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Denver Broncos Roster Cuts: Salary Cap Ramifications

What effect did the first round of roster cuts have on the Broncos' cap space for 2016?

Roster cuts typically occur for one of two reasons; either the player's performance is lacking, or their salary doesn't match the value their team has assigned them.

In the case of the Denver Broncos, both types of cuts took place on Tuesday as the roster was trimmed from the requisite 93 players to the second threshold of 75. Two of those moves—the release of longtime punter Britton Colquitt and the IR designation of free agent tight end acquisition Garrett Graham—put a fairly significant jolt in the Broncos salary cap space. first move to place Graham on injured reserve netted the Broncos $600,000 towards their cap space this season. As a veteran entering his sixth year in the NFL, Graham was slotted to make $760,000 this season. However, he qualified for a cap hit benefit, making his trip to the IR worth $600,000.

Now on to the big fish; Britton Colquitt. Anytime you show the door to the longest-tenured player on the team (Colquitt was signed as a rookie free agent in 2009), a little bit of controversy will brew as a result. Colquitt was making the 12th highest salary of all the NFL punters but was averaging only 43.4 yards per punt in 2015, poor enough for 28th in the league. His net average of 39.7 was a little bit better, but it was still only the 21st best. When you break it down, his performance just doesn't match his salary, and that's why John Elway let him go.

By releasing Colquitt, the Broncos saved a whopping $3.25 million towards the cap this year. When you consider that the salary of his replacement, rookie Riley Dixon, likely won't even count toward the salary cap this year because it doesn't crack the highest 51 on the team, the move makes all the sense in the world. Sentimentally, it's a disappointment. Financially, it's shrewd.

These types of decisions are about par for the course when it comes to training camp cuts. It's not pleasant, but it's business and the overall well-being of the franchise always trumps that of the individual player, regardless of whether they're a punter or a tight end.

The Broncos could hypothetically choose to continue down this path in the next round of cuts. If they wanted to dive head-first into belt-tightening mode, they could also do away with Ronnie Hillman and save nearly a million in cap space.

However, I think the Broncos have to draw a line in the sand at some point. An experienced and skilled player like Hillman is worth keeping on the roster, even if his salary doesn't match his spot on the depth chart. As for Mark Sanchez, that's another story.

His release will largely be contingent on whether or not the Broncos can find a willing trade partner. Don't hold your breath.

Within the next week, the Broncos will have cut the roster from 75 to 53 and also will have revealed their philosophy as it relates to the cap. They may end up cutting bait with veterans in an attempt to stash away money that could be used to sign a player like, I don't know, Emmanuel Sanders, or they may decide to keep the very best 53 regardless of cap hit. Time will tell and money will talk.

RELATED: Broncos Roster Cuts: Round 1 Takeaways

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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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