On March 12, the 2013 NFL offseason will officially begin with the free agency signing period starting up at 4 p.m. ET. On that day, the Denver Broncos will likely make a few cuts to help out their cap situation.
The Broncos aren't in a bad cap situation (they have just over $14 million in rollover according to Spotrac.com). Teams are expected to have a $120 million salary cap and the Broncos currently have around $119.6 million invested in 2013 contracts, according to the Denver Post.
That means after likely placing a $9.6 million franchise tag on Ryan Clady, the team will have around $5 million left to use on free agents this offseason. Obviously, the team will have to make many cuts and perhaps re-structure some contracts in order to make any signings this summer.
At quarterback, the team is scheduled to pay starter Peyton Manning $20 million, backup Caleb Hanie $1.25 million and second-year reserve man Brock Osweiler $549,848 in 2013. If any quarterback is let go, it will be Hanie. The team may also consider re-structuring Manning's contract.
The team's running backs, Willis McGahee ($2.5 million), Knowshon Moreno ($1.7 million), Jacob Hester ($715,000), Ronnie Hillman ($515,000), Jeremiah Johnson ($480,000) and Mario Fannin ($405,000) are all receiving reasonable salaries (Johnson is a practice squad player and Fannin was on injured reserve last season). The team may choose to let either McGahee, Moreno (or both) go this offseason and may not bring back Lance Ball, who is a restricted free agent.
Who should be cut to clear up cap room?
Like the running backs, none of Denver's receivers have gaudy salaries for this season. Rising star Eric Decker will make the most ($1,323,000) in the final year of his contract, while Andre Caldwell ($900,000), Demaryius Thomas ($836, 500) and Gerrell Robinson ($405,000) will also receive less than one million. Thomas will receive $3,275,000 in 2014 before becoming a free agent.
The team may bring back veteran Brandon Stokley and the team will either have to extend Decker and Thomas' contracts now or down the road, unless they are planning on letting one (or both) of them walk. Denver could use more depth at the position and for money matters alone, the Broncos will likely draft a receiver in April.
On defense, defensive end Elvis Dumervil is owed $12 million, Champ Bailey will receive $9.5 million, linebacker D.J. Williams is due $6 million and Joe Mays is scheduled to make $4 million. Dumervil and Bailey aren't going anywhere, but Williams and Mays are likely headed out of Denver.
In parting ways with players under contract, the Broncos will create some "dead money" (guaranteed money still owed to a player after they are cut) but clear up overall cap room to use in the offseason. In March, we'll be following the cuts that are guaranteed to precede the free agency signing period.
Stay tuned as we follow the looming cuts, re-signings and newly signed free agents this offseason. Who do you think the Broncos should cut to clear up cap room? Share your thoughts in the comments.