2017 comp picks for Osweiler, Jackson, or Trevathan should any of them walk. But prefer SFAs to UFAs to pad the CFA lost/gained ratio anyway—a few extra 7th rounders won’t hurt, especially since 2017 comp picks will be tradeable.

17. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to restructure Chris Harris or Demaryius Thomas to get a little more 2016 cap space.

Cap conscious teams like the Broncos usually don’t do this, but 2016 is an unusual year. There is likely no need to resort to this until the summer, however, when it’s time to sign rookies, and it’s also why I’ve largely held off from addressing the rookie pool for now, because when it’s all said and done the net cap space needed to make room for them under the top 51 is likely not going to be much more than $2 million. Here’s the potential 2016 cap savings out of restructures:

  • Thomas: maximum of $9.18 million
  • Harris: maximum of $4.6 million

I’d prefer to restructure Harris over Thomas since Harris is more of a sure quantity at this point, and there’s a potential contract voiding available for Thomas in 2017. Aqib Talib also has a restructure potential of about $6M, but I would advise against it due to his age, just in case they need $10M in cap space for 2017 by making him a cap casualty.

2016 Salary Cap Projections

All of these projections assume the following:

  • Peyton Manning gets his final $2 million back (you gotta believe, right?)
  • A leaguewide 2016 salary cap of $150 million, of which is likely an underestimate
  • Britton Colquitt is cut
  • ERFA tenders are placed on Matt Paradis, Todd Davis, Brandon McManus and Bennie Fowler.
  • 1st round RFA tender is placed on Brandon Marshall.
  • 2nd round RFA tender is placed on CJ Anderson.
  • Ryan Clady is retained at his $10.1 million cap number.

The two big factors that I will be adjusting for in these projections are the following:

  • Whether to retain Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler
  • Whether or not an extension with Von Miller can be obtained without using the franchise tag

Unfortunately, the cheaper moves for both of these factors require the Broncos to successfully complete contract negotiations with both Miller and Osweiler. Finally, note that in the offseason the top 51 cap numbers count, so in some scenarios I have to add or subtract those players (who will likely consist of current practice squadders at the absolute minimum salary).

The Tight Cap Plan (keep Manning, franchise tag Miller)

In this plan, it mandates that DeMarcus Ware must be cut. It also mandates that Chris Harris and Demaryius Thomas get their contracts restructured. For Harris, I go for near the maximum possible by converting $6 million of his base salary into a signing bonus. Prorated over 4 years, this saves $4.5 million against the 2016 cap in exchange for pushing $1.5 million each in 2017, 2018, and 2019. For Thomas, I give him an $8 million signing bonus, gaining $6 million in cap savings.

It also limits extensions of other UFAs to only depth role players. Even with those cap savings moves, I could only fit in extensions for Bruton and Harris. With Osweiler, Jackson, and Trevathan all walking along with numerous others, the Broncos would be a lock for multiple high 2017 compensatory picks. That’s a silver lining because they would be needed as the Broncos need to hit on multiple draft picks to restock their depth.

Current Cap Space: $6,923,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)
Savings Expenditures
Britton Colquitt (cut) $3,250,000 Von Miller (franchise tag) ($15,000,000)
DeMarcus Ware (cut) $10,000,000 Brandon McManus (ERFA) ($600,000)
Chris Harris (restructure) $4,500,000 Bennie Fowler (ERFA) ($600,000)
Demaryius Thomas (restructure) $6,000,000 Todd Davis (ERFA) ($600,000)
Matt Paradis (ERFA) ($525,000)
Brandon Marshall (RFA) ($3,500,000)
CJ Anderson (RFA) ($2,500,000)
David Bruton (UFA) ($2,000,000)
Ryan Harris (UFA) ($1,500,000)
50th player ($450,000)
51st player ($450,000)
Resulting Cap Space: $2,948,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)

 

The Loose Cap Plan (keep Osweiler, extend Miller without the franchise tag)

This plan gives the Broncos much more room to operate, likely to the tune of $20 million in cap dollars. With that space, it clearly allows you do the following:

  • Extend Danny Trevathan (max of $4M against the 2016 cap)
  • Extend Antonio Smith (max of $4M against the 2016 cap)
  • Extend Malik Jackson ($6.925 against the 2016 cap)
  • “Extend” DeMarcus Ware ($6M in 2016 cap savings)
  • No restructures needed.

