The Denver Broncos are headed into 2014 free agency with around $25 million in projected cap space. However, they can put themselves into an even better position by clearing out some cap space. Doing this will require getting rid of players that no longer represent a value at their current price.
Part of the process during this time of year includes self-scouting, and teams must take the time to look intently at their own roster. In addition to examining their own group of players, teams must be honest about where a player is at in his career.
This process leads to some tough decisions, and sometimes players who are popular with the coaches or the fans have to get released. It’s not a fun process, but it is part of the business that is the NFL.
Let’s take a look at the current roster for the Broncos. I’ve picked five players who could be cut for reasonable cap saving.
Note: All salary and cap information comes via Spotrac.com.
I love Champ Bailey. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever had the privilege to cover for the Broncos. Bailey is always humble, funny and insightful when answering questions, and he’s very giving with his time.
That being said, it’s time for a position switch to free safety. Bailey is no longer the same player he used to be. He battled through a Lisfranc injury this season, and Bailey was picked on by Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl.
Bailey has a $10 million cap number in 2014, but there is zero guaranteed money due. This makes him a prime candidate to be released. The Broncos would immediately get $10 million in extra cap space if Bailey is released.
After his release, the Broncos could easily sign Bailey to a more cap-friendly deal.
If he changes positions to a free safety in 2014, then his price tag should be a lot more reasonable.
Cap Number: $10 million
Dead Money: $0
Cap Savings: $10 million
The Broncos have to make a decision on free agent Zane Beadles. The left guard struggled at times this season after a Pro Bowl season in 2012. If the team lets Beadles walk in free agency, then perhaps Kuper would be retained.
I like Kuper’s game. He’s strong at the point of attack, yet athletic enough to pull and stick to defenders in space at the second level. Kuper is a smart player who is so versatile that he could play all five positions on the offensive line.
The problem with Kuper is his lack of durability.
Over the last few years, Kuper has struggled with various injuries. In the final game of the 2011 season, Kuper suffered a horrific ankle injury. He was only able to start five games in 2012 as he dealt with more ankle problems.
Kuper underwent yet another major surgery on his ankle last offseason. He then fought his way back to full strength during training camp.
He has six years of starting experience, but Kuper did not start in 2013. He did restructure his contract in 2013, and that helped him make the 53-man roster.
In 2014, Kuper has a cap number around $5.9 million. There is around $1.8 million in dead money, making Kuper a candidate to be released.
Kuper could be a starter for the Broncos this year if he’s back to full strength. If the team feels they have better options out there, then Kuper could get his walking papers.
Cap Number; $5,915,166
Dead Money: $1,830,332
Cap Savings: $4,084,834
Probability: Fairly High
Tamme was not as involved in the passing game this year. The emergence of Julius Thomas relegated Tamme to backup duty in 2013.
He has long-established chemistry with Peyton Manning, and Tamme is a favorite target of the veteran quarterback. This factor alone could save Tamme’s job in 2014.
Thomas is an incredible weapon, but he has yet to play a full season as a pro. The Broncos could decide to keep Tamme around as veteran insurance.
In 2014, Tamme has a cap number of $3.5 million. With only $500,000 in dead money, Tamme is on the hot seat.
The Broncos may approach Tamme about restructuring his deal at some point this offseason. With his connection to Manning, he might be willing to accept some form of pay cut.
Cap Number: $3,500,000
Dead Money: $500,000
Cap Savings: $3,000,000
Whereas Jacob Tamme was relegated to backup duty, Dreessen was inactive for most of the 2013 season.
As he cleaned out his locker on Tuesday, this was a point of contention for the veteran tight end. Dreessen expressed his frustration to me in the locker room:
I certainly hope I’m not done. Not contributing as much as I’d like does not sit well with me. I have to change that.
The Broncos used Julius Thomas as their primary tight end, and he proved to be one of the best weapons on offense. Virgil Green is basically a younger version of Dreessen, and he worked as the team’s primary blocking tight end. Tamme has great chemistry with Peyton Manning, and he received a small handful of targets as the Broncos’ third tight end.
Dreessen began the year recovering from offseason kneecap surgery. Then, near the beginning of training camp he suffered a setback. The knee was problematic for Dreessen most of the year, and that’s why he was inactive for many games.
In 2014, Dreessen has a cap number around $3.1 million. There is only about $667,000 of dead money in his contract this year. With his durability problems and reduced role, it’s very likely we see the Broncos release Dreessen.
Cap Number: $3,166,668
Dead Money: $666,668
Cap Savings: $2,500,000
Early in 2013, Vickerson signed a two-year deal with the Broncos worth $5 million. The contract included a $1 million signing bonus.
It was a great price for a team-first player like Vickerson. During the course of his career, the Broncos have asked him to lose weight, switch positions, then gain weight back the next year and switch back to defensive tackle. He’s done it all willingly.
“Big Vick” is one of my favorite players on the team. He’s a colorful interview, and he plays the game with incredible passion.
Vickerson’s season was cut short by a hip injury he suffered in the Week 12 game against the New England Patriots. Up to that point, he was doing a fantastic job stuffing the run and creating middle pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
In 2014, Vickerson has a cap number of $2.5 million. With only $500,000 in dead money, Vickerson could be a surprising cut this offseason.
His hip injury wasn’t considered that serious, but it required a lengthy recovery period. In fact, if the Broncos hadn’t used their lone spot on the IR/Designated to Return list on Rahim Moore, they could have used it on Vickerson instead.
Cap Number: $2,500,000
Dead Money: $500,000
Cap Savings: $2,000,000
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. All contract information for individual players is from Spotrac.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.