The Denver Broncos have over $38 million in salary cap space, before the annual cap raise that is projected to be $11-15 million. That would bring the Broncos to right around $50 million in available space, before any roster moves are made to add more space. In addition, the Broncos have a lot of money in the bank to pay out bonuses when signing players.
There are a lot of directions the Broncos can go to spend this money, and the NFL has requirements for how much cash and cap is spent and used. The Broncos have the cap room and fans should fully expect GM John Elway to use it.
Here are some of the ways the Broncos can utilize the cap space. Some of these topics are based on my own analysis of the roster, others are based on what I've been told from sources close to the team.
Add A Veteran Quarterback
There were rumblings about a rift over quarterbacks between Elway and former Head Coach Gary Kubiak dating back to early 2015. Back then, it was about Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. This past season, the rifts were over Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.
A source who was very close to the situation told me that Elway was pushing for Lynch to start in Week 6 at San Diego. Siemian was hurt and Lynch was healthy. However, that didn’t happen.
Elway continued to push starting Lynch, but Kubiak wasn’t budging. Then, the rift moved to getting Lynch reps when games were too far gone for Denver to come back, or when they had a sizable lead. There was no doubt Elway wanted Lynch on the field as much as possible, and after all, Lynch was his guy. This lasted throughout the season and Elway's frustration grew after a crushing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1745714-what-s-the-real-reason-ga... Kubiak retired, due to more than just health reasons, and Elway went about hiring a new coaching staff. One thing that was big on Elway’s must list was finding coaches with the desire to work with Paxton Lynch. The hiring of the offensive staff, especially Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave, make it obvious that Elway is wanting Lynch to be groomed.
This is also bad news for Trevor Siemian, who no longer has the coaching staff that stood by him, and according to a source, may see his way out of Denver before training camp even opens.
This all leads to adding a veteran quarterback. Elway is aware that Lynch may not be ready next year and he needs to find better and more consistent play from his quarterback position. The same source has mentioned multiple veteran quarterbacks that are being discussed internally.
Whether the Broncos actually go after them or not remains to be seen, though don’t be shocked if you hear of their attempts to do so, once free agency kicks off.
The veterans under discussion that my source named were Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. Now, each quarterback comes with baggage that could keep Denver away from targeting them, or even getting past internal discussions, but each one also has reasons why they would be good gets.
Rivers, reunited with McCoy, makes sense, as he has said previously he doesn’t want to play for the Chargers if they leave San Diego. However, with a multi-year no-trade clause, Rivers may have been bluffing.
Brees and the New Orleans Saints have been average for years, largely due to the defense. Brees is a Sean Payton guy, so as long as Payton stays, and it's hard to see them move on from Brees. However, with a bad cap situation they could look to move on from their veteran signal-caller and the belief is that Brees would kill it with the offensive weapons Denver has.
With Tony Romo, everyone knows the situation there. Bad back, on his way out on a Dallas team that can’t afford to keep him, due to their cap situation. Romo wants to go to Denver, and according to the same source, Elway called Dallas about Romo before the trade deadline.
Stafford is the least likely, as it all depends on whether Detroit wants to go back to full rebuild after their first playoff berth in a long time. Taylor was more of an option before Kubiak and the other offensive coaches left, but is not a long shot with the new staff.
Adding a veteran quarterback doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t address the offensive line, which is the source of a very popular myth among Broncos fans. The Broncos have the cap room to fit a veteran quarterback on their current respective deals.
They also could talk about restructuring — especially with Romo — to make the contracts more team-friendly. If Romo really has his eyes set on Denver, it would be hard to see him not be willing to renegotiate, if that is the direction Elway goes.
Address The Offensive Line
This is a bad year to need an offensive line. The draft class is shallow, and filled with projects, low-tier starters with potential, and depth guys. Only one or two guys stand out in this class as long term, quality starters.
That is the draft, but free agency isn’t much better. This is going to lead to some teams to overpay for offensive linemen. Denver’s switch from a zone scheme to power scheme helps them out tremendously, though. A lot of free agent guys were poor fits, but now make more sense.
