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The perfect way John Elway could have things play out before free agency begins

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With news breaking Thursday that the Denver Broncos and Von Miller are close to a mega long-term contract extension, which means everything would change in terms of strategy relating to the franchise tag and free agency. On The Afternoon Drive with Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro, they touched base with former Broncos safety Nick Ferguson and ask him how much he would take if he were Malik Jackson.

The hypothetical started with the Jacksonville Jaguars offering 5 years for $65 million. Goodman walked Ferguson all the way down to 5 years for $45 million before asking him how little he would take to stay with the Broncos over the Jaguars. That number was $37 million. I'm sorry, but who in their right mind would take half of their contract offer to stay with any team?

Ferguson's reasoning was about winning championships and I get it, but a realistic discount for that in the NFL would be around $5-7 million tops. Anything over that and you enter the realm of making a terrible financial business decision.

So as much as the homer in me would love for Jackson to do something crazy like Ferguson suggested, there is a more realistic way for John Elway to come out of this pre-free agency period with a grand slam home run in terms of maintaining talent.

Elway dismissed the idea of slapping the franchise tag on Brock Osweiler, but he did not do the same when talking about Malik Jackson. The Broncos used the non-exclusive tag on Demaryius Thomas last season, so they would likely use the same for Jackson. Here is what both types of franchise tags mean:

An "exclusive" franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of a date in April of the current year in which the tag will apply, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams. The player's team has all the negotiating rights to the exclusive player.

A "non-exclusive" franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five cap hits at the player's position for the previous five years applied to the current salary cap, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. A non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if the player signs an offer sheet from another team, the original team has a right to match the terms of that offer, or if it does not match the offer and thus loses the player, is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Doing the exclusive tag would cost the Broncos $15,494,000, but it is highly unlikely they would do that in this case. Based on the calculations for the non-exclusive franchise tag it would cost somewhere around $15,000,000 to slap the non-exclusive tag on Malik Jackson. Those numbers cannot be certain until the salary cap is official.

That's likely higher than what he would get from a long term deal, but it would afford Elway and the Broncos time to negotiate a long-term deal with Jackson by the mid-July deadline.

Say this is the route Elway takes. The first domino to fall is Miller's long-term extension, then the second domino to fall would be the non-exclusive franchise tag on Malik Jackson.

The third domino in this perfect scenario is to move quickly on Brock Osweiler's contract negotiations. According to Mike Klis, those negotiations have begun in earnest within the last day or two. The caveat with this domino will be cap space. The Broncos won't likely have much.

The third domino will have to align perfectly with a fourth domino: contract restructures and veteran cuts. It was pretty clear in Elway's Combine interview on Thursday that Ryan Clady is going to get restructured or cut, but it appeared also likely that DeMarcus Ware could be asked for a restructure as well.

Even so, I've tried to see how the Broncos could make this work using Over The Cap's calculator tool and keep coming up anywhere from a few million to the tens of million short. This dream scenario where the Broncos bring back Miller, Jackson and Osweiler will need every domino to fall perfectly, but if it does it will represent a master stroke of Elway's leadership and ability as a general manager.

It's going to be very interesting to watch this play out over the next two weeks.