I hope everyone has enjoyed three weeks of glee with the Broncos as Super Bowl champions. That’s because for next week, from Leap Day through next Sunday, there will be much business and decisions to be made Denver before the lead-up to free agency. These moves will likely contain good and bad news for the Broncos, but nonetheless we should be doubly aware of what’s going on. Thus, I’ve built a cheat sheet beyond the fold to track what needs to be addressed before Monday, March 7, when negotiations with other teams can open up in advance of the official start of free agency on March 9.
Get a resolution on the contracts of DeMarcus Ware and Ryan Clady
Ware and Clady hold the third and fourth highest cap numbers on the team for 2016. One way for the Broncos to gain the cap space they need to make moves is to restructure, cut, or obtain a pay cut from Ware and/or Clady. The maximum cap savings by combining the two is $18.9 million.
Extend or franchise tag Von Miller
Media reports on Miller have oscillated between both of these options. Currently, the truth likely lies in between, with both sides trying to leverage the media to paint their narrative. The tangible deadline for a decision to be made will be before 2 PM local time on Tuesday March 1, which is the end of the period to designate players with the franchise or transition tag. If Miller does get tagged, the cost will be about $14 million.
Determine Malik Jackson’s future with the Broncos
If an extension with Miller can be reached, there could be a chance that Jackson would receive a franchise ($15.7 million) or transition ($12.7 million) tag instead. So step 1 with Jackson will come by Tuesday. If Jackson is not tagged, then at some point from Tuesday to Sunday we’ll likely get a good idea as to what direction Jackson will be heading. If he’s decide to test the market, then expect a flurry of insider tweets soon after indicating what he chooses.
Determine Brock Osweiler’s future with the Broncos
While it’s likely that some negotiations have been going on between the Broncos and Osweiler for quite some time, they probably have not been as intense yet for a variety of reasons. But those should pick up rapidly, likely after Tuesday when there’s more clarity on Miller and Jackson. Much like with Jackson, we’ll likely have a good idea on Osweiler’s fate by around this time next week.
Determine the fate of other pending UFAs
Before the negotiation period opens up on March 7, there’s a good chance that we’ll have a decent idea of whether most of the UFAs will stay or go. There’s already been whispers of Danny Trevathan “testing the market”, and apart from Jackson and Osweiler he would be next in line for a lucrative deal. Other names to watch include David Bruton, Evan Mathis, Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Harris, Vernon Davis, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Norwood, and Omar Bolden. That’s a lot of names that could potentially allow the Broncos to rack up 2017 compensatory draft picks.
Place tenders on most RFAs and ERFAs
This will be a largely clerical move, and one that will likely happen no later than Friday, although March 9 is the actual deadline. All of the team’s ERFAs (Matt Paradis, Todd Davis, Brandon McManus, Bennie Fowler, and Sam Brenner) will likely be tendered. Lerentee McCray and Shiloh Keo will likely not be given RFA tenders, though cheaper deals closer to the veteran minimum can’t be ruled out.
The only intriguing question here is what level of RFA tenders Brandon Marshall and CJ Anderson will get. The consensus in many circles is that Marshall will get a 1st round tender ($3.635 million) and CJ Anderson a 2nd round tender ($2.553 million), but we will learn soon whether the Broncos agree with that consensus.
Get Peyton Manning’s decision
This one is getting placed at the bottom of list because it’s likely that will be rather anticlimatic as far as the Broncos’ future is concerned. In two scenarios–retirement or being cut–Peyton Manning will no longer be a part of the team, and it appears more likely than not that that will be the result.
One possible resolution, however, could be a combination of the two. Manning may legitimately want to retire, but he may not officially file retirement papers until after March 9. That would force the Broncos to cut him if they don’t want him to avoid guaranteeing his $19 million salary, and Manning would also avoid getting placed on the Broncos’ reserve/retired list. It would appear highly unlikely that Manning would pull a Brett Favre, but at least he would secure the opportunity to do so as a free agent.