Looking at cap position, this team is in poor shape going in to 2024. Even with 2023 rollover, the team is nearly 20 million over the cap, per Spotrac. This means some really hard decisions must be made.
Given the play of the defense--in particular the run defense--I think a chunk of those decisions will be made on the d-line.
- DJ Jones is highly likely to not be with the team next year. Cutting him will save $10 million (net of dead cap).
Eyioma Uwazurike is still on the books, but he's going to likely be gone as well, saving $383k, which means he has $383k less to bet on football games in Vegas.
- It's also possible one of Henningson or Garcia could be gone--their cap hits are between $1 and 1.1 million--but maybe both stay. For the purposes of this exercise, I have Garcia departing, as Henningson has about 4x the snap count so far this season. That saves about $1 million.
- Incredibly, 2024 will have about $9.5 million in dead cap between Gregory and Clark combined. So disappointing.
- Mike Purcell will be a UFA and, at age 33, is likely not re-signed due to a youth movement up front on the defense.
- Allen can't be cut because of his contract, so he and Henningson stay for 2024
There's no more paring to be had on the defensive line, but I see these as near certainty cuts/departures.
Obviously, these moves leave a massive hole in the defensive line. Here's where I see the draft strategy likely emerging out of necessity. This team has to get better at run stopping.
This puts Jer'Zahn Newton front and center. It's early, but it seems quite possible he could be there for the taking for the Broncos as the top d-lineman in the draft. Further, given the dearth of talent, it's also possible the team double-dips at D-tackle with their next pick in the third. I like T'Vondre Sweat as a brutal 363lb disrupting, space-eating NT who likely makes Zach Allen much better (but doesn't rush the passer much himself). Unfortunately, he could be a climber and out of reach in the third. Same with his excellent partner on that Texas d-line, Byron Murphy.
Dontay Corleone out of Cincy also makes a lot of sense in the third or fourth, as does Mekhi Wingo out of LSU or Howard Cross out of ND, the latter who I believe is quite underrated.
Conclusion: It's a good d-tackle draft, and I think Denver will be looking to drink deeply from this well.
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