 

Current Cap Space: $6,923,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)
Savings Expenditures
Britton Colquitt (cut) $3,250,000 Von Miller (extension) ($5,500,000)
DeMarcus Ware (“extension”) $6,000,000 Brandon McManus (ERFA) ($600,000)
Peyton Manning (cut) $19,000,000 Bennie Fowler (ERFA) ($600,000)
50th player $450,000 Todd Davis (ERFA) ($600,000)
51st player $450,000 Matt Paradis (ERFA) ($525,000)
Brandon Marshall (RFA) ($3,500,000)
CJ Anderson (RFA) ($2,500,000)
David Bruton (UFA) ($2,000,000)
Ryan Harris (UFA) ($1,500,000)
Brock Osweiler (UFA) ($5,000,000)
Malik Jackson (UFA) ($7,000,000)
Danny Trevathan (UFA) ($4,000,000)
Antonio Smith (UFA) ($2,250,000)
Resulting Cap Space: $498,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)

 

Now, I intentionally put the Broncos up against the cap here merely as an illustration as to show what could be done if you extend Miller early and go with Osweiler. I still think it would be a long shot to keep all of Ware, Jackson, and Trevathan in this example, and someone like Thomas or Talib would still likely need a minor restructure in order to make room for rookies and any low level free agents the Broncos might want.

My Preferred Plan

Here is how the cap would flesh out if my 17-point plan above is followed:

Current Cap Space: $6,923,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)
Savings Expenditures
Britton Colquitt (cut) $3,250,000 Von Miller (extension) ($5,500,000)
DeMarcus Ware (cut) $10,000,000 Brandon McManus (ERFA) ($600,000)
Peyton Manning (cut) $19,000,000 Bennie Fowler (ERFA) ($600,000)
Todd Davis (ERFA) ($600,000)
Matt Paradis (ERFA) ($525,000)
Brandon Marshall (RFA) ($3,500,000)
CJ Anderson (RFA) ($2,500,000)
David Bruton (UFA) ($2,000,000)
Ryan Harris (UFA) ($1,500,000)
Brock Osweiler (UFA) ($5,000,000)
Danny Trevathan (UFA) ($4,000,000)
Antonio Smith (UFA) ($2,250,000)
Resulting Cap Space: $10,598,505 (assuming $150M 2016 salary cap & $3.3M carryover)

Note that I give myself over $10 million of extra cap space here just in case negotiations with Miller prove too difficult to get an extension before having to resort to the franchise tag.

  • Rileyrott

    Wow…what a write-up Nick! Good job!

    • Nick

      Thank you!

  • SterlingMalloryArcher

    Nick, correct me if I’m wrong, but Manning has earned a $2M bonus for winning the AFC Championship, and could earn another $2M for winning a Super Bowl (depending on % of snaps played). Both are classified as Incentives Unlikely to be Earned, and therefore count against the 2016 cap. So right now I think releasing Manning would result in cap savings of $17M for 2016, but if he earns his Super Bowl bonus that number will drop to $15M, with $6.5M in dead money against the cap. No?

    • Nick

      This is correct, I’ve just approached that a slightly different way. In my cap numbers I added that $4 million in already, and I’m basically considering that dead money in 2016 even if Manning returns. I wanted to keep the notion of $19 million in cap savings on a Manning retirement/cut prominent since that’s what he’s still owed in base salary regardless on how the 2015 NLTBEs are displayed.

      • I think what needs to be clarified is whether the $19M saved is cap and cash, or just cash while the cap space is $15M. As in, the $4M in bonuses Manning receives applies toward what would have been the cap space freed up.

        I’ve always looked it as, if Manning got the full $4M back, the cap space freed from his retirement or release would be $15M, even if the cash saved remains the same. Please correct me if I’m wrong, though.

        • Nick

          Again, you’re correct in just looking from a different lens. Manning will be paid $2-4 million in cash that will count against the 2016 cap. If he is retained for the 2016 season, there will be an additional $19 million in cash due that will also count against the 2016 cap, making for a total of $21-23 million due. That’s why I’m taking those transactions in two different steps.

