On Thursday, the new league year opens and the Denver Broncos will have the opportunity and the capital to be aggressive in free agency. Before this week, the Broncos had about $42 million in available salary cap space.
However, on Tuesday, the Broncos submitted two restricted free agent (RFA) tenders — K Brandon McManus and LB Todd Davis — and nine exclusive rights free agent tenders (ERFA). C Matt Paradis and OLB Shaquil Barrett were among the nine ERFAs the Broncos tendered.
Following these 11 roster moves, the Broncos are left with $36,359,140, according to Spotrac, under the Top-51 Rule. The Broncos currently have 65 players under contract, but during the offseason, only the top-51 players — based on salary value — count against the cap.
GM John Elway will have a decent amount of lucre in his cap war chest to wheel and deal on the free agent market. Perhaps Denver's biggest obstacle heading into Thursday's head-hunting melee is quarterback Tony Romo.
The Broncos want the 36-year-old gunslinger and the Dallas Cowboys are expected to release him on Thursday, but even though Romo reportedly has Denver as his No. 1 destination, a recent report by Ian Rapoport says that he's going to take his time deciding, and could go on a Peyton Manning-like free agency tour around the league.
Today, Denver and the Houston Texans are Romo's main suitors, but when he hits the market as an unrestricted free agent, there's no telling how many teams will come out of the woodwork. The Broncos need clarity on Romo as soon as possible, so that they know how much of their cap space they must earmark for him.
The Broncos have already been tied to as many as nine prospective free agents, which includes several offensive and defensive linemen. That doesn't count the four guys — Russell Okung, DeMarcus Ware, Kayvon Webster and Sylvester Williams — the Broncos are interested in bringing back.
The sooner they can get a resolution on Romo, the sooner they can go about filling their roster holes. As Elway said at the NFL Combine one week ago, he wants to fill as many needs as possible in free agency, which will alleviate the urge to reach on Draft Day.
My gut tells me that Romo knows were he wants to go (Denver) but in an effort to maximize his value, he'll listen to other offers. Does that mean he'll go on tour? I doubt it.
Based on what I've been told, my expectation is that Denver will have a resolution on Romo sooner rather than later when free agency kicks off tomorrow at 2 p.m. MST.
After signing offensive guard Ronald Leary to a four-year, $35 million contract, the Broncos obviously lost some cap space. According to Over The Cap, Leary's deal will count $8,375,000 against the cap in 2017.
The Broncos also signed tackle Menelik Watson to a three-year, $18.75 million deal. Watson's cap hit for 2017? $3,270,833.
OTC calculates that Denver has $25,465,916 left in cap space. That's plenty of money to acquire a Tony Romo, or even Sheldon Richardson via trade, whose cap hit for 2017 is $8.069.
Keep in mind; the Broncos still have 10 selections in the upcoming Draft, and they'll have to earmark at least $5-6 million of cap space, if not more.
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Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.