With the switch to power scheme, LG Max Garcia is in a more natural fit, so maybe the coaching staff can develop him and make him a lot better than he was last year. There are concerns about center Matt Paradis and OG Connor McGovern, but everything I have heard internally has been positive. A couple sources even mentioned that their interior is set with those three.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1745806-denver-s-2017-cap-situati... The switch also pretty much cements the end of some players' time in Denver. OT Ty Sambrailo is a pure zone guy and will get beat up on even more in a power scheme. It's hard to see him sticking around.
Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson were bad in 2016 and aren’t good scheme fits. The switch to a power scheme could also spell the end to the most unfairly hated offensive linemen, Michael Schofield.
Schofield played a lot better than credit is given, including a six-plus game stretch of allowing no sacks, no tackles for a loss and less than five pressures allowed. Schofield fell off towards the end of the season, but sources within the team continued to give him high praise until Week 13.
At the very least, Denver will be looking for two new starters on the offensive line. Tackles Andrew Whitworth, Sebastian Vollmer and Riley Reiff are three options that have been mentioned as guys Denver has their eye on.
They all fit the new scheme a lot better than they did the old scheme. Also, they're veterans who can help balance the youth on the line. Guard T.J. Lang is another name that was thrown around, but he depends on how they view Garcia and McGovern. With former Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave now in the fold, OT Menelik Watson also would make sense.
Add A Couple Defensive Linemen
Before getting into this, there is another myth that needs to be dispelled. Vance Joseph does not run a 4-3 defense. He is a 3-4 guy. He ran a 4-3 in Miami, due to the personnel they had in place. Joseph adapted to his players, and in Denver he will deploy a multi-front defense like his mentor Wade Phillips.
The Broncos defensive line suffered some hits in 2016. First, they let Malik Jackson go in free agency, then lost Vance Walker to injury. In the end, the unit just wasn’t very good. Derek Wolfe played great, but was battling injuries and dealing with being the lone threat on the defensive line. Sylvester Williams, while a great fit for Phillips' defensive scheme, just never lived up to it.
Heading into 2017, the Broncos will look to drastically bolster their defensive line. They have the benefit of an outstanding and deep defensive line class in the draft. Free agency also has a solid group, but their No. 1 guy would have to be picked up via trade.
Before the deadline, the Broncos were close to picking up Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets. They got so close that paperwork was being drawn up to file with the NFL, but negotiations stalled as the Jets tried to use other teams' interest to get more from Denver. Don’t be surprised if Elway and company try for him once again.
A few other names to keep an eye are on Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams. Poe and Williams would bring the beef to the nose tackle position, as well as just an overall improvement over Sylvester Williams.
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A restructure is also an option, though it can hurt more later on down the road. A cut seems most logical, especially with the switch to a power scheme coming to Denver, which Okung fits poorly.
Campbell is a true 3-4 5-tech defensive end, and could play opposite of Wolfe, though he may be better suited for a rotational role at this point in his career. As for Short, he would be brought in as a 5-tech, but he is much more suited to a 4-3 front as a 3-tech, which makes him a long shot addition.
There are a multitude of players being discussed internally. These are just the bigger names. The Broncos have plenty of money and cap space that will allow them to fill all of their holes before the draft, as Elway is wont to do.
A veteran quarterback, a couple of offensive linemen, and a couple of defensive linemen. Get those holes plugged and Denver takes a big step forward.
After the loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Elway saw what Denver really needed. They were minus a safety, and so Elway went out and got T.J. Ward. They were short at cornerback, and so he went and got Aqib Talib after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie started playing games in their negotiations.
The Broncos needed pass rush help and a defensive leader, and so Elway went out and brought DeMarcus Ware to town. Lastly, Denver needed a receiver opposite of Demaryius Thomas, and so Emmanuel Sanders was signed.
If Elway was that focused on getting the personnel Denver needed after losing a Super Bowl, and fired the head coach after a disappointing playoff loss the following season, one can only imagine what his focus and determination will be after missing the playoffs.
Elway and the Broncos have the money at hand and cap room, and they know where their holes are. Go big or go home, right? Expect Elway to go big.
Erick Trickel is a Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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