As expected, the Broncos have placed their franchise tag on left tacke Ryan Clady. However, the team has wisely opted to apply the non-exclusive tender to their All-Pro, meaning other teams will have the opportunity to sign Clady away, at the cost of two first-round picks to Denver.
It had been speculated that Denver would use an exclusive tag, meaning Clady wouldn't have had the chance to negotiate with other teams. But as we had suggested two weeks ago, there are plenty of solid reasons for the Broncos to go the non-exclusive route.
Now that the combine is over, and the 2013 league year is approaching, the NFL offseason is starting to heat up.
Teams have until 4pm ET on Monday to apply their franchise tags, and eight days later, at 4pm ET on Tuesday, March 12, the league calendar will flip, opening the trade and free agent markets.
At that hour, teams will have to have exercised any options, submitted offers to restricted free agents, and minimum-salary tenders to exclusive rights free agents, and most importantly, be compliant under the Top-51 salary cap figure, which will sit at $123M.
The NFL has set the 2013 salary cap at $123M per team, which is an increase of $2.4M over the 2012 figure of $120.6M. There's some confusion here, as Chris Mortensen says the figure is actually $123.9M, but given that Albert Breer works for the NFL and acknowledges the discrepancy, we'll trust that he has the correct number at $123M flat.
According to USA Today's salary site Spotrac, this means the Broncos currently have a healthy $17,769,751 in available cap space.
The Giants re-signed Will Beatty on Wednesday, keeping their left tackle from reaching unrestricted free agency with a five-year deal worth $38.75M and $19M in guarantees.
With Denver facing another opportunity to come to a long-term agreement with its own left tackle, Ryan Clady, the Beatty signing prompts the following question from reader Bob:
How might the contract Beatty got with the Giants impact what the Broncos should expect to pay for a long-term deal with Ryan Clady?
First, let's examine the details of Beatty's deal. As per the Star-Ledger, the guaranteed portion of his contract includes a $12.5M signing bonus, his 2013 and 2014 salaries, and a sliver ($650K) of his 2015 salary.
Philadelphia released Cullen Jenkins today rather than pay him a looming $1M roster bonus. Jenkins had been due to earn $5.5M in compensation in 2013, the third season of a five-year, $25M deal signed in 2011.
The 32-year-old defensive tackle had reportedly been a target of the Broncos heading into 2011's post-lockout free agency, but along with Seattle's Brandon Mebane, he priced himself out of Denver's comfort zone.
Cullen's deal with the Eagles (as part of their now defunct self-dubbed Dream Team) was a unique one, scheduling for him to make $12.5M in 2012, when he took a cut down to an $800K salary, along with his $5M roster bonus.
It's one of the biggest questions that's hung over the Broncos' 2012 and 2013 offseasons. Actually, make that two.
How much money does Ryan Clady want, and is Denver willing to pay it?
Last summer, we were told the left tackle was seeking a deal to trump that of Cleveland's Joe Thomas, who got $44M in guarantees as part of a seven-year extension. That deal was agreed upon while Thomas was still under contract for one year with the Browns, and amounted to an eight-year deal worth $80.5M in total.
Denver's response was a reported five-year offer worth $50M, including $28M in guarantees, which would have replaced the $3.5M he ultimately drew last season.
A year ago, the face of the Broncos (no, the real one) did his part to help recruit Peyton Manning to Denver.
Now that Manning has usurped Champ Bailey as the team's unquestioned leader, he's in turn looking to reprise that role as lead locker room pitchman.
During a visit with PFT Live, former Colts pass rusher and one-time AFC DPOY Dwight Freeney said he'd already heard from his former teammate:
As free agency lurks, we’re already seeing some big names linked to the Broncos. There will be more, but here are a few somewhat lesser names that have stood out for me:
The player who I like best so far in free agency is 26-year-old offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, formerly of the Panthers and Vikings. I’ll be talking more about him in a two-part series on the middle of the Denver roster, but he has a history with John Fox in Carolina and has played both right guard and right tackle successfully.
He’s likely to be more of a cap-friendly acquisition and potentially fills a need that’s literally bigger than safety, wideout, or situational pass rusher. He’s a mauler who uses his 6-6, 334-lb body to his best advantage. I’d love to see him after another year or two under line coach Dave Magazu. He may not an be elite talent, but he’s very good. I see him as a potential upgrade over Manny Ramirez or Chris Kuper who would allow Denver to leave Orlando Franklin at right tackle.
As Doug pointed out, plenty of big players are going to be linked to the Broncos. With the team coming off a 13-3 record, and their limited time frame with Peyton Manning at QB, Denver is again a highly desirable place to come play.
Woodson will turn 37 in October, but he’s been one of the top players at safety in the league. Is he worth a look?
Collie is 27 and has been released after a year of only 12 catches due to a series of concussions. He’s been a good target for Manning in the past, and Brandon Stokley is probably looking at his final season, so he’s interesting on that basis.
Last but not least, Freeney might be reduced to being a situational pass rusher, but he bagged five sacks last year in only 768 snaps (including playoffs). Is he worth bringing on board for that role?
Happy Saturday, friends. As per Doug's request from last night, I have some thoughts on the potential matches between the Broncos and new free agents Charles Woodson, Dwight Freeney, and Austin Collie.
All are established veterans, but have enough tarnish at this point that they won't command much contractually - think one-year deals, with little or no guaranteed money.
Collie's issue is concussions, but I'd take a look at him as a fourth WR for the minimum. I'm sure he has better chemistry with Peyton Manning and knowledge of the route concepts than Matt Willis (who's also an unrestricted free agent) does.
I think there's more potential value to the Broncos with Collie than there is to any other team, and the risk to the team is nil.