5 Cap-Friendly Moves Denver Broncos Must Make This Offseason
The Denver Broncos made a huge splash with the opening of free agency on Tuesday.
Caldwell was signed to a two-year deal that could be worth up to $3.45 million, Talib was signed to a six-year deal worth $57 million, and Ward's deal is for four years worth $23 million.
On top of that, the Broncos are the favorites to sign the recently released DeMarcus Ware, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Broncos entered the free agency period with about $28 million in cap space. It's unclear how all three of the aforementioned contracts are set up, but it's safe to assume the Broncos spent a good chunk of that cap space on Talib, Ward and Caldwell on Tuesday.
If the Broncos are to make a push for the seven-time Pro Bowler Ware, along with other possible signings to address holes at the left guard (Zane Beadles signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday), running back and middle linebacker positions, Denver will have to make cap-friendly moves in order to free up more cap space.
This isn't even including the fact the Broncos will have seven draft selections in May. That's another seven possible players to pay in 2014.
Here are five cap-friendly moves the Broncos must make this offseason.
Cut Joel Dreessen
As solid of a receiving target as Joel Dreessen is, he is just not a focal part of the Broncos' offense anymore.
In 2012, along with tight end Jacob Tamme, Dreessen had a solid debut season in Mile High. He caught 41 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns.
In 2013, with the emergence of Julius Thomas as the team's starting tight end, Dreessen had a drastically reduced role with the Broncos to the point where he primarily played on special teams for most of the season. He was targeted just nine times on the year, catching seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Dreessen has had knee surgery three times over the past year. With the Broncos having Thomas, Tamme and Virgil Green on the roster, there's little purpose in carrying Dreessen's $3.1 million cap hit for 2014. Releasing Dreessen will result in just $666,668 in dead money, which will save the Broncos $2.5 million in cap space.
Sign Cheap Free Agent at Middle Linebacker
The Broncos have a void at middle linebacker with both Paris Lenon and Wesley Woodyard free agents.
Woodyard will visit the New England Patriots, and considering he lost his starting job in the middle of the season, it wouldn't be a shock for the Broncos to allow him to walk.
In 2012, 37-year-old free agent veteran linebacker Keith Brooking started at MLB for the majority of the season. With the increased emphasis on the passing offense in today's NFL, the Broncos play in the nickel defense a lot of the time. This decreases the importance of the MLB position.
Having said that, the Broncos still need to plug in somebody to fill the void. Instead of relying on a rookie linebacker to adjust to the NFL while being the leader of the front seven, the Broncos can sign a cheap free agent option with a one-year deal.
This is exactly what the team did with Shaun Phillips and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2013, and it paid off. The Broncos have given out large contracts already to Ward and Talib, and they likely will do the same with Ware.
To balance things out, the team could give a short-term contract to a MLB such as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Desmond Bishop. New York Giants LB Jon Beason is another option.
Worst-case scenario, the Broncos could re-sign Lenon and draft a middle linebacker. The Broncos have to fill this void, but they don't have to do so with a superstar. They have gotten by just fine the past two seasons with stopgap options.
Restructure Jacob Tamme's Contract
This is similar to the Joel Dreessen situation.
Jacob Tamme saw a drastically reduced role in the offense in 2013 due to the emergence of Julius Thomas at tight end and the arrival of Wes Welker as Denver's slot receiver.
In 2012, Tamme was targeted 85 times and caught 52 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns. In 2013, he was targeted just 25 times and caught 20 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown.
Before the free agency signing period began, Tamme was the ninth-highest paid player on the team for 2014. With a cap hit of $3.5 million and his reduced role on the offense, Tamme is simply not worth that kind of money.
The Broncos should restructure to a lower cap hit with their veteran tight end, so they can spend that extra money elsewhere.
Due to Tamme's familiarity in playing with Peyton Manning (the two were teammates from 2008-2011 with the Indianapolis Colts), he should be kept as an insurance policy in case Thomas suffers an injury.
See How Market Plays out for Knowshon Moreno
However, don't think for a second the Broncos won't re-sign Knowshon Moreno if the price is right.
The chatter about the Broncos moving on from Moreno can be considered a negotiating tactic. Though the Broncos may try to devalue Moreno's worth to the team, the fact of the matter is Moreno was the only back on the Broncos' roster capable of being the team's running back in 2013.
Moreno excels in the running department, receiving game and, most importantly, protecting Peyton Manning as a quarterback.
Ronnie Hillman has failed for the most part in all three departments, C.J. Anderson is too much of a question mark, and it remains to be seen if Ball can handle the workload of being a starting running back in the NFL.
Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver reports there have been no negotiations between Moreno and the Broncos and that Moreno will shop the market.
Let Moreno shop the market. If the price is right, the Broncos can bring back Moreno at a reasonable rate.
If there is a team willing to overspend on the five-year veteran, let him walk.
The Broncos are playing their cards right in this situation.
Let Eric Decker Walk
Unlike the Knowshon Moreno situation, there will be no happy ending between the Broncos and Eric Decker.
With Moreno's situation, the decline in the value of running backs have made it hard on them when it pertains to cashing big in free agency.
In today's pass-heavy NFL, quarterbacks and wide receivers are benefiting financially more than ever.
That means Decker will definitely get his money, and the Broncos simply won't be able to afford to keep around their No. 2 receiver, especially when they have to worry about Demaryius and Julius Thomas as free agents following the 2014 season.
Based upon the contracts that the top six free agents at wide receiver signed last year, Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport states that Decker could command a $10.5 million cap hit per year in the next contract he signs.
Yeah, the Broncos are not matching that.
There are too many teams with lots of cap space, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns who will be willing to overpay for Decker.
It would be in the best interest of both parties for the Broncos to just allow Decker to walk.