Q: Looking across the division, can you assess the Broncos?
A: They are going to have close to $37 million in cap room. Their problem is retaining players because they have a bunch of free agents. The number one priority is Demaryius Thomas. According to Denver Post and Mike Klis, Thomas turned down the third-highest wide receiver contract, which would have been north of Percy Harvin's average, putting it between $12.8 million and somewhere below $16 million. I'd imagine part of his problem is structural because Denver usually gives modest signing bonuses under $10 million. (Ed: Not much of a hometown discount, is it? Talk is talk, but we gotta see Thomas walk the walk before we get too excited about the nice things he says to the media. A "hometown discount" could be all relative... such as, "I want the best contract for a wide receiver ever. But it doesn't have to be the best by THAT much.")
They create flexibility to get out after two or three years. He's making a case to be closer to the $16 million, because he's on pace for his third 90-catch, 1,400-yard and 10-touchdown season, something only done twice before in NFL history. The franchise tag would cost $12.887 million. Wes Welker, if he doesn't retire because of the concussion issues, is only going to come back at a very reduced rate.
Q: Chris Harris has been playing excellent football for Denver on the corner. Does he stay there in 2015?
A: Here's the problem with Harris. I know they've started negotiations with him, but why would he do a deal right now unless he's risk averse? He's the top corner on Pro Football Focus and he's positioned to be paid between eight and 10 million. Denver already has a guy like that in Aqib Talib. They structure themselves so that the first year is low, so they could sign both (Julius Thomas and Harris), but I think Harris prices himself out of Denver.
Q: Speaking of Julius Thomas, do you think he's a larger priority that Harris?
A: I did before the running game. According to Klis, he turned down a deal between 7.5 and 8.5 million which average-wise is where it should be. Blocking isn't his strong suit and if the Broncos are going to balanced maybe he doesn't have the same value as when they are pass-happy. We have rediscovered how good of a red-zone option Demaryius Thomas is when Julius Thomas is not there. ... You could pay him a market-rate deal, but you could also toy with bringing back Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme as opposed to bringing Thomas back. The offense has performed fine without Thomas in the lineup, even though Thomas is a mismatch nightmare.
Q: Who gets more, Von Miller or Justin Houston?
A: With Miller, I'm waiting for Houston to get his contract done and then asking for more money. Whoever goes first will get paid less because contracts get built upon. There is no sense of urgency for him and after his problems they are going to want a favorable contract structure. One guy I would consider locking up early is Brandon Marshall, who is an exclusive rights guy because he only has two accrued seasons. I would take him through his restricted years and one unrestricted year. That would be more of a secondary priority.
Interesting notes all around, but it definitely sounds like the Broncos will have their work cut out for them to keep even 50% of their free agents this offseason. Well,