In advance of Tuesday's deadline, the Broncos have tendered punter Britton Colquitt, running back Lance Ball, and tackle Chris Clark at the lowest possible restricted free agent level. Each will be paid $1.323M for 2013, provided they sign their tenders.
With the league calendar set to flip on Tuesday at 4pm ET, teams are required by that time to offer tenders to all restricted free agents they hope to keep; fullback Chris Gronkowski had been informed earlier that he would not be tendered, and will be an unrestricted free agent.
Tony Carter and Mitch Unrein, as players with fewer than three accrued seasons, had been classified as exclusive rights free agents, meaning they're stuck at Denver's mercy. The Broncos have tendered each at the $630K minimum.
Colquitt, Ball, and Clark were tendered as Right of First Refusal Only players, and will be free to negotiate with other teams until April 19. The Broncos would have a week's time to match any potential offer sheet given those players, but the team would receive no draft choice compensation in return for letting them walk.
In recent weeks, Mike Klis had written several times that the Broncos were planning to tender Colquitt at the second-round level ($2.023M), but there was obviously some change of heart. As Klis portrays it now, Denver plans to match if Colquitt signs an offer sheet, and they intend to negotiate with the 27-year-old punter toward a long-term deal either way.
We've made it no secret that we disapprove of kicker Matt Prater's status as the fifth-highest paid kicker in the NFL (relative to average annual value, or AAV), thanks dually to his accuracy issues, and the stark advantage provided by Denver's altitude. Colquitt's is a somewhat different story, in that he has been far more effective than Prater, but he still benefits from the Mile High air, as every Broncos punter has.
That altitude should preclude Denver from paying very much to its specialists, and we fear that they'll instead soon sport one of the league's highest paid duos.
Reading into Denver's actions, it could be that while they want to re-sign Colquitt, they don't think he's worth ~$2M per year, hence their decision not to tender him at the second-round level. We'll see how it plays out, but we'll be pleasantly surprised if the Broncos can manage to get Colquitt locked up on a long-term deal at an AAV of around $1.5M or less.