5 Logical Cuts That Could Create Cap Space for Denver Broncos

Cecil LammeyContributor IFebruary 19, 2016

5 Logical Cuts That Could Create Cap Space for Denver Broncos

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are going to find ways to create more salary-cap space this offseason. General manager John Elway isn’t afraid to make tough calls when it comes to coaching or personnel. He’s constructed a Super Bowl champion after only five years on the job, and now Elway will turn his attention toward free agency and the draft.

    According to Spotrac.com, the Broncos have $144.8 million in money dedicated to players currently under contract. Rand Getlin, from NFL Network, reports that the salary cap is expected to jump to at least $155 million this year. That’s nearly $12 million more than last year's cap of $143.28 million. That means the Broncos could have around $12 million in cap space to work with.

    In NFL money, $12 million won’t get you a lot. Yes, the team could free up around $20 million if (when?) Peyton Manning retires, but as of right now, they don’t have a ton of space. Even with an extra $20 million, that $32 million estimated cap space would only put them near the middle of the pack in the NFL when it comes to salary-cap room.

    Simply put, the Broncos are going to have to trim some salaries in order to keep their own key free agents.

    There are high-paid players on this team who could find themselves playing elsewhere in 2016. There are also some players who might be asked to restructure in order to reduce their salary-cap number this season.

    Who are five logical cuts who could create more space for the Broncos? Let’s find out.

     

    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via Denver Broncos unless otherwise noted. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.

LT, Ryan Clady

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    The Broncos offensive line had a rough season in 2015. Things got off to a bad start for the unit when left tackle Ryan Clady was knocked out for the season with an ACL injury he suffered in minicamp. The loss of Clady caused a domino effect that was felt across the entire offensive line.

    If healthy, Clady makes for a near-perfect fit in the zone-blocking system. Arguably, there aren't 32 quality starting left tackles in the league, but Clady could at least be in the top 20 if the Broncos keep him around in 2016.

    2016 Cap Hit: $10.1 million

    Dead Money: $1.2 million

    Likelihood of Release: Medium

    Likelihood of Restructure: Very High

    There’s a good chance that Clady won’t play this season at that salary—a number that represents 6.4 percent of the team’s payroll. However, instead of cutting Clady, the Broncos could ask him to restructure his deal and take a pay cut.

    After the good faith they’ve shown in Clady through his injuries—three major injuries in the last five years—we might see the veteran lineman take less money to stay with the Broncos.

P, Britton Colquitt

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    For the price they’re paying, the Broncos may not want to bring punter Britton Colquitt back. In 2015, Colquitt ranked among the lowest in the league in the following categories: Yards Per Punt 43.61 (30th), Punt Inside the 20 Rate 27.4 percent (33rd), Punt Inside the 10 Rate 7.1 percent (30th).

    In terms of average annual salary, Colquitt is the highest-paid punter in the league. Simply put, the results are not good enough for him to be at that spot, and the team may move on.

    2016 Cap Hit: $4 million

    Dead Money: $750,000

    Likelihood of Release: High

    Likelihood of Restructure: High

    Special teams—especially the punting game—is critical for a team that is built on defense. Pinning opponents deep in their own territory can pay incredible dividends on the defensive side of the ball—but it takes a punter capable of doing that. Colquitt has underperformed for two years in a row, and that’s something the Broncos may not overlook when considering players to cut this offseason.

RG, Louis Vasquez

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    An All-Pro right guard when healthy, Louis Vasquez looked like an odd fit in the zone-blocking system the Broncos implemented last year. While Vasquez is a powerful player who can control his man at the point of attack, he’s not capable of executing the combo blocks necessary in the Broncos offense.

    The zone-blocking system asks the linemen to move laterally at the snap and in complete and total synchronicity. The linemen are also often tasked with being “sticky blockers” on linebackers at the second level of the defense. Vasquez can dominate in a phone booth due to his brute strength, but he struggles to latch onto a moving target.

    2016 Cap Hit: $6.75 million

    Dead Money: $1.25 million

    Likelihood of Release: Medium/High

    Likelihood of Restructure: High

    The fit in this offense just doesn’t seem to be right with Vasquez. He’s a talented player, but the team might decide it’s best to move on with a different interior lineman. With Ty Sambrailo likely back at right tackle, we may see Michael Schofield moved inside to guard—in a spot that may be Vasquez’s old stomping grounds.

LB, DeMarcus Ware

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Broncos won the Super Bowl thanks to a world-class defense. There’s a ton of praise that can be heaped on the pass-rushers like veteran DeMarcus Ware. However, Ware’s body seemed to break down this season, and he only appeared in 11 games.

    Due to the missed time, Ware’s numbers on the season were down and he only registered 7.5 sacks in the regular season. When the playoffs came around, Ware looked refreshed after missing so much time and registered 3.5 sacks in three postseason contests. The Broncos may want to limit Ware’s snaps in 2016 in order to maximize his potential.

    2016 Cap Hit: $11.6 million

    Dead Money: $1.6 million

    Likelihood of Release: Low

    Likelihood of Restructure: High

    There’s so much that Ware does for this team in his mentoring role for Von Miller, the Broncos are unlikely to show the future Hall of Famer the door. However, Ware’s body seems to be breaking down, and a part-time role as a pass-rusher seems to be the best use of his current skill set.

    The Broncos could ask Ware to take a pay cut in order for him to stay with the team, and Ware would likely accept at this point in his career.

CB, Aqib Talib

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    When the Broncos signed cornerback Aqib Talib two years ago, there was some concern about his hotheadedness on the field. Talib plays with great passion and energy, but sometimes those assets can be detrimental when things transpire after the play is over.

    No stranger to personal foul penalties, Talib almost came off the tracks in Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers. Covering Corey Brown caused Talib frustration, and that frustration came through with a violent facemask penalty that Talib later admitted he did on purpose via an interview in USA Today.

    There’s no word from the league office yet, but that admission may land him on the suspended list to begin the 2016 season. Perhaps the Broncos have had enough of the veteran corner to let him loose.

    2016 Cap Hit: $9.9 million

    Dead Money: $3 million

    Likelihood of Release: Low

    Likelihood of Restructure: Low

    The NFL has turned into a three-corner league. With so many teams utilizing pass-happy offenses, the trend of playing nickel defense as a base formation is likely here to stay. Yes, Bradley Roby could be a stud starter on the outside someday, but the Broncos still need him as their third corner behind Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

    The language of the NFL is money, and the Broncos will likely say “stay” to Talib in 2016.