The NFL offseason has seen a flurry of moves and each team has their own strategy and financial constraints. The Denver Broncos have been bargain shoppers and as a result have done little to upgrade their roster or to grab national headlines but some impending issues will soon force their hand.
As free agency wanes and the draft approaches, the Broncos will still be in need of extra cap space and some players will find themselves in the crosshairs of John Elway as he continues to stretch the team budget. Several players’ contracts have outgrown their on-field value and represent some ways to trim the current budget.
The first player that comes to mind is Britton Colquitt. The six-year veteran punter signed a new contract in August of 2013 and boy was it a hefty one. The deal was for three-years and $11,677,000 including a $3 million signing bonus and $4.25 million guaranteed.
Now, Colquitt was coming off of a exceptional season in which he averaged 46.4 yards a punt and had 33 punts downed within the 20 yard line according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). In 2013 he was even better, allowing only 28 returns all year but the money he is making is not fiscally responsible for the Broncos.
Colquitt and his salary will total $3.75 million against the cap this season and that is an enormous amount for any punter, especially one that had a down year by his standards. In 2014, Colquitt ranked as the 23th punter in the league and had his lowest average per punt since his new deal, per PFF. If the Broncos were to release him they would be on the hook for $1.5 million worth of dead money (dollars the Broncos would have to pay regardless of releasing him) but the money left over would be substantial and allow them to continue to bolster their roster elsewhere.
Another veteran player that could easily be released is the versatile return man and receiver, Andre “Bubba” Caldwell. Although he is not making close to Colquitt money he simply is not needed anymore. He was signed to a two-year, $2.7 million dollar contract in 2014 that pays him an average of $1,350,000 a year with only $400,000 guaranteed.
Caldwell has been a safety blanket for the offense throughout the years due to the fact that he could play multiple positions within Adam Gase’s complicated passing scheme. He also was a valued return man but could rarely muster a big play on kick return. In 2014 he only caught five passes in very limited playing time and when he was called upon to step in, it seemed he was a significant downgrade from the starters. With Gary Kubiak’s new, simpler system and the necessity to bring second-year receiver Cody Latimer along, Caldwell has become expendable.
The Broncos would only have to pay Caldwell $200,000 if he were released. Once again the remaining dollars could be invested elsewhere.
Lastly, in the offseason the Broncos have rightly been focusing their attention on revamping the offensive line and there are still a few moves to make. Right tackle is still up in the air while the left guard position seems to have been addressed with Orlando Franklin’s departure and Shelley Smith’s arrival. The center position is the next area to address.
Will Montgomery is an unrestricted free agent and it appears that the Broncos are waiting for him or several other veteran centers to lower their asking price in order to join the roster. Manny Ramirez remains under contract with the Broncos but rumblings within the team seem to point to his possible release in the near future.
The eight-year veteran has played guard while also spending a lengthy amount of time at center. After playing well at right guard in 2012 and excellent at center in 2013, last season his play fell off. He basically split time at both positions and never gained any consistency. Now the Broncos appear ready to let some new blood take over. Matt Paradis, a second year player out of Boise State is in line for a shot at the starting role while free agency seems to be the move to add depth.
Ramirez will count as $3,166,000 against the cap for the Broncos and paired with his recent production, keeping him seems to be a waste of money. However, his dead money value would be only $166,668 and thus would leave the Broncos with a lot more cap space to work with if they released him. The Broncos, as of yesterday, also own 10 draft picks this season and will undoubtedly use those to address the line as well. Ramirez simply does not seem to fit in the Broncos future plans and should be moved soon.
The Broncos are clearly pinching pennies and after most of their big free agents departed for new teams and bigger deals they now have some tough decisions to address. Multiple players have worn out their roles before their contracts have expired and John Elway needs to, and will look to find some more money by cutting veteran players. This team is officially in rebuilding mode and as such, sometimes some subtraction is needed before more additions.
*All contract figures used provided by spotrac.com