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Broncos’ salary cap analysis: looking at potential cap casualties

Based on cap savings which looks are 2023 cap hit and dead money, who are the most likely 2022 Broncos to become cap casualties.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL salary cap has not been set yet. It’s projected to be 220 million based upon how much it has been increasing year over year. So let’s use that number. According to both Spotrac.com and overthecap.com the Denver Broncos have 59 players under contract for 2023, but only the 53 on the roster count so let’s use the top 53.

Currently adding up the cap hit of the 53 gets you to a value of $222,234,819, so that means that the Broncos are a couple of million over the projected cap before the expected cuts. So first let’s talk about the players who are safe because of the dead money that would be incurred if they were to be cut. If you make it the top 51, then the numbers drops to almost exactly 220.

Russell Wilson (107), Courtland Sutton (25), Randy Gregory (22), DJ Jones (26), Patrick Surtain (12), Justin Simmons and Tim Patrick (both 10) all have more than ten million in dead money were they to be cut. So it’s highly unlikely that any of those guys get cut because their dead money provides NEGATIVE cap savings (effectively reduces the Denver 2023 salary cap). So let’s talk about players who would provide cap savings if they were to be cut. Those are guys whose 2023 cap hit minus their dead money is a positive not a negative number.

There are six players who would provide five million or more in cap savings were they to be cut (using accounting parlance parentheses indicates a negative number)

ACTIVE PLAYERS (59) POS. DEAD CAP CAP HIT Cap Savings
Graham Glasgow G ($3,000,000) $13,970,576 $10,970,576
Garett Bolles LT ($8,000,000) $18,000,000 $10,000,000
Ronald Darby CB ($3,000,000) $12,647,055 $9,647,055
Justin Simmons FS ($10,400,000) $18,150,000 $7,750,000
Chase Edmonds RB 0 $5,920,000 $5,920,000
Josey Jewell ILB ($2,250,000) $7,130,000 $4,880,000
Jake Martin OLB ($1,000,000) $4,823,534 $3,823,534
Mike Purcell DT ($286,765) $3,742,637 $3,455,872
Brandon McManus K ($2,462,500) $4,981,250 $2,518,750

The most obvious two are Graham Glasgow and Chase Edmonds. Cutting both would only incur a total of three million in dead money and provide a total of 17 million in cap savings. Of course, the Broncos need roughly seven million in cap space to give contracts to our 2023 draftees. So let’s look at the ramifications of some other players who could be cut, stipulating that Glasgow and Edmonds are almost certainly going to be cap casualties.

Ronald Darby

Ronald Darby played a career-low 281 defensive snaps in 2022.

Darby has a cap hit of $12.6MM in 2023 with three million in dead money, meaning that he dropping him would provide a 9.6 million dollar cap savings. That is the second most after Glasgow in terms of cap savings. Darby was really good when he was playing, allowing a completion percentage of 38.9% and a passer rating of 69.9 when his man was targetted. Unfortunately, Darby can’t stay healthy. He has played in all 16 games once in his eight seasons. He averages eleven games a season. The emergence of Damarri Mathis makes him an easy cut particularly if Ja’Quan McMillian plays in 2023 like he did in his very limited snaps in the 2022 (his snaps actually came in the 2023 calendar year).

K’Waun Williams played as well, if not better, than (as) Darby in 2023 and he has been much better at staying on the field throughout his career. A CB of Patrick Surtain, Mathis, Williams and McMillian looks like a very solid group and that makes Darby “expendable”. Darby could also be traded to a team that needs CBs.

I look at it this way, the cap space is needed to sign free agent offensive linemen and defensive back is one of the few position groups where we have a surplus of talent under contract right now.

Garett Bolles

Cutting Bolles would incur eight million in dead money but provide a ten million dollar total cap savings as his 2023 cap hit is 18 million. I would be floored if Bolles is cut. We are so thin at OT right now that it’s the last position that I think the front office should be evaluating for potential cap casualties.

