Hello, Bronco fans! The draft is over and the rookie free agents are still coming on board, but here’s a few things to consider as we head into the coming months.
1. All signs point to Todd Davis becoming the other starting inside linebacker. This really shouldn’t surprise anybody, given how well Davis has played ever since he was plucked off the Saints’ practice squad two years ago. And it’s also a sign the Broncos are confident with their depth, in the form of 2014 seventh rounder Corey Nelson and a practice squad player last season, Zaire Anderson.
That the Broncos are comfortable with such players is not surprising. After all, they had sixth-round pick Danny Trevathan start most games in his four years and happily inserted Brandon Marshall, who they signed off the Jaguars’ practice squad, into the starting lineup as he proved himself worthy.
As we have seen, the Broncos want value from that position. Marshall has been tremendous value, Davis has been very good value and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of Nelson or Anderson prove themselves as high value for how they were acquired. So it’s not that surprising the Broncos didn’t draft an inside linebacker (though I am interested to see what rookie free agent Frank Shannon can do).
2. It would not surprise me if the Broncos release Britton Colquitt in the coming weeks. I imagine they want to see what they have in Riley Dixon and Will Johnson first, but their presence means there’s less of a need to keep Colquitt around. Of course, it’s possible they keep him around through training camp, but it’s hard to see Colquitt making the final roster. As for the cap space he takes up, keep in mind that Colquitt has zero guaranteed money, so there is no urgency to cut him, and whenever it does happen, the Broncos will still gain $3.25M in space. Which brings me to this…
3. I did some rough calculations earlier per Over the Cap’s estimates for rookie contracts for draft picks (EDIT: Unfortunately, it appears the article I read earlier has been changed… I had seen an earlier article which listed the estimated salaries for rookies who were drafted). Based on those calculations, and accounting for the fact that only the top 51 player contracts count toward the cap until rosters are finalized after training camp, none of the Broncos’ picks after the fourth round or rookie free agents will count toward the cap for the time being (EDIT: That is off the top of my head based on what I saw earlier, but I do believe that is accurate). For those that do, there should be at least $4M in cap space available, assuming the Broncos don’t cut anyone currently among the top 51.
Keep that number in mind as the Broncos work on an extension for Von Miller. Given that he will command top dollar, the Broncos are likely to do whatever they can to get as much of the money into the 2016 cap. They have $14M to work with from his tag, but I imagine the Broncos would like to use at least $15M this season to ensure his cap numbers don’t get too high in the coming years.
4. I suspect the Broncos are not going to pick up the fifth-year option for Sylvester Williams. As I said in comments elsewhere, this does not mean the Broncos won’t extend him. But at $6.75M, the number is too high for a player of Williams’ caliber, especially if the Broncos want to extend him. By declining the option, they can still notify Williams and his agent they would like to extend him and get him at a more reasonable cap number.
5. I do believe, though, that once Miller is extended, that priority on extension talks will go toward Brandon Marshall. Depending on cap space available after Miller is extended and players who the Broncos may not keep on the final roster, I would expect the Broncos will try to get the signing bonus to start under the 2017 cap, thus keeping Marshall’s future cap numbers lower.
As for an APY salary, I would not be surprised if the Broncos plan to make him one of the higher-paid inside linebackers in the NFL. Daryl Washington, for example, averages $8M per year in his current deal. If Marshall takes the hometown discount, he likely goes into the $7M to $7.5M range. But given his talents, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if John Elway is willing to give Marshall a deal that is closer to $8M APY.
6. As for other players, it’s great to hear the Broncos would like to extend Emmanuel Sanders. The question becomes how much he is willing to take. He’s due $5.5M in salary this year. I could see Elway giving Sanders a two-year deal that’s a little higher than what Wes Welker received a couple years ago. A deal averaging $6.5M to $7M per year would be reasonable.
7. The remaining free agents after 2016 likely mean the Broncos won’t get as many compensatory picks in 2018… and they certainly won’t get any in the third round. Even Sylvester Williams may have a hard time getting money at the level of Malik Jackson.
8. I imagine the Broncos are done with any veteran free agent signings for a while. If any more happen, they’ll only happen because somebody is injured or because somebody is cut and Elway and Kubiak believe that player can provide an upgrade at a position.
9. Finally, one thing to remember about any player on the roster whose cap number is low is that they could become trade bait if they perform well in the preseason. We won’t know if such a situation is possible until the preseason, of course. But don’t be so quick to want to kick a cheap, young player to the curb, no matter what you think of him. If a team who is low on the waiver priority list is interested in a cheap, young player the Broncos have, and the Broncos determine there just isn’t enough room on the roster when other such players have impressed, dealing a player for a late-round pick in 2017 can only be a good thing.
10. Most importantly, GO BRONCOS!