Updating Denver Broncos's Salary-Cap Situation After First Wave of Free Agency

DJ SiddiqiCorrespondent IIIMarch 28, 2014

Denver Broncos Vice President John Elway, right, speaks during an end of the season news conference at the NFL football team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Head coach John Fox listens at left. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

After a little over two weeks into free agency, the Denver Broncos appear to be done making major signings.

The Broncos' free-agent splurge included the signings of players such as defensive end DeMarcus Ware, receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and defensive backs T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib. They also re-signed veteran receiver Andre Caldwell.

According to the NFL Network's Albert Breer, the Broncos have roughly $5.95 million available in cap space to work with.

On Thursday, two key players vital to the Broncos' appearance in this past Super Bowl, Shaun Phillips and Knowshon Moreno, signed elsewhere. Phillips signed a two-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, while Moreno signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Miami Dolphins.

Although Denver general manager John Elway had previously stated the team was open to re-signing both Phillips and Moreno, that is now out of the equation, as both players have officially inked deals elsewhere.

With several notable free agents to re-sign and the draft coming up, how can the Broncos clear up more cap space, and who are the players the team will look re-sign?


Where The Team Stands in the Salary Cap

After the Broncos handed out megadeals to Ware, Ward, Talib and Sanders, it isn't shocking to that the team is left with just the aforementioned $6 million in cap space.

With the draft still coming up, the Broncos would like to be have a little more cap flexibility, and they still likely will add a couple of pieces through free agency. After all, the Broncos did make one of their biggest impact signings during the NFL draft last April, when they inked Shaun Phillips to a one-year deal.

According to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com, owner Pat Bowlen is happy with the direction the team has taken in free agency under the leadership of Elway.

Still, the team can still create a little more financial flexibility with the draft coming up in May, and a possible short-term deal with a veteran player on the horizon. When you take those things into consideration, $6 million in available cap space is nothing.


How the Team Can Create Cap Space

It goes without saying, the Broncos either need to restructure the contracts of Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme or release them outright. Both players are due to earn over $3 million each this year, and by releasing them, the Broncos clear a combined $5.5 million in salary.

As respected as both players are, they serve limited roles in the offense, thanks to the emergence in 2013 of Julius Thomas. Key players for Denver in 2012, Tamme had just 20 catches and Dreessen seven last year, with both players eventually being relegated to special teams. Furthermore, with Virgil Green having established himself as the lead blocker, the Broncos have depth at tight end behind Thomas.

The Broncos can also look to restructuring Peyton Manning's contract, which will levy a $17.5 million cap hit for this upcoming season, according to Spotrac.com.

In the next few weeks, it is a necessity the Broncos do something about Tamme and Dreessen's contracts. There is very little in point in paying two veteran tight ends over $3 million each for minimal production.


Who the Broncos Will Look to Re-Sign

With Moreno and Philllips now officially gone, the Broncos don't have many players to re-sign.

Zane Beadles, Trindon Holliday, Eric Decker, Wesley Woodyard, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jeremy Mincey all left earlier in free agency.

Defensive end Robert Ayers played a key role on the defensive line rotation last season, notching 5.5 sacks. However, the Broncos have given away his jersey number (No. 91) to defensive tackle Sione Fua, a possible indication that they plan on moving on from Ayers.

Paris Lenon, who started at middle linebacker as the season progressed, is still a free agent. The same remains for safety Mike Adams. Both players are 32 years of age or older and have received very little interest from other teams.

Middle linebacker is still a void. Because the Broncos have yet to address this need through free agency, one would assume they will be doing so through the draft.


Key Positions That Need to Be Filled

Starting left guard Beadles signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars early on in free agency. With Moreno, Phillips, Mincey and, likely, Ayers departing, the Broncos need help at the running back and defensive end positions.

The team is set with their defensive end spots as Derek Wolfe and Ware are projected to start. Both Ayers and Mincey were members of the defensive line rotation during 2013, especially during the team's postseason run.

Middle linebacker remains a huge hole, though the position—because of the team's increased use of the nickel defense—isn't as vital as it had been in previous years. As mentioned before, Lenon is still a free agent, while Woodyard signed with the Tennessee Titans.

These are all positions the Broncos will hope can be filled either through the draft or with players who are currently on the roster. It would not be hard to envision the Broncos entering the 2014 season with Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman composing the running back rotation.


Final Word

The Broncos made headlines with big-name signings of established veteran players. With the exception of Ware, all the players signed by the Broncos are 27 years of age or younger.

Though the organization could be happy with the direction the team is heading after its free-agent-spending splurge, it still has to create more financial flexibility in the weeks leading into the draft.

The team still has voids to fill at left guard and middle linebacker. Although the Broncos can address both positions through the draft, it is inevitable the team will sign veteran players at a discount before the 2014 season.

According to OvertheCap, the Broncos have 51 players under contract for 2014.

The franchise is currently in a good state at the top end of the depth chart. The key now is adding depth through the draft.

In order for the Broncos to add more depth to a stacked roster, the team will need to clear more cap space.