by Paul Wanecski
Peyton Manning is returning for 2015. Gary Kubiak is the new head coach and he brings along with him a very seasoned staff. The Broncos are about to go through a major transformation on the field with one of the best quarterbacks of the past few generations returning for, at this point, one more season.
The Broncos have an immense amount of salary cap room. The adjusted cap figure, including carryover, will give the team the 11th highest cap ceiling for 2015, coming in at 150 million. This leaves them roughly 20 million in current space. If they plan on winning the Super Bowl, this year will be an “all in” adventure. The reason Denver has such a high adjusted cap is the dead money they have to account for, which does not even total 1 million, indicating great organizational contract structuring of players and smart free agent decisions in recent years. They hold the 28th selection in this year’s draft.
For starters, the Broncos do have a pretty significant amount of salary cap room, even though QB Peyton Manning did just restructure a 4 million dollar pay cut for 2015. He would be able to earn that 4 million back in “unlikely to be earned” incentives, which do not figure against the salary cap. 2 million would be earned back for winning the division and another 2 million for a Super Bowl victory. Freeing up this much room does make you wonder what the Broncos have planned for 2015.
This is the last inexpensive season for CB Aqib Talib with his 6.9 million dollar cap number. He will soar above 10 million for the remaining years on his contract with exception to the final 2019 year. Fortunately for the Broncos, it is all base salary, so walking away from him will not carry much of a cap hit.
LB Von Miller is the 5th year option, which comes with a 9.7 million base salary. Extending him is a must for the future of the defense although his off the field incidents will make negotiating a contract extension difficult. The great situation that Denver finds itself in now with the salary cap is that his current contract, if restructured, can keep a higher base salary this year considering for future years cap relief.
The Broncos hold a great position in the draft for getting a quarterback in the first round if they decide that is the priority. Incumbent backup Brock Osweiler has been waiting for his opportunity since being drafted in 2012 in the second round. This being the final year of his contract, the team will need to determine if they trade him to a team in need of a quarterback, if they let him test free agency next year, or, if they lock him on a deal with little signing bonus and no guaranteed money allowing them to cut him if he proves to not be able to handle the duty of starting QB. Quite honestly, he would be coveted by several teams who are primed to give a young QB an opportunity and with only 1 year left on his contract, Denver would be wise to move him for a draft pick.
WR Demaryius Thomas has a 12.8 million cap figure from the franchise tag, which means that he will make that much on a 1 year deal. Clearly, extending his contract would give a large chunk of the 12.8 million back to this year’s cap but the team needs to determine if he is a great receiver because he is truly great or is he a product of Manning at QB.
G Chris Myers becomes an immediate replacement for the impending loss of Orlando Franklin, having experience in the zone-blocking scheme Kubiak prefers to run.
Depth never hurt team and who else would be better to follow Kubiak than TE Owen Daniels. Daniels would be an affordable option given the uncertainty of Julius Thomas in free agency.
Watch out for the backend of the first round. Denver holds a very intriguing pick. The bottom of the first round has been a popular place for teams to trade into in order to acquire a player with an affordable 5th year option. While they will probably field a lot of offers for this spot, if they are looking for the quarterback of the future, they may be able to secure one in this spot. Who that QB will be is debatable.
Defensive tackle will also be an area of need. The free agent market could fill the need for the team but the last thing the organization should do is get older and older. Pursuing a defensive tackle in the 2nd or 3rd as well as capitalizing on the wide receiver depth in the 4th or 5th rounds is the likely plan of attack. They will need support in the linebacker core given the age of players like DeMarcus Ware who is under contract for a while.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)