    • theraccoun

      Ugh, manning is the biggest waste of money ever (yes I’m in that camp). Imaging the dream team we could have had this year with Oz, Joe Thomas, and some other amazing players from FA using Manning’s money

  • ohiobronco

    You are in line with my thinking on 1 and 2. I have some thoughts on the parameters for Osweiler:

    -I think he is in line for $14M-$17M in full guarantees. This is the range between 2012 classmate Foles and fellow 2nd rounder Dalton.
    -The cap hit for the guarantees should be absorbed completely or nearly completely in the first 2 years with the majority in the 1st year, so that the team can move on from him quickly if necessary.
    -The media will report a $12M-$13M APY but a closer look will reveal 2 years at $8M-$10M/year with some larger non-guaranteed years following.
    -Contract length can be a bargaining chip. The team could perhaps open with a 4 year offer and then go down to a more player friendly 2-3 year length to close the deal if necessary. 2 years is plenty to determine if he is the long term starter and do a true starter deal.

  • SterlingMalloryArcher

    This is fantastic, and I’m with you every step of the way. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the Broncos need to keep Clady whether they sign or draft a FA RT. Let Sambrailo add strength and learn on the bench rather than struggle in the starting lineup, IMO. I agree that RT might be a place where Elway opens up the check book in FA.

    One player we haven’t talked about is Louis Vasquez. He was bad this year, and not very good last year, either. Many of us attributed his poor play last year to being out of position at RT, but this year he was back at RG and played even worse. I know he’s been battling a knee injury, but at this point in his career that may be the new normal.

    His cap number is $6.75M for 2016, and releasing him would free up $5.5M of that ($1.25M dead money). Now, I know the line is in bad shape and we don’t want to open up more needs, but what about cutting Vasquez and using the savings to retain Mathis on a something like a 2-year deal? Mathis could continue to play LG, something he’s done very effectively even while dealing with injuries, and Garcia could play RG. They would still need depth and a guy in line to replace Mathis in the very near future, but if Vasquez’s decline proves permanent, that’s going to be the case anyway.

    I’m definitely on board with retaining Osweiler, but I think that plan would need to include signing a veteran FA backup. Maybe even a cheap reclamation project like RGIII, whose only success came under Mike Shanahan. We’re all well aware of the similarities between him and Kubiak.

    I’ve begun work on my draft preview, making many of the same assumptions as you have. Looking forward to sharing it in a couple months.

    • Nick

      Vasquez is kind of the same deal with Clady–I would not cut him unless and until you have a viable long term replacement set up. I don’t think bringing Mathis for one more year would qualify at his age.

      • T. Jensen

        If you kept Mathis and cut Vasquez, wouldn’t Garcia become the viable long term replacement at RG?

        • Nick

          What’s the future at LG, then?

          • T. Jensen

            Day 2 draft pick this year is needed either way. V only has 1 year left so it really is the same situation. Next year it’s going to be Garcia and V or M at guard with a rookie waiting on the bench. 2017 its going to be Garcia and Rookie.

        • SterlingMalloryArcher

          Yeah, that was my point. If Vasquez is going to be what we’ve seen the last two years, we’re going to need another long term guard either way.

    • Rhett Rothberg

      The urban legend was always that Sambo was also in the mix as the RT… So if you keep Clady (and he’s still any good), Sambo could be a good fit at RT. I know you’re not a fan…but the kid did ok as a rook in a (as of today) non-traditional system. So, and maybe if Scho truly can extract his head from his ass, maybe you’re not as bad off at T as you might think (though you do need to bring someone in….).

      Concur that I think up the middle might not be as strong as some think… As noted above, I like Mathis too…

    • babsonjr

      To share my immaturity, when I first read your comment I didn’t see the space between acronyms re: drafting a FA RT. Made me double take. Get a whiff of those free agent right tackles!! 🙂

      Look forward to your draft preview to help occupy the long offseason.

      • SterlingMalloryArcher

        Lol. Can’t believe I didn’t notice that myself. Let’s hope for the Broncos’ sake the free agent right tackles don’t all stink!

      • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

        I read it that way too. I thought to myself, “We have drafted a lot of Farts in the past 10 years, but lately we’ve been drafting the shit!

    • Sparks

      SMA, I know you’ve taken somewhat of a beating over your Peyton stance and seemed to consider not writing anymore, but let me tell you, I’m really looking forward to your draft preview. I really enjoyed your draft analysis back at IAOFM and will try to patiently wait for this year’s prognostications.

