Breaking Down the Broncos' 2013 Salary Cap: Where Is Money Best Spent

Jennifer EakinsContributor IJanuary 14, 2013

Breaking Down the Broncos' 2013 Salary Cap: Where Is Money Best Spent

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    After a few days of reeling from the devastating loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoff game, it is time, Denver Bronco fans, to look ahead and take a break from licking those wounds.

    The 2013 NFL salary cap is tentatively set at or just under $121 million, per the NFL. The Broncos will have $18.5 million total cap space and are in good shape to make some moves this offseason.

    They could choose to let some guys go or attempt to restructure existing deals in order to create some more wiggle room under the cap before even looking outside the organization.

    In the spirit of moving forward, here's a look at the way the Broncos should spend their money in the offseason to better the chances of a deeper playoff run in 2013.

     

    Players' salary data is courtesy of Rotoworld.com.

Protecting Peyton Manning

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    The No. 1 priority this offseason, besides shaking the disappointment of the loss to the Ravens in the divisional playoff game, is to re-sign left tackle Ryan Clady.

    Clady and the Broncos were unable to come to terms with a new contract before the start of the 2012 season, and he is now officially a free agent heading into 2013. Securing Clady on that offensive line is imperative for the Denver front office and will potentially use up half of their cap space.

    The Broncos will most likely have to use a franchise tag on Clady, costing them $9.66 million in 2013.

    That chunk of change is money well spent in order to protect Peyton Manning at the high level that Clady does, for at least another season.

    Replacement center Dan Koppen was also key this season in keeping Manning healthy and on his feet for most of 2012. He signed a one-year contract in September for $825,000 and should receive a similar deal for the 2013 season.

     

Secondary

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    It was apparent in the playoff loss to Baltimore that Denver needs to address the secondary for next season, in a big way.

    While Champ Bailey still has some gas in the tank, it may not be at the cornerback position moving forward. Both Tracy Porter and Tony Carter have contracts ending in 2012. 

    With Porter's health concerns as well as his potential price tag, it would not be surprising to see the Broncos let him go and retain Carter with an increase in his $615,000 to somewhere around $1 million.

    Denver should also look to acquire another cornerback this offseason either via the draft or free agency depending on what money it has remaining under the cap.

    As far as safeties go, Jim Leonard is a free agent in 2013. The Broncos may choose not to re-sign him in favor of a younger free agent for the same price of just under $1 million, or they could draft a late-rounder like Josh Evans from Florida or Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas.  

    Whichever route the Broncos choose to go, the secondary needs improvement and they should be prepared to make cuts and get deals done in order to move forward next season.

Middle Linebacker

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    If Denver decides to part ways with or restructure Joe May's contract, it could create some room under the cap for the Broncos. With his current deal, Mays could earn $4 million in 2013.  

    Keith Brooking became the starter the fifth week of the season and had a decent year at middle linebacker for the Broncos in 2012. He inked a one-year, $1 million deal with Denver in August of 2012.

    Even though Brooking did a serviceable job in the middle, the Broncos should use some of their cap money try to get a younger, fresher linebacker like Dannell Ellerbe or Moise Fokou to stop up the middle.

    Using their second-round pick on a guy like Arthur Brown from Kansas State would also provide some depth and youth to the middle. 

Defensive Tackle

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    Both left and right defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan are now unrestricted free agents in 2013.

    The two linemen could be re-signed for around $1 million apiece if the Broncos wish to retain them moving forward.  

    Should Denver decide to invest a larger portion of the $18.5 million available to them under the cap on a defensive tackle, Chicago's Henry Melton and Miami's Randy Starks are the best guys on the market and could certainly improve the Broncos defensive line.

Slot Receiver

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    Brandon Stokley inked a one-year deal to wear a Broncos uniform for $925,000 in 2012.

    The 36-year-old had a solid season, finishing with 495 receiving yards and five touchdowns. It is still unknown whether Stokley will decide to play football next year or not; however, with the way the postseason ended and the talent on this Broncos squad, it would not be surprising to see him return.

    Should Stokley not be a Bronco in 2013, an interesting option for Denver would be Danny Amendola. His tendency to get injured might drive down his price tag; however, when healthy he is one of the best slot receivers in the league.

    In 2012, Amendola's salary was $1,972,000. He just may be available during free agency, as St. Louis could forgo paying the $10.35 million franchise tag a wideout comes with in 2013.