*Restricted Free Agent
2014 Cap Figures (via spotrac.com)
|Player||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Other Bonus||Dead Money||Cap Figure|
2014 Safety Cap Hit: $5,954,063. Note that this includes Duke Ihenacho's anticipated Exclusive Rights Free Agent tender. This means, assuming the Broncos offer him the veteran minimum for a three-year player ($645,000), he has to sign it. He has no option to test free agency. I fully expect the Broncos to invest another $645,000 in Duke, who started at strong safety for the Broncos often in 2013, so included that number here.
Projected 2014 Cap Space: Between $15 and $25 million
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Be the Broncos GM
Like many positions on defense, safety was hit hard by injury in 2013. Between Rahim Moore not finishing the season with lateral compartment syndrome to a concussion suffered by Duke Ihenacho, the Broncos employed a healthy rotation at safety all season between Moore, Ihenacho, Mike Adams, and David Bruton. Furthermore, Quinton Carter was placed on Injured Reserve out of training camp - injuries took their toll on the Broncos indeed.
No clear starter
Rahim Moore is the only player under contract I would feel really comfortable penciling in as a starter, and even then I have my eraser at the ready. His injury is a concern for me, and Champ Bailey is another option we at MHR have discussed at length. Could he switch to free safety and overtake Moore? With an offseason dedicated to the move, I think he very well could.
At strong safety, Duke Ihenacho had an up-and-down season. He emerged out of training camp and preseason as the clear favorite at the position, but after a few strong games early, his play dwindled. Was he not able to sustain his momentum out of camp? Did the 23-game season (including preseason and playoffs) wear on him? I'm assuming the Broncos will bring him back at the relatively cheap vet minimum as an ERFA, and I look forward to seeing if he can regain his position as starting strong safety.
Quinton Carter is the name on the tip of many Broncos fans' tongues after his breakout 2011 postseason. It's a make-or-break year for the 2011 fourth round pick, who started 10 regular season games in his rookie year and, due to injury, hasn't started since. Will he escape out of training camp healthy? Will he again push Rahim Moore for a starting position?
Then there's Omar Bolden, who tried to make the switch from cornerback to safety in 2013 and didn't see much work there. He started one game - Denver's Week 15 loss vs. San Diego - but otherwise was mostly a special teams contributor. We have his salary listed at cornerback, because we think Denver's lack of depth there will drive him back to the position, but that's just conjecture.
Eric Hagg is an interesting addition to the Broncos. He was a late round 2011 draft pick and opened the 2012 season as the Browns' starting free safety - in other words, he replaced Mike Adams in Cleveland as the Broncos picked Adams up out of free agency. Funny to see him sign with Adams' team as the veteran again prepares to possible leave. Hagg became a special teams player and was waived in late 2013 before signing a reserve/futures contract with the Broncos.
Charles Mitchell and John Boyett both spent the 2013 season as free agents and signed reserve/future contracts. Boyett was waived by the Colts after a disorderly conduct incident where he reportedly told police, "You can't arrest me; I'm a Colts player." Before that, he was on the reserve/NFI list with a knee injury sustained at Oregon. To say his battle to make the roster will be an uphill one is an understatement.
The Jack Del Rio factor
While the safety position appears from far from settled, if there's one coach on the Broncos' staff who truly embraces competition across all positions, it's Jack Del Rio. This fluid situation at safety actually has to feel very satisfying for JDR, who tested every imaginable combination of Moore, Adams, Ihenacho, Bruton, and Carter throughout training camp last year. He likes to mix it up; add a draft pick or a free agent signing to the mix and there's every reason to believe the Broncos will have as good of safeties as they had a year ago.
Is that good enough, though?