    • T. Jensen

      Kubiak and Shanny have similarities in play callingstyles but I have to believe playing QB for Kubes is 100% better (quality of life) than playing QB for Shanny.

  • babsonjr

    Great stuff, Nick! Your Preferred Plan is my dream scenario. But if Ware plays balls out again in the super bowl that’s a real tough cut to make in the offseason, even with his age, injury history and young guns waiting in the wings. He has been such an integral part of this defense and team leader. I’m hoping he agrees to a combination of 5b and 5c, pay cut plus an extension so we can keep him a little longer. He will be difficult to say goodbye to, but such is life with the salary cap I guess.

    Agree on Clady too. Broncos need him more than he needs the Broncos.

    I’m also skeptical that the Broncos and Von Miller agree on a contract this year. I hope they do, but think it unlikely. I get the feeling that Von has a mindset similar to Malik, expecting to get paid top dollar, even if not with the Broncos. He knows he’s an unstoppable force and not likely to give a Broncos discount like Wolfe, CHJ. Again, hoping for the best, but expecting to have to franchise him next year.

    • GMik – Broncologist

      It’s been put out there in a number of articles that Von is looking to be the highest paid Defensive Player. I think the FO has to be aware of that and has to plan to pay him as such. How it’s structured is the interesting piece, as Nick has written.

      I certainly hope they get this done without the franchise tag. Lock him up!!

      • Alaskan

        Until a deal happens, who knows what Von really wants?
        If I’m his agent, I say he wants the entire salary cap devoted to him and he will play every position all at once. And some clown in the media will report that is what Von wants.

  • Rhett Rothberg

    Yes…good stuff! On a tangential note, I’d be fascinated to know what sort of management models NFL teams use…

    Your model above is very similar to a Program Management Roadmap whereby you lay out, usually in more of a graphical timeline, a set of milestones that you look to achieve. In this case, you could put contract expirations up as milestones (in that they are things that need to be achieved/addressed) along with schedule and other milestones (like the draft, free agency, etc…)

    That’s schedule management…the next part of classic program management is a risk management process….and this would be akin to the sub-bullets you list above to the primary milestones… So for #4 for example, your milestone is to retain Von Miller this year… But there is a Risk (a negative event that has a quantifiable impact and a quantifiable probability of occurrence) to that happening. So you quantify that total risk (in this case, a huge impact if you lost him, and a low likelihood given the ability to use the Franchise tag) and develop mitigation strategies to either prevent the risk from manifesting or to reduce the impact to the organization…

    Anyhow, the parallels are fascinating (to me at least, as I’m in that field), so I’m curious about what the exact organizational process models they use…..or maybe they just scratch it out on a whiteboard and go that way…

    Fantastic stuff, Nick…thank for the effort!

    • Nick

      Thank you! You’re going to give me some reading to learn more about what you’re talking about, sounds interesting.

      • Rhett Rothberg

        It comes from large system acquisition….usually put forth in the government… Used to manage systems to achieve cost, schedule and performance goals. To some extent, a football team is not that different from a large technological system… It has some set of requirements, often needs to be re-capped every 3 years and has a good set of unknowns and contingencies to account for…

        Don’t read too deeply….it will put you right to sleep 😉

        • ohiobronco

          Ah, now we realize what you are doing in DC.

          • Rhett Rothberg

            You got me… Small job, maybe you’ve heard of it…POTUS. No big deal…

          • ohiobronco

            In that case I have a 17 point list of suggestions for you.

          • Alaskan

            Thanks. You’ve been doing a great job, Mr. President.
            Loved the way you took out Bin Laden.
            But you should be kinder to PFM.

    • babsonjr

      Sounds like you’re a PMP and PgMP too. In my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of companies in a variety of industries. If my personal work experience sample is much of a predictor, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of NFL front offices would give you a blank stare if you asked them about their management model. I do know they all hire consultants to help them plan, but think they fall far short of the type of methodology you are describing used in program management.

      • Rhett Rothberg

        I’m a PMP in my own mind 😉 haven’t paid for the exam yet…soon though 🙂

        I know analytics have become popular, I think the Broncos hired a guy this year. So they are at least doing some measurement and data mining. That can be used to not only predict what you should do (go for 2 or kick the extra point), but maybe how you did (did we manage the cap well a year ago…did we meet our milestones…)…

        Might be too rigorous an approach, but a lot of government projects with smaller budgets than an NFL annual salary cap use the approach…

        • The did hire Mitch Tanney last offseason. He was formerly with the Bears and is bro of QB Alex Tanney.

