Few were on the Kirk Cousins to the Denver Broncos train than I was early on this offseason. There was only one move I wanted the team to make and I didn’t care if it broke the bank.
In hindsight, however, the costs would have actually broken the bank and gutted the roster in the long run. Going with Case Keenum was ultimately the correct choice for the future health of the franchise - even if it ends up resulting in fewer wins in 2018.
Those are definitely franchise quarterback numbers, but the current state of the Broncos cap is not conducive to franchise quarterback numbers yet. John Elway and his team will have to rework the roster to get to that point and do it without eroding the veteran talent on the roster in the near term.
However, let’s say Cousins chose Denver for the same amount of money. Here’s what the Broncos would need to lose in order to handle the financial commitments.
First of all, the Broncos currently have $16 million in cap space before signing their rookie class. Let’s assume half that will go to the rookie class and we’ll take away the $15 million that went to Case Keenum. That would put the Broncos just a wee bit short for Cousins’ first year cap hit.
That means they would have needed to nix the trade for Jared Veldheer to reserve the cap space needed to make the big Kirk Cousins splash. That decision might have altered the Broncos course in the 2018 NFL Draft as well, so who knows what might have happened differently at that point.
Heading into 2019, the situation grows even more dire as the Broncos would end the season with roughly $0-5 million in cap space having the Cousins contract obligation balloon to $29 million whereas Keenum’s will be $10 million.
That would be the cap situation with these notable players also entering free agency: Domata Peko, Matt Paradis, Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray, Bradley Roby, Jeff Heuerman, and Shelby Harris.
With no ability to resign any of these players, they all head to free agency. Or, they keep one or two and release one of the agent veterans.
That means making business decisions on Demaryius Thomas to free up $11 million in cap space, Emmanuel Sanders for another $8 million, and/or Derek Wolfe for $6 million. Heck, it could even be so bad that the team would have to decide between cutting Chris Harris Jr. for a $7 million cap savings just to resign Roby to a long-term deal.
Suffice to say, anyone can talk themselves into anything. I talked myself into Cousins at all costs, but the math was never going to work. Fortunately, Elway and his team were cognizant of that reality.