The 2015 Denver Broncos season is underway and we're in the thick of training camp. While Jon and Scotty are knocking it out of the park with their up to date coverage of TC, I thought I'd give my fellow arm-chair GMs out there some fun ideas to kick around (H/T to Big Pete and Ian for the discussion ideas that spurred this).
What would we need more money for?
The first thing we should talk about is why in the world we would need more cap space. I'm honestly feeling pretty good about the team overall where it is at from both a personnel and money standpoint. We are seeing positive stuff from our biggest worry at offensive line, young players getting our attention, and are witnessing our core team members looking awesome. A serious case can be made for not needing to do anything as far as cuts go, but let me dig into a couple reasons we may want to consider.
1) Von Miller should be locked up and the sooner this happens, the better for the Broncos
The big news hit this week that Von is being removed from the insidious NFL drug program. That is the one thing I had any hesitation about for signing Von to a long-term contract. He's currently making ~$9.75 million for 2015 after which he becomes an UFA. Why not get him signed now and have one of the best defensive players in the NFL on your team for five more years?
2) The offensive line is not a finished product
Two words: Evan Mathis. He's be an automatic starter at guard for our team and would allow us to focus on center and both tackle positions instead of having four question marks.
3) Roll forward some cap space to next year when we might need more
We have some very important players hitting free agency next year. At the top of my list are the following:
- Von Miller
- Malik Jackson
- David Bruton
- Danny Trevathan
- Derek Wolfe
- Brock Osweiler
These players aren't going to be cheap and while we do have some room next year, some extra space may be just what the doctor ordered so that we can keep as many of these guys as possible and be compete in 2016.
Some options this year for cuts
Please note that this list isn't exhaustive. It is only the options I see that make some level of sense. We could save money with some guys like Derek Wolfe and David Bruton, but players like that appear to me to be too important to our depth to even consider cutting.
Smith currently is signed to a one year contract that has only $500k in dead cap if the Broncos decide to cut him with a savings of $1.5 million. Sure, no one wants to pay a guy $500k to workout with the team and never see the field, but it is an option that is there.
Chris Clark is a limited option at tackle. He's decent to be sure at LT, but I've never seen any level of consistent play from him at RT and he doesn't have enough skill / talent to handle elite pass rushers on either side. He's on the last year of his current contract and only has a dead cap hit of ~$225k with a savings of ~$1.4 million.
A more likely cut to me would be Caldwell. He has a dead cap hit of $200k with a savings of ~1.35 million on his contract. While he's familiar with Manning and has shown decent route running ability, he doesn't play well under the lights. If we get some younger WR options that have more upside, it may be a good time to move on from Caldwell.
I like Tony Carter and the depth he gives us at CB, but that's a position that we are flush with players at with many of them being younger and cheaper down the line. Cutting Carter costs us nothing in dead cap space with a savings of ~$1.5 million on his current contract.
Gradkowski is in a similar place as Carter...he's on a deal with no dead cap space and a savings of ~$1.5 million on his current contract. So far the jury is out at center, but if someone else who is younger and cheaper is playing as well as Gino, I'd think this would be a likely cut to make.
Hillman isn't off to a great start this training camp. I really liked his play last season before his injury, but if he doesn't step up he could save the Broncos ~$800k with a dead cap hit of ~$170k on his current contract.
Adding it all up
Doing some quick math, the Broncos can make moves here to free up anywhere from $800k to $6.7 million in cap space. The franchise just freed up some with the contract restructure of Britton Colquitt. Prior to that move, the team had close to $8 million in cap space for 2015. As you can see, we have some flexibility to work on Von Miller's long-term contact, retain our important free agents or go after a highly touted one from the free agency pool in 2016. Last but not least, it gives the Broncos the opportunity to free up some cap savings for next season and have more flexibility in terms of rollover for future seasons.
What are your thoughts, Broncos Country?