Josey Jewell

The outlaw is another player who would provide a big cap savings. His 2023 cap hit is 7.1 million with 2.3 in dead money. So parting ways with Jewell would give the team 4.9 million in cap space. The problem is that Jewell was an integral part of the defense in 2023 and I don’t see that changing in 2024. Additionally Justin Strnad appears to be incapable of playing snaps on defense and Alex Singleton and Jonas Griffith are free agents. Ostensibly Jewell IS out ILB group at this moment. He’s not cutting dropped to save cap.

Any big name free agent ILB that we sign is going to cost more than the Outlaw, so it makes not sense to move on from him.

Jake Martin

The Broncos quietly traded for the underrated Martin after we traded away Bradley Chubb.

November 1, 2022: Traded by Jets with a 2024 5th round pick to Broncos for a 2024 4th round pick

Martin played only 108 defensive snaps for the Broncos in 2022 (and 153 for the Jets). He was ostensibly a pass rush specialist with 145 of his 261 snaps coming on passing plays. According to SIS he finished the season with 2.5 sacks, 15 Hurries, 9 QBhits, 1 QB knockdown and 22 total pressures. 22 pressures on 145 PR snaps means that he generated pressure on 15.2 percent of his PR snaps. With the Broncos he had 58 pass rush snaps and generated eight pressures (13.8%). That was the second best rate among edge rushers on the the Broncos (Randy Gregory finished the season at 15.7%).

The pass rush at the end of the season was almost non-exist with Chubb, Gregory and Martin all not on the field. The Broncos need to upgrade the pass rush in 2023 to have any chance of finally getting the Patrick Mahomes monkey off our collective back. Martin would help provide much needed pass rush and his cap savings of 3.8 million is not enough to bring in another above average pass rusher. The top 13 edge rushers in 2023 all have a cap hit of 20 million or more.

Mike Purcell

Mike Purcell has a cap hit of 3.7 million in 2023 with only $287k in dead money. The emergence of Eyioma Uwazurike at the end of the season means that Purcell is a potential cap casualty.

Mike Purcell had a down year for him, despite playing a career-high 528 defensive snaps. He had a career-best 1.5 sacks, he also had a career low one TFL. He had eight TFL in 2019 for the Broncos. His pressure rate of 3.4 percent was one of the lowest on the team even among defensive line players (only Matt Henningsen and Jonathan Harris were worse). Mike generated five pressures on 141 PR snaps according to SIS. Since he wasn’t on the field on most obvious passing downs, we have to assume that these were passes on first or second down. Mike’s lack of any ability to rush the passer will probably mean that he is not on the Broncos in 2023 (unless he restructures). The amount of money that the Broncos already have tied up in an elite run-stuffing NT (DJ Jones) means that Purcell is most likely gone.

Player POS G GS Tackles TFL FF Sacks Hurries Hits Knockdowns Pressures Passes Batted PR snaps PR % Pressure %
K'Waun Williams CB 14 8 43 3 0 1.0 6 3 1 9 11 28 3.9% 32.1%
Jonas Griffith ILB 9 8 41 0 0 0.0 7 3 3 7 0 25 13.7% 28.0%
Alex Singleton ILB 15 12 152 10 0 0.0 11 12 3 13 1 73 15.6% 17.8%
Randy Gregory OLB 6 3 12 3 2 2.0 12 11 4 16 0 102 81.4% 15.7%
Josey Jewell ILB 13 13 131 17 2 2.5 5 7 1 11 0 71 16.1% 15.5%
Jacob Martin (w/ DEN) OLB 5 0 6 2 0 1.0 5 4 0 8 0 58 92.5% 13.8%
Baron Browning OLB 14 8 24 12 0 5.0 21 22 6 35 0 264 71.2% 13.3%
Jonathon Cooper OLB 14 9 44 2 0 2.0 14 12 4 22 0 182 75.0% 12.1%
Bradley Chubb (w/ DEN) OLB 8 8 26 7 1 5.5 7 12 3 21 1 190 78.2% 11.1%
Nik Bonitto OLB 12 1 12 3 1 1.5 11 11 2 17 0 176 74.0% 9.7%
Dre'Mont Jones DT 13 13 45 13 1 6.5 17 16 4 34 0 422 98.9% 8.1%
DeShawn Williams DT 17 15 36 5 0 4.5 10 7 4 18 2 327 99.1% 5.5%
D.J. Jones DT 15 15 34 3 0 2.0 15 8 2 18 2 329 99.0% 5.5%
Eyioma Uwazurike DT 8 0 16 0 0 0.0 3 3 2 4 0 84 100.0% 4.8%
Mike Purcell DT 17 4 42 2 0 1.5 5 6 3 8 0 234 98.6% 3.4%
Jonathan Harris DT 8 4 20 2 0 0 1 1 1 2 0 113 98.0% 1.8%
Matt Henningsen DT 17 0 18 2 0 1.0 0 0 0 1 0 100 98.0% 1.0%

