With UDFAs in the process of being signed, we are about to reach that point in the NFL calendar where every roster is at capacity in preparation for the upcoming mini and training camp.
Now that the big additions mostly over, it’s a good time to take a look and surmise what it means.
Everything contract-related comes from Spotrac unless otherwise noted.
Contracts expiring in 2020
Chris Harris - Cornerback
Derek Wolfe - Defensive line
Emmanuel Sanders - Z Receiver
Dekoda Watson - Edge
Adam Gotsis - Defensive Line
Shelby Harris - Defensive Line
Justin Simmons - Safety
Devontae Booker - Running back
Connor McGovern - Offensive Line
Andy Janovich - Fullback
Will Parks - Safety
Elijah Wilkinson - Offensive line
Tim Patrick - Receiver
Dymonte Thomas - Safety
Joe Jones - Linebacker/special teams
Shemarko Thomas - Safety/special teams
Casey Kreiter - Long snapper
Jeff Holland - Edge
River Cracraft - Receiver
Brendan Langley - Receiver/Cornerback/Special Teams
Temarrick Hemingway - Tight end
Trey Marshall - Safety
Don Barclay - Offensive line
Mike Purcell - Defensive line
Aaron Burbridge - Receiver
Jake Brendel - Offensive line
Jamal Carter - Safety
Kevin Hogan - Quarterback
Twenty-nine players have expiring contracts this year. The big names we know. Chris Harris is in the midst of a “trade me or pay me” situation with Elway, and E is probably gone, even as he hopes to play out his career and make the Ring of Fame in Denver.
Shelby Harris’ contract situation is also well known. I mentioned in GIF Horse how I expect him to play his way to a major payday, but it’s no guarantee that’s in orange and blue. Derek Wolfe has been an Elway favorite for a long time but has already taken a below-market deal once.
Of the big three, defensive lineman Gotsis’ future seems the least uncertain as his market value seems unlikely to move out of Elway’s comfort zone. Barring an unforeseen surge in a contract year he is who he is, roughly a poor man’s version of Wolfe with less health uncertainty.
The full play below. Look how @ShelbyHarris93 (96) pushes the pocket. These plays often go unnoticed, but without his pressure Roethlisberger surely has time to find the open man. #Broncos were lucky he was on the field. Only played 36 defensive snaps against the #Steelers. pic.twitter.com/eXnqaTOtA3— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 12, 2019
Every player listed at safety on the Broncos official site but Cravens has a contract expiring after this season. Reports out of the first voluntary minicamp suggest Kareem Jackson may start, but of course the Harris situation throws all of that into question.
Justin Simmons and Will Parks both deserve attention in 2019. Both are members of the 2016 class and their play led to T.J. Wards’ departure during the final cuts right before the 2017 season. Since coming into the starting lineup, Simmons has seemingly been on the verge, even earning high praise from me last summer.
He was easily the best safety in the secondary last year and should only continue to improve. Studying up on him, he has the kind of work ethic and leadership qualities you pray for when your drafting players. If he can make the small improvements a player should as they gain experience in a pro system, the sky’s the limit.
At least thus far he has failed to meet my expectations. Part of it is that he became a bit of an “everywhere” man as other members of the Fly Zone fell by the wayside. Part of it is that he had an uneven season. Parks on the other hand really came on in the Joseph defense. Don’t sleep on him.
Connor McGovern is an interesting name on the list. Last year was his first starting and he had some uneven moments, even as he flashed really strong play in the run game at times. He moved to Center once Matt Paradis was lost for the season and showed some promise. Now he’s moving there full time with a legendary position coach spending an offseason to get him acclimated. If he makes a leap I fully expect the Broncos to do what it takes to hold onto him.
Really impressed with how well #Broncos C Connor McGovern and LG Billy Turner played in week 11. Making it even more impressive is the fact this was McGovern's first career start at center (college or pro) + Turner is the team's 3rd LG of the season: pic.twitter.com/mH11yLf8ml— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 20, 2018
2021 guys who may be gone sooner
Ronald Leary - Offensive Line
Todd Davis - Linebacker
Brandon McManus - Kicker
Jeff Heuerman - Tight end
DeMarcus Walker - Defensive line/Edge
Zach Kerr - Defensive line
Su’a Cravens - Safety
Jake Butt - Tight end
Colby Wadman - Punter
Aaron Wallace - Edge/Backer
Garrett Grayson - Quarterback
Caushaud Lyons - Defensive line
Chad Hansen - Receiver
A.J. Johnson - Linebacker/special teams
Khalfani Muhammad - Running back
Horace Richardson - Defensive back
Fred Brown - Receiver
Austin Schlottmann - Offensive line
Linden Stephens - Defensive back
Nico Falah - Offensive line
Leary’s contract carries all of $875,000 in dead cap next year and the Broncos can save $8.5 million if they move on. It’s no certainty they do. After all, when he’s been healthy enough to play, he’s been pretty solid. It just hasn’t been often enough. He’s played in 17 out of a possible 32 games the last two seasons.
Todd Davis is in a deal that looked like a bit of a time bomb as soon as he signed it. If Elway had wanted to, it would have only cost $2 million to move on this year (with $3 million in savings). It simply didn’t make sense to do so as Davis has been exactly what the Broncos were hoping for when they handed the former undrafted free agent a three-year, $15 million deal. He’s really good at stopping the run and an underrated pass defender, even if he isn’t fast enough to keep up with the best athletes in the NFL.
For that reason, I suspect he’ll stick through the end of his deal barring a big slip in play. If they do move on, Denver can gain $5 million in space (as opposed to $1 M in dead cap) next year.
The Zach Kerr contract is similar to Davis’ in that I currently doubt he’s gone before 2021. But the fact is he signed a two-year $5 million contract to return to the Broncos this offseason that carries all of $300,000 in dead cap for 2020. If something forced Elway to clean the books to make room that’s a very easy deal to move to create $2.65 million in space.
Jeff Heuerman’s deal is likely a one-year Band Aid, and Noah Fant in the first round has already put him on notice. Jake Butt could be a cut in camp if he gets lost in a crowded position room.
I think that @CecilLammey is correct to put Jeff Heuerman on the top of this list with Noah Fant now on the team. His contract is structured in a way that there are many ways that he won't earn the full $9 million that is potentially available.https://t.co/ig6OsBm3wl— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) May 1, 2019
I would expect the same for DeMarcus Walker and Su’a Cravens. Both are here because they have pedigree. Neither have done enough to justify keeping them over more productive players unless they come on strong in camp.
I listed both kickers because you never know. The Broncos just signed a leg to compete in camp, after all.
Joe Flacco - Quarterback
As soon as Drew Lock looks ready to take the reigns the Broncos will cut ties with the former Baltimore Raven. For all of the snickers from the national media, this move was a masterstroke by Elway.
There’s no guaranteed money on Flacco’s deal so there’s no dead money when it’s time for Denver to move on, but the signal caller has every reason to put his best foot forward. It may be his last chance to make $20+ million.
Someone check to see if Joe Flacco is still following the @Broncos— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) April 26, 2019
From this far out, it’s always a bit of a fool’s errand to guess what next year’s biggest need will be. An undrafted free agent or a player making a huge jump under the new staff could alter everything.
But barring that, I would think inside linebacker and offensive line are two of the more pressing long-term areas of need. They aren’t the only ones. In 2020 Mock drafts safety, defensive line, and receiver have been the positions most often picked to the Broncos.
A new coaching staff means different systems on both sides of the ball. Combine that with the typical roster churn and many familiar faces could be playing out the string this year.