The Way Too Early Look at the 2019 Roster

With the week 1 2018 Roster set, I thought I’d take a way too early look at the 2019 roster. I made this visual, breaking down the current roster, practice squad (red) and IR/PUP (green), with 2019 RFAs highlighted in orange, and 2019 URFAs highlighted in Blue.

I assumed that Jordan Moore, Marcus Rios, JJ Dielman, and Andreas Knappe are headed to IR once they clear waivers, but if someone knows otherwise, let me know. I didn’t bother to designate ERFAs, since they can be kept for cheap if desired.

Position by position review

  • QB: Most of what we do rests on how Case Keenum performs. If he plays well, and the team is happy with Kelly as the backup, Hogan will probably walk and the Broncos will look for a UDFA or late round pick for camp and to stash on the practice squad. If Keenum doesn’t play well, than this will be a focal point again
  • RB/FB: We return everyone in 2019. Hopefully the new guys play well and there is minimal need for additions. If Booker plays in at last 33% of the offensive snaps this year, he will trigger the PPE and his salary will increase to approximately 2 million in 2019.
  • WR: Again, we return everyone besides Jordan Taylor, who may or may not see the active roster this year.  There is a lot of young talent here that people are excited about. If some of them shine, Sanders (10.25 million salary) and DT (14 million salary) could become cap casualties.
  • TE: Jeff Heuerman becomes an URFA, but the rest remain. I see this being a place the Broncos may look to upgrade again.
  • OT: Jared Veldheer (31 years old) and Billy Turner will both be URFAs, meaning the Broncos could be in the market for both a starting RT and a swing tackle. Former UDFAs Elijah Wilkinson and Andreas Knappe could add depth next year as well
  • OG/C: Matt Paradis is a looming free agent as well as Max Garcia. If the Broncos don’t resign Paradis, they’ll either need to rely on Sam Jones or find a new Center. Either scenario, the Broncos will likely also need to add depth to this position group
  • DL: Domata Peko and Zach Kerr will both be URFAs. Peko turns 34 this year and I would be surprised if the Broncos resigned him. Kerr is still in his prime and could be a tier II internal free agent for the Broncos. Shelby Harris should receive a tender. Derek Wolfe could be a cap casualty and carries an 8.5 million salary yet would produce 2.4 million in dead money. Desean Williams and Kyle Peko are in their last year of PS eligibility and could provide depth next year
  • Edge: Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett are both free agents. Like many, I suspect the Broncos will resign one and let the other walk. That will open the door for Jeff Holland, Deiontrez Mount or someone else to fill the 4th edge rusher role
  • ILB: Not only did we keep 6 ILBs, but all six are signed through next year. Looking to possible cap saving moves next year, cutting Marshall would save his 6 million in salary, but lead to 4 million in dead money. Cutting Todd Davis would save his 4 million in salary, but lead to 2 million on dead money
  • S: Like ILB, there are no pending free agents. Stewart has a 5 million salary, and would produce 2.8 million in dead money. As of now, this position group looks just as crowded and tough for youngs guys to crack as it did this year
  • CB: Bradley Roby, Tramaine Brock and Pacman Jones are all free agents, leaving only Chris Harris Jr. and Isaac Yiadom signed next year. As of now, Roby remains a priority to be resigned. Even if he is, I imagine the Broncos will look to free agency or the draft for a #3 CB. Yiadom, Langley, and Rios will provide depth next year as well.
  • ST: Casey Kreiter is a RFA. I’d rather they sign him to a long term deal soon (currently top long snappers make 1-1.2 million APY), rather than tendering him and having to pay him ~2 million. Alternatively they could just look for another UDFA next year

Preliminary list of needs

  • Starting C (Paradis possible re-sign candidate)
  • #2 CB (Bradley Roby possible re-sign candidate)
  • Starting RT (Veldheer possible re-sign candidate)
  • #3 Edge Rusher (Shaq Barrett or Shane Ray possible re-sign candidates)
  • Defensive line depth (Zach Kerr possible re-sign candidate)
  • Depth at CB
  • Depth at Guard
  • TE depth/upgrade options (current group is unproven)

Of course, this is preliminary, and lots can change over the course of the year, including players regressing, young players not panning out, injuries, young players exceeding expectations, unknowns emerging, etc.

Salary cap considerations

Per OTC, we look to roll over 5 million in cap space, and have 14 million in effective cap space next year. Things like the PPE for Simmons, Parks and/or Booker, player incentives, and draft picks will eat up ~$4-$10 million of that space, which doesn’t leave a ton of room ($10-$14 million). Also, that number projects a salary cap increase to 190 million. If cap increases slow like they did last year, the number could decrease further.

When Nick outlined what it would take to resign Roby, Paradis, and one of Barrett or Ray, he calculated it would cost $19.7 million in cap space between 2018 & 2019. This was assuming the extensions would be signed before this season, assisting with efforts to push cap hits into 2020 and beyond. I’m not sure how much not extending players prior to the season will affect that estimate.

I tried to highlight potential cap casualties above. I know many potential options will not be popular,  but I think the Broncos will be faced with many tough choices next year. As is often the case, several “needs” will have to be filled through the draft, including some of the needs for starters.

2020 and beyond

It’s even more ridiculous to look forward 2 years, but I do want to try to show how quickly cap space could vanish. Right now the Broncos are projected to have $97 million in cap space, which seems like a ton.

The deals Nick proposed for Roby, Paradis and Barrett/Ray would eat up $29 million in cap space in 2020. An extension for Chris Harris Jr could eat up another $12-$15 million, and a franchise tag or extension for Case Keenum could easily cost over $25 million depending on his play and where the QB market goes. Adding up the low end of estimates for those 5 players results in $67 million.  Suddenly the Broncos are left with only 30 million in cap space, with a long list of free agents including DT, Sanders, Wolfe, Gotsis, Simmons, Parks, McGovern, Booker, Janovich & Shelby Harris. And this doesn’t take into account the cap space taken up by whoever the Broncos sign next offseason to fill roles such as RT or #3 CB, or general depth. I could see those types of signings costing $5-$20 million against the 2020 cap, with the number ending up on the high side if we are cap constrained in 2019 and are backloading deals. I also think it’s even more likely that the cap increases drastically slow by 2020, which could also reduce cap space 5-15 million.

Again, so much could change between now and 2020, most notably our quarterback situation, but I do think fans should be aware how quickly that seemingly infinite 97 million in cap space will run out.


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Lifelong Broncos fan and current Engineer living and working in Denver.