  • Rhett Rothberg

    Minor comment on #14… I’d be curious if Mathis would stay on via a cheap deal… At his age and given the injury issues he had last year, I’m guessing the writing is on the wall for him that he is no longer a full time guy who can get money elsewhere… But I could see him being a fantastic depth guy for 2-3 years. I like him. I like his game and his attitude… I think it would be great to keep him around if possible…

    • Nick

      I’m just really leery on giving him too much as a 35 year old, and I think he might be able to get too much on the market. That said, I did fit $2.25M in my budget for Antonio Smith, so if Mathis can be had at that price then I can justify using that money on Mathis instead of Smith.

      • Rhett Rothberg

        Agree with you both…it’s a cost/benefit thing…but I think he would be positive member of an OL facing a youth movement…

      • SterlingMalloryArcher

        To elaborate a little on my point about Vasquez, if his performance over the last two years is now what we can expect from him he’s no longer a long term solution at RG, leaving Garcia as the only such starting option at G. In that scenario, why not cut Vasquez and use the $5.5 M in savings to retain Mathis, who currently looks like a much better player. I’d rather have Mathis/Garcia as my starting Gs than Garcia/Vasquez. In either scenario, drafting a G as the other long term starter is a high priority. (Again, this is predicated on whether what we’re seeing from Vasquez is true decline rather than temporary injury-related struggles)

        • Nick

          Certainly a valid argument. I still favor a 29 year old Vasquez over a 35 year Mathis for one more year. Guard does look like a priority draft spot.

    • I’ll have more to say when I roll out my offseason primers and plan, but I will say this: If the Broncos extend Mathis, they need to either trade or cut Louis Vasquez. All of that depends on how much Mathis is seeking.

      Either way, you can expect the Broncos to draft a guard on Day 3, if not Day 2 (the latter could happen if Mathis walks, because Vasquez is in the final year of his deal).

  • GMik – Broncologist

    I get the feeling we are in better shape at Tackle, or at least the FO thinks we are in better shape at Tackle, than most others. As you noted we resign Harris to be a swing. Why not? That leaves us… Clady and/or Sambo at Left Tackle and Schofield at Right Tackle. If the Coaches didn’t like Schofield he sure as hell wouldn’t be playing. Or maybe I just can’t think of any other reason he would be playing. Hopefully we can get a 3rd solid game in a row out of him…

    Back to my original point – Restructure Clady, you have 2 young Tackles in Sambo and Scho and then an awesome backup in Harris if you want to go that way. Even if you don’t restructure Clady we would be seemingly okay with Harris and Polumbus as backups.

    • babsonjr

      I give Schofield the benefit of the doubt because he’s young, has had a few good games, and still has potential despite some horrific performances this year. But Polumbus has none of those things. I have seen Polumbus being used and abused far too many times over the years. If he is on our roster, even as a backup, then our OL is still in need of significant improvement.

    • SterlingMalloryArcher

      PFF player grades (out of 100):

      Harris: 40.6
      Schofield: 37.4
      Sambrailo (In limited action): 36.5

      60.0 is considered replacement level.

      More than half the teams in the NFL subscribe to PFF to supplement their own grading systems.

      My point is, there’s probably some high school kids playing on a field by your house that are better than these guys, particularly Schofield and Sambrailo.

  • Sparks

    To echo some of the other commenters – fantastic job Nick. Very informative and a great read.

  • I’ll add my thanks to Nick for the work he did on this piece. He’s pretty much in line with a lot of what I am thinking about how the Broncos will approach the offseason. I will add a couple of notes.

    * I’m OK with the Broncos using the ERFA tender on Sam Brenner as well. ERFAs are low risk, high reward players and if they don’t make the final roster, they don’t cost you anything. The Broncos did that with Ben Garland last year and he at least gave them a player who could provide competition at a low cost.

    * I notice you didn’t bring up Lerentee McCray, who is an RFA. I’m sure your thinking is the same as mine: Do not tender him, even at the original round level, because that’s too much for him. I’d be OK with doing what the Broncos did with Steven Johnson and signing him to a one-year deal at the minimum. Again, that’s low risk and doesn’t cost anything if he doesn’t make the final roster.

