Denver Broncos: 5 Players That Should Go Before the 2013 Season
It's an easy decision with really no ramifications—a guy is a free agent, and if you think he's worthy of being on your team, you make the decision to negotiate with him.
If you deem a certain player to not be valuable to your team moving forward, you simply let him walk towards free agency.
This is a much trickier situation.
This slideshow is about players who shouldn't be on Denver's roster next year. What is the issue here?
Well, they're under contract for 2013 and/or beyond. So by releasing them the Broncos will absorb a cap hit.
Unless they trade these players. The problem is, trades in the NFL rarely happen. Another issue here is these players aren't considered worthy enough to acquire in a trade, hence, the reason why they're even in this article in the first place.
There are guys that have either worn out their welcome for a team, had high expectations and never fulfilled them or are just completely useless in contributing to the team's goals in the future that roster spots should not be wasted on these guys.
Here are five Broncos that should be released/traded before the 2013 season starts.
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Ayers has overstayed his welcome in Denver.
A first-round draft pick of the Josh McDaniels regime in 2009 as the 18th overall pick out of Tennessee, Ayers has never come close to fulfilling expectations.
The defensive end was relegated to backup in Jack Del Rio's first season as defensive coordinator. The fourth-year veteran was the starting left defensive end in 2011 and had started 10 games during the 2010 season.
Time after time, Ayers has been given opportunity after opportunity, but he has never taken advantage of them. Before the season started, he lost his job to Jason Hunter at the beginning of training camp. When Hunter was lost for the season due to injury in the preseason, rookie Derek Wolfe became the starting defensive end opposite of Elvis Dumervil.
Now here comes the issue: Are the Broncos willing to retain Ayers for one more year, as he becomes a free agent in 2014? Do they consider him a valuable enough end for defensive line depth to not get rid of him?
Ayers has a total cap figure of about $2.2 million in 2013. His signing bonus is about $1.1 million, so if the Broncos do release him, they absorb that cap hit of $1.1 million.
The most likely path is that if Ayers doesn't have a bad preseason and the young guys that are brought in through the draft and free agency are unable to unseat Ayers on the depth chart, the Broncos will put up with another year of the first-round bust.
However, if somebody does prove worthy of Ayers' spot, the Broncos will not hesitate to either release or trade Ayers for a future late-round draft choice.
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The wide receiver who was expected to compete with Brandon Stokley for the slot receiver position in 2012 became an afterthought in Mile High.
Signed to an inexpensive two-year deal worth $1.8 million, Andre made the roster, but was inactive for half of the season.
Caldwell played eight games and had just one reception for 18 yards.
With Stokley a free agent, expect the Broncos to re-sign Peyton Manning's running mate.
With the University of Florida product having a signing bonus of just $100,000, the Broncos will have no problem releasing "Bubba" Caldwell.
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Why is this guy still on the roster?
I can understand why Thomas was on the roster for the first four games with TE Virgil Green being suspended. But the fact that Thomas continued to take up a roster spot for the rest of the season even with Green returning from suspension is a bit mind-boggling.
The Broncos had four tight ends on the roster in 2012. Those guys being Green, Thomas, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen.
We know why Tamme and Dreessen are on the roster. Green is there mostly for blocking purposes since Tamme and Dreessen are essentially wide receivers lining up at the tight end positions.
Now, Thomas was drafted out of Portland State as a fourth-round draft selection in the 2011 NFL draft. He has played in nine total games in the past two seasons. The Portland State product was expected to be a receiving tight end in the vein of Antonio Gates.
Problem is, he hasn't even gotten on the field.
He played one year of college football after starring in college basketball for most of his collegiate career. It's pretty obvious with all of the times he's been inactive throughout his two years in the NFL that he's still raw.
Because he wasn't a high draft selection, Thomas' cap figure and cap hit isn't big. If the Broncos were to release him, it would cost them $96,000 each for the next two years as Thomas doesn't become a free agent until 2015.
However, the fact that the Broncos are paying him to be inactive, and the fact that Thomas is taking up a roster spot that can be devoted to somebody of more value to the team is concerning.
The fact that Thomas is just 24 years of age should not be used as an excuse. The Broncos would be stupid to keep four tight ends on next year's roster.
With the trio of Tamme, Dreessen, Green and maybe even a rookie tight end added to the mix, the Broncos should rid themselves of Thomas.
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OK, this one is a bit complicated.
D.J. Williams is a nine-year NFL veteran who will turn 31 years old in July. Not only is he aging, but he was suspended for a portion of the NFL season due to failing a league drug test. He was suspended for nine total games.
Not only that, but Williams has a history of DUI charges over the past several years.
Add in the fact that Williams was the fourth-highest paid Bronco in 2012 alone at a cap figure of $5 million, and you ponder to yourself, "What team is going to trade for this guy?"
D.J. was demoted from defensive co-captain after his second DUI arrest in 2010.
With the Broncos evolving as a defense over the past couple of years without the contributions of Williams, Denver can move forward on the field without the longest-tenured player (along with Champ Bailey) on the team.
The problem lies in that Williams has one year left on his contract at a cap figure of $6 million. His signing bonus, however, is just $250,000.
If no suitors are willing to give up a late-round draft choice for the former defensive leader, expect Denver to get rid of the headache by just flat-out releasing Williams.
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The issue here is not Walton's contract. In fact, many people may argue against this selection because of a number of variables.
Center Dan Koppen is a free agent this year. If the Broncos are unable to re-sign him, then of course the Broncos should keep Walton. Especially considering that his cap hit for 2013 is just $775,000. Did I mention that it's the final year of his rookie contract?
However, if the Broncos are to bring back the reliable Koppen to be the starting center, should the Broncos really keep Walton as a backup center?
This selection is not as clear cut as the other selections. Walton does not have a bad contract, he's also just 25 years old and he's not bad.
Factor in that Koppen is 33 years old and many people figure that Koppen might not have many years left in the tank. So why not just keep Walton around just in case Koppen falters?
The problem is mediocrity. Walton has not impressed anybody with his skills as a starting center in the NFL, hence the reason why the Broncos drafted Philip Blake out of Baylor in 2012 in the first place and why the freshly released Dan Koppen was picked up off of the street in September as a free agent.
Even if Koppen's body begins to deteriorate in the near future, wouldn't the Broncos be better off drafting a young center, with Denver moving away from Walton and likely Blake also, while Koppen still has the health to make snaps to Peyton Manning?