(Note that Jonathan Kongbo, Wyatt Ray and Elijah Garcia are not shown. None had more than 60 snaps on defense for the Broncos in 2022.)

Brandon McManus

The last remaining link to the SB50 team, Brandon McManus, will make five million in 2023 and would provide a cap savings of 2.5 million if the team parts ways with him. His cap hit for 2023 would be 8th among NFL kickers.

McManus had his worst career season since his rookie year by overall accuracy - he hit on 77.8 percent of his FGs. He only hit on 69.2 percent as a rookie in 2014. His accuracy for his career is 81.4%. His 2022 record by distance is shown below:

  • 6 of 7 from 20-29 (that miss was blocked) - 86%
  • 4 of 6 from 30-39 - 67% - tied for career worst from this distance (one of those misses was blocked)
  • 10 of 10 from 40-49 - 100% tied for career best. McManus has not missed from 40-49 since the 2019 season.
  • 8 of 13 from 50 or longer. This masks the fact that he can’t seem to hit from beyond 53.

The league hit 154 of 224 (69%) from 50 or longer this season so McManus was a little below average from long distance. McManus is now 21 of 47 from 53 or longer in his career, but he only hit two of seven in 2022. Additionally if you move that to 54 yards, he has only hit three of his last eight and five of his last 14.

I found it interesting that of McManus’ 33 career attempts from 54 or longer, more have come on the road (18) than in Denver (15). He is six of 15 in Denver (40%) and seven of 18 on the road (39%). Three of his 33 attempts from 54 or longer have been blocked.

If we look at kickers with ten or more attempts from 54 or more during McManus’ career, he is second worst in terms of accuracy. Only Greg Zuerlein has a lower success rate on extremely long FG attempts. I point this out, because the Broncos could easily move on from McManus with a much cheaper place kicker in the same way that we moved on from Sam Martin with a much cheaper punter in Corliss Waitman for 2022 (actual results may vary).

If we lower that bar to five attempts from 54 or longer, McManus starts to look a lot worse. Two kickers from the AFCW have hit all of their attempts from 54 or longer; Harrison Butker and Daniel Carlson are both seven for seven.

FWIW opposing FG kickers have hit 5 of 6 from 54 or longer in Denver since 2014 inclusive. The lone miss was Michael Badgely from 55 in 2019.

So to recap McManus is 6 of 15 from 54 or longer in Denver while opposing kickers are 5 of 6 since 2014.

I should also note that McManus was hurt by our OL’s inability to block on FG attempts that season. He has only had seven FGs blocked during his career and two were this season (from 34 vs IND and from 25 vs LVR).

McManus also missed two extra points and neither is shown as being blocked in the gamebooks. He was 25 of 27 on XPs this season (92.6%) which was below average for the league which hit 94.6% of extra points (unless your name is Brett Maher).

Poll

Which is your preferred group on cap cuts (cap available after draft pool)?

  • 9%
    Glasgow, Edmonds, Darby, Martin, Purcell, Jewell and McManus (32MM)
    (133 votes)
  • 31%
    Glasgow, Edmonds, Darby, Martin, Purcell, and McManus (27MM)
    (445 votes)
  • 33%
    Glasgow, Edmonds, Darby, Purcell, and McManus (23MM)
    (476 votes)
  • 25%
    Glasgow, Edmonds, and Darby (17MM)
    (365 votes)
1419 votes total Vote Now