    * Danny Trevathan is someone I’ve been torn about, but I suspect he’s going to play elsewhere and the Broncos will give Todd Davis a chance to start, while looking to the draft for another ILB.

    * There are a couple of good right tackles who are potential free agents: The Browns’ Mitchell Schwartz and the Falcons’ Ryan Schraeder. The former could want a change of scenery and the latter has played well in ZBS, although I think the Falcons will try to keep Schraeder. I can see the Browns doing the same with Schwartz, but you have to wonder if he’d prefer to play for a playoff contender or a team that is closer to being one than the Browns are.

    • Sparks

      May the Schwartz be with you!

    • cjfarls

      I’m still hoping we can keep Danny at ~$4-5m per year… but yeah, its looking like a tough cap squeeze and he’s likely to go where the pastures are “greener”.

    • SterlingMalloryArcher

      How much is the original round tender for an undrafted player like McCray? It’s got to be cheaper than signing him to the veteran minimum for 1 year, no? Seems pretty low risk either way.

      • Unfortunately, I can’t get Over the Cap’s cap calculator to load, but the RFA original round tender is a little more than $1M. A one-year deal for McCray would be about $700,000. While not much of a difference, $1M for a player who has been mostly relegated to special teams and didn’t stand out there is a bit too much.

        • Nick

          Sorry about that, I was working on something unrelated that caused that.

      • Nick

        Original round tender should be about $1.75M. That’s over $1M more than a veteran minimum of $675k that McCray would be entitled to. Definitely enough to decline using a RFA tender on.

        • SterlingMalloryArcher

          So the “original round tender” is not actually affected by which round they were selected? Intuitively I assumed that it would be dependent on which round they were selected in, and therefore would be quite low for an undrafted player.

          • Nick

            Correct. And thanks to the new CBA, it’s very rare when that tender would actually yield draft compensation, since almost all RFAs these days started off as UDFAs. The only exception is if a player gets cut from his rookie contract and then signs a less than four year deal that would eventually expose him to being an RFA. Brandon Marshall is one of those exceptions, though because he’s played so well a mere fifth round pick wouldn’t stop teams from trying to poach him.

    • Nick

      Thanks Bob. To reply to your four points:
      –I’m fine with ERFA tendering Brenner, he just wasn’t as notable as the four players I explicitly listed. He does have 2 accrued seasons so he’ll cost $150K more, but because he’d displace a $450K guy in the top 51 that’s all the extra that it would cost him.
      –100% agree on McCray, and Steven Johnson is the perfect comparison as to what to do with him.
      –I do think it’s more likely than not that Trevathan is gone next year, but I don’t feel as strongly of letting him walk as I do on Jackson, so I’d least keep some serious negotiations ongoing. He can be fit into the 2016 if things fall favorable with other players and he doesn’t ask for a fortune.
      –Both of those tackles sound good to me, I don’t know their play as well so I wasn’t going to reach on commenting there.

    • CFD1983

      I don’t see the Broncos giving up on Schofield a one year kid, I see them keeping Clady and Harris… Ty only played in the first 3 games and was average at best, so I see a lot of competition at tackle…

  • Just wanted to stop by and tell you that you are awesome.

    Please continue on with your day.

    • Nick

      Thanks, and you’re awesome as well! Your tape acumen and my contract acumen complement well.

      • VonSwenson

        It’s like we have an in-house head coach and general manager to turn to when we have questions!

  • drewthorn

    Awesome stuff. One of the common mantras of the run of the mill Broncos hater is that Denver shot the wad trying to buy a championship and will officially enter cap hell in 2016. If Hell is assembling so much young talent that you can’t possibly pay them all, I just hope the air conditioning keeps working in Broncos Country.

    I know I’m a faint voice in the darkness on this one but I’m still not convinced that Kubes and Elway view Oz in the same glowing terms as the fans and media. It’s a gut thing gleaned from rumors, comments from anonymous outside front office types and non-verbal cues from Kubiak, who seemed to get increasingly frustrated with Oz as his 7 game stretch played out. I think Denver will give him a firm number, and that it’s distinctly possible that the Oswieler camp will balk on account of knowing they can do significantly better on the open market. I’m not advocating that scenario, but something doesn’t vibe right on that front.

    • Alaskan

      I’m with you, Drew.
      Oz exceeded my expectations, but what does that matter?
      Kubes and JE are tough customers who know what they want to see behind center.
      I hope Oz does pan out. Seems like a fine young man.
      But in JE and Kubiak we trust.

