An update on Denver’s salary cap as Broncos make multiple moves this weekend

Nick Vannett. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports.
Nick Vannett. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports.

John Elway hit free agency like a freight train.

He jumped out and traded for A.J. Bouye while other GMs slept. And then Elway continued the fantastic offseason with the sexy singing of Melvin Gordon, bolstered the offensive line with Graham Glasgow, and finally fleeced the Titans in the trade for Jurrell Casey.

This weekend, the Broncos have continued to be busy, signing tight end Nick Vannett and then restructuring Bryce Callahan’s deal to free up salary cap space.

First, on Vannett: The blocking tight end signed a cap-friendly deal which will only impact the Broncos’ spending limit by $2 million in 2020. His total deal is two years worth $5.7 million. Vannett’s best year came in 2018 with the Seattle Seahawks, hauling in 29 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

How does signing Vannett actually save Denver money? It means now, with Noah Fant as the clear No. 1 tight end, the Broncos can move away from Jeff Heuerman, who is a $4.4 million cap hit this season. That will result in a net savings of $2.4 million toward Denver’s salary cap this season.

Unfortunately, Heuerman never reached his third-round pick potential in Denver, slowed by multiple injuries, and his best year (31 rec. 261 yards, 2 TD) was less productive than Vannett’s.

Vannett looks to be the Broncos’ backup tight end behind Fant, with a whole host of other tight ends vying for playing time behind the top two.

On Sunday, the Broncos restructured the deal for Bryce Callahan, who didn’t see the field in 2019. Callahan figures to be a main fixture of the Denver defense this season, focusing in on the slot receiver, and he stepped up in a big way by taking less money in 2020.

According to reports, Callahan will earn $5 million this season, saving the Broncos $1.8 million toward the salary cap.

So, let’s take a quick look at where the Broncos have spent this season and where that leaves them in terms of their salary cap:

  • Traded 4th-round pick for CB A.J. Bouye, $13.44 million cap hit
  • Picked up LB Todd Davis’ $5 million option, $6M cap hit
  • Picked up OLB Von Miller’s option, $25.63M cap hit
  • Picked up K Brandon McManus’ option, $4.25M cap hit
  • Traded 7th-round pick for DT Jurrell Casey, $11.79M cap hit
  • Signed QB Jeff Driskel to two-year deal, $1.75M cap hit
  • Signed OL Graham Glasgow to four-year deal, $11M cap hit
  • Signed TE Nick Vannett, $2M cap hit
  • Signed RB Melvin Gordon, $7M cap hit
  • Tendered DL Mike Purcell, $3.26M cap hit

If the Broncos do move to cut Heuerman now that they signed Vannett to a much cheaper deal, it would leave Denver with an estimated $6.486 million in cap space currently. All these numbers are based off of Spotrac.com’s estimates and includes the $9M for draft picks. Spotrac does not have Glasgow’s contract included, which was four years for $44 million. We used the $11M as his cap hit this year, but it could and likely will be back-ended as NFL contracts always seem to be. Meaning, Denver may have another $1-2 million there, as well.

What it all means is this: Elway’s done well to address needs at cornerback, the offensive line and defensive line. But, there are still voids at corner, on that D-line, at center (unless Denver will start Patrick Morris), inside linebacker and depth at wide receiver.

With $6.5-8.5 million left, it leaves room for signing one more starter and maybe a backup, too. However, it seems like the Broncos are far from done, even though they’ve been one of the most active teams in this current offseason.

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