Punter Britton Colquitt, running back Lance Ball and offensive lineman Chris Clark all received "right of first refusal" tenders, meaning the Broncos can match any multi-year offer made to those three players from other teams. Alternatively, Colquitt, Ball and Clark can sign their one-year tenders with Denver, giving them each a $1.323 million salary in 2013, according to a Denver Post report.
The team also placed exclusive-rights tenders on defensive tackle Mitch Unrein and cornerback Tony Carter, wrapping up both players for 2013 (because Unrein and Carter have less than three years of league experience, Denver owns their rights). According to the Post, the duo will each receive the third-year minimum salaries of $630,000 next season.
The big news is that Denver is close to having Colquitt under contract (it will become official when he signs his tender). In 2012, he averaged 42.1 yards per punt (third-best in the NFL), with a punt return average of just six yards.
The team probably also secured Ball's services for special teams purposes, as the third-year running back was used infrequently in Denver's offense last season. Meanwhile, fullback Chris Gronkowski (who lost his starting gig to Jacob Hester mid-season), was not tendered by the team, making it unlikely that he will be retained by the club.
Clark is a third-year reserve lineman who is considered one of the Broncos' backup linemen. Two years ago, Clark earned considerable playing time in Denver's 2011 Tim Tebow-led offense that often brought in Clark as an additional blocker for the Broncos' read-option looks.
Unrein and Carter are both rotational defenders who will have the opportunity to see their roles increase over the next few seasons. Unrein earned brownie points last season as a situational fullback, coming in to block in Denver's goal-line offense (he also caught a touchdown).
If Colquitt, Ball and Clark sign their tenders, the Broncos will have $5,229,000 million invested in the five above-mentioned players next season. When that $5.2 million is combined with the $9.8 million franchise tag the team placed on Ryan Clady a few weeks ago, the Broncos have approximately $7,724,686 million remaining in 2013 cap room (using Spotrac.com as a reference).
Around $5 million of that $7.7 million will probably be set aside for rookie contracts, leaving the Broncos with little cash to use in free agency next week. That is why the team is expected to release linebacker D.J. Williams (which would free up $6 million) and defensive end Elvis Dumervil is being asked to take a pay cut on his $12 million 2013 salary.
The Broncos will likely release several players this spring to clear up more cap room and ultimately plan to sign both Colquitt and Clady to long-term deals. Teams can start negotiating with free agents tomorrow and signing will begin on Tuesday, March 12.
The team is expected to be relatively active in free agency, targeting a powerful running back and plugging other position needs on the roster. With their five RFAs now out of the way, the team can start focusing on unrestricted free agents.
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