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Broncos salary cap situation and important upcoming dates

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Now that the off season is upon us, it is time to take stock of the Denver Broncos cap situation and roster.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Current Cap Situation

Over the cap is reporting that the Broncos are projected to have about 32.2 million in cap space heading into 2015. That is with all current contracts on the books (including Peyton Manning). This number comes from an estimated salary cap of 140 million in 2015. Coupled with the Broncos current expenditrues of 114.3 million for 45 contracts as well as a 7.5 million rollover from 2014 gives the Broncos a team salary cap of 147.5 million. When about 900K in dead money is set aside, you get the 32.2 million figure.

Important Dates

Bonus and other performance incentives will kick in for the following players on these dates (courtesy of spotrac.com):

March 9th: Peyton Manning's 19 million 2015 salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the 53 man roster

March 10th: Aqib Talib's 5.5 million 2015 salary becomes fully guaranteed

March 14th: Ryan Clady receives a 1.5 million roster bonus, 8.5 million in base salary becomes fully guaranteed

March 14th: 3.5 million of DeMarcus Ware's remaining 7 million 2015 salary becomes fully guaranteed

March 14th: T.J. Ward receives 2.5 million roster bonus, 4 million of this 2015 salary becomes fully guaranteed.

March 9th is the key date to look at. If the Broncos are looking to go a different route, expect them to release Peyton well before that date. If however they still would like to see him back in 2015 they are likely to give him the time he needs to come to a decision. Manning is close to Adam Gase who is likely to be hired by another team. If reports that Manning/Gase were at odds with John Fox are true, the ousting of Fox could entice Peyton to play another season even WHEN Adam Gase signs elsewhere.

If the Broncos were to release Peyton Manning or he were to retire, Denver would gain another 16 million in cap space, bringing their projected total to approximately 48.2 million.

Examining contracts from the 2014 FA Class

There has been some questions about certain contracts and what the Broncos might potentially gain in cap space if they were to release certain players. Here is contract situation from each player from the 2014 free agent class:

Player

2015 Cap Number

Dead Money Hit

Cap Savings

DeMarcus Ware

8.666 million

6.833 million

1.833 million

TJ Ward

7.750 million

3.750 million

4.000 million

Aqib Talib

7.000 million

4.000 million

3.000 million

Emmanuel Sanders

5.000 million

2.000 million

3.000 million

Just looking at the figures, it does not make sense to release any of these players. People have often asked about releasing Aqib Talib, but this season's performance has more to do with Jack Del Rio's idiotic scheme than anything else.

DeMarcus Ware who's pressures and sacks waned as the season progressed would be the best choice to cut if his dead money hit to cap savings weren't so out of whack.

Given the information presented here, there is very little chance any of these players will be cut prior to the dates outlined in their respective contracts.

Cuts/Restructures to watch for

Based on performance here are some players to keep an eye on in the event that the Broncos release or restructure.

Ryan Clady: 10.6 million cap number, 1.8 dead money hit, 8.8 million cap savings

Britton Colquitt: 3.750 million cap number, 1.5 dead money hit, 2.25 million cap savings

Andre Caldwell: 1.550 million cap number, 200K dead money hit, 1.350 million cap savings

To me, Colquitt and Caldwell are very expendable. As far as Ryan Clady, it depends on his health. Pro-Bowl aside, Clady was a shell of his former self.

List of Free Agents

Likely Gone

Wes Welker, Jacob Tamme, Mitch Unrein, Will Montgomery, Quinton Carter

Likely Tendered

Tony Carter, Aaron Brewer, Steven Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Paul Cornick, John Youboty, Ben Garland

Contract Speculation

Demaryius Thomas: 5 years, 60 million (12 average)

Terrance Knighton: 4 years, 20 million (5 average)

Rahim Moore: 3 years, 9 million (3 average)

Orlando Franklin: 5 years, 30 million (6 average)

Nate Irving: 1 year, 3 million

Virgil Green: 3 years, 12 million (4 average)

Julius Thomas: 3 years, 17 million (5.6 average)

Taking these estimates on face value, the 1st year total comes to 38.6 million. I don't expect everyone to be resigned. My keepers would be Demaryius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, and Virgil Green. Those contracts would total 30 million. Depending on the fate of Peyton Manning and some of the other potential cuts, the Broncos should have more than enough to sign the in-house free agents they want to retain and pick up a few outside FA's along the way.