The Denver Broncos chose to keep D.J. Williams on the roster last season despite the linebacker being suspended by the league for a total of nine games in 2011. By keeping Williams on the roster, the team saved more money than if they released him, but the Broncos made the curious decision to clear a roster spot for him upon his return.
Williams played in the final eight games.
The Broncos should finally be able to divest themselves of the linebacker this offseason. There will be no further cash or cap savings unless Williams were to get into hot water with the league again, and he’s no longer worth his contract.
Williams’ cap number in 2012 was $6.7 million according to Spotrac.com, but the Broncos didn’t have to pay him his base salary for nine games. The Broncos saved and Williams lost close to $4 million according to the Denver Post. The team still had to pay him $2.2 million in base salary in 2012.
According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required), Williams played in 162 snaps (30.9 percent) once he was activated in Week 11. If you don’t include the playoff game (the players don’t get their normal salaries in the postseason), Williams made close to $17,000 per snap in 2012. By comparison, Peyton Manning made only about $16,000 per snap.
Back in November I thought it would be a mistake if the Broncos didn’t release Williams at the end of his suspension. Williams had 14 combined tackles and didn’t really do anything the Broncos couldn’t have lived without or found another player to do. Keeping him around was one of John Elway’s more curious moves of the season.
With a cap number of $7.7 million in 2013, Williams is Denver’s fourth-highest paid player behind Manning, Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey. The Broncos would save at least his base salary of $6 million if he were to be released. He’s had off-the-field issues and ProFootballFocus didn’t grade him positively as a starter from 2008 to 2012.
Wesley Woodyard has blossomed into a rock-solid linebacker, and the Broncos have a chance now to find help at the position through the draft and free agency. The only way Williams isn’t released soon after the Super Bowl is if he obtained embarrassing photos of Elway.
Given Elway’s recent Dove commercial where he shows off his dance moves, I’m even not sure an embarrassing photo is enough to keep Williams around.
The Broncos have $18.5 million in cap space in 2013 according to ESPN. The Broncos would save upward of $4 million by releasing Williams, which gives the team $22.5 million in cap space. Only about six teams have more than $22 million in cap space at the moment and only one other was a playoff team.
Releasing the 30-year-old Williams puts the Broncos in a unique position of being a good team who can spend freely in free agency to fill certain deficiencies on the team. The Broncos have a fair amount of their own free agents, but only Ryan Clady will put a significant dent in the available cap space.
Accounting for about $10 million for Clady, the Broncos will still have another $10-12 million to use to bring in quality players. The Broncos can probably take care of all of their own free agents for under $5 million. By releasing Williams, the Broncos have a chance to go out and get a quality defensive tackle, linebacker or cornerback that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Releasing Williams just makes too much sense across the board for the Broncos to continue to keep him around. Expect the release of Williams to be one of the first major moves the Broncos make this offseason.