    • SterlingMalloryArcher

      I don’t disagree with you about Osweiler. I’ve said I would try to re-sign him, but the fact they left him on the bench as long as they did with Manning playing so poorly has made me wonder many times if they think Os just can’t play a lick. Then, during a game in which he was playing well, they sat him for no logical reason other than to get a “spark.”

      That leads me to believe that the coaching staff either is really, really bad at grading QB performance (unlikely) or they simply think Osweiler is terrible, and that no matter how bad Manning is, he’s still better than Os (more likely). If that’s the case, they shouldn’t make any effort at all to re-sign him.

      I think that question will be answered based on if they offer him a deal, and for how much. If they lowball him, they never really wanted him to stick around.

      But that raises the question of what if they pay him good money to stick around and start? That will leave me very confused as to why they waited so long to play him, and why they were so quick to pull him when he had been performing pretty well, relatively speaking.

      • T. Jensen

        I for one just hope they avoid a schaub situation. I really don’t want an almost franchise QB for the next 10 years.

        • aleowr

          There are worse situations. Look at Buffalo and the Vikings went nowhere until they had competent QB play.

        • SterlingMalloryArcher

          I don’t see Elway committing to a long term deal with Os just yet. Even if he gets paid starter money, I expect the Broncos will be able to get out of the contract after 2-3 years.

          Another thing to consider is that the Broncos are currently in the Super Bowl after getting WAY less than Matt Schaub-like production this season. Schaub in his prime may have gone undefeated with this roster, and I’m only kind of kidding.

          • T. Jensen

            Kubiak has a way of making average QB’s better. Had Fox been the coach of the Texans Schaub would have been let go a few years earlier. There were definitely a few seasons where Schaub’s production should have been enough for us to go undefeated of course those years he also had pretty elite rushing numbers too.

            This year has just been so weird, the two things I knew were going to happen were our RB’s were going to put up a combined 1800 yard season and our QB would be above average. Had anyone told me when Kubiak was hired that we would end the season with a piss poor offense and the best NFL defense in 20 years I would have laughed them all the way to the looney bin.

      • aleowr

        I agree. I think it’s odd they didn’t extend him last year. I bet he is playing elsewhere next year.

      • jhclevenger

        I’m wondering if the reason they benched Osweiler is because of his decision making and not any of the stats the we have quantified. He has a tendency to take too many sacks (rather than getting rid of the ball in a timely matter) and it wouldn’t also surprise me if he wasn’t making the required reads of the defense. The latter part is speculative but I remember Kubiak saying something akin to the former.

        • SterlingMalloryArcher

          Still, though, I don’t see how his mistakes would have been more harmful to the Broncos offense than Manning’s, and the only way for Osweiler to improve on reading defenses and getting rid of the ball faster is to play on Sundays. You can’t quite simulate those conditions in practice. I feel like they’ve missed an opportunity to allow him to improve, and they did it in favor of playing a guy who arguably (or literally, depending on which metric we’re using) was the worst starting QB in the league this year. Would Osweiler’s slow decision making really have been worse than that? It didn’t seem to play out that way on the field.

  • aleowr

    How reasonable is it that Oz could be had for a Nick Foles contract number? I have a feeling that Denver will low ball him and he leaves for more money.

    • Nick

      We’ll find out for sure in a month. But I do think the Broncos need to set a reasonable upper bound on what they’re willing to pay.

      • aleowr

        I am not happly with the way the QB situation has been handled. We could see Manning and Oz leave with Siemenn (too lazy to Google his name) starting. Shudder.

        • Nick

          If I had to guess, I would think that Elway did not expect Manning to come back in 2015, and he may have also expected Manning to balk at the pay cut. The original plan may have been to ensure that Osweiler had one year of starting no matter what. That plan of course has been scuttled. I’m nervous about the QB position as well, but for at least 2016 Osweiler may be their best shot.

          • aleowr

            Agreed on the Manning pay cut. I did double take when they asked last year and another when Manning agreed. I think they saw the decline last year and wanted to move on. Surprise! Didn’t happen. Win or lose I’m going to enjoy the moment on Sunday. It’s so damn hard to get to this point and until we know that Oz (or who ever) is The Guy(TM), we may not get back here for a long time.