Happy Tuesday, friends. As promised, I’m back with Part 2 of my salary cap and free agency primer. Here’s Part 1, in case you missed it. If you did, you missed the homework assignment, so read all the way down and catch up. We’ll wait.
Okay, welcome to the party. There were a lot of good ideas in the comments yesterday, and today, I’m going to describe what I would do if I ran the Broncos. The idea isn’t to reflect what they will do, in other words. It’s intellectually equivalent of my annual Rational Actor Mock Draft, which is months away from being done for 2013.
As you’ll recall from yesterday, the Broncos are now without two starting DTs, a starting and backup MLB, two backup safeties (one a key special teamer), a starting slot WR, a backup WR, a backup CB, and a backup center. (That’s just the unrestricted free agents.) We have $15.5 million of cap room to spend, after we allocate $3 million to the 2013 Draft.
Let’s start with the easy stuff – we’re going to tender Britton Colquitt for $1.26 million, Tony Carter for $715K, and Mitch Unrein for $555K, which is a total outlay of $2.53 million. We’re going to non-tender Chris Clark, Lance Ball, and Chris Gronkowski, and figure we can replace them cheaply with rookies. They’re all good guys, but given the salary structure, their minimum salaries would total $1 million over what rookies would cost, and it’s a luxury that I don’t choose to partake in.
The next easiest thing is re-signing Justin Bannan and Brandon Stokley, who both want to be in Denver, and are likely to play for the same reasonable salaries they got in 2012. Let’s call it $1 million each for two quality starters.
We’re down to $10 million left in cap space, and we’re getting to the area of dealing with more difficult decisions. The guy I’m thinking about first is Kevin Vickerson, who had a career year in 2012 while making $1.6 million. I want Big Vick back, and I recognize that he deserves a raise, but if he gets too pricey, he can go like Brodrick Bunkley did.
I ask myself would I rather have Vickerson at something like two years, $6 million, or would I rather have Richard Seymour on a one-year deal for $4 million (AKA the Tracy Porter special)? I think I’m going for option B, because Seymour played really well on a terrible Oakland defense before he got hurt. He’s believed to want to play for a contender, and his scheme versatility would fit the Broncos’ multiple fronts. I also like not having the second-year commitment (even if it's not guaranteed), because I know that Von Miller is up for an extension after the season.
I’m going to bring back Jim Leonhard and David Bruton – Leonhard at the minimum $840K, and Bruton on a deal that’s on the order of three years, $3 million. With those two and Seymour, we’re down to just over $4 million in cap room.
I’m going to let Dan Koppen, Keith Brooking, Tracy Porter, and Matt Willis leave. I figure there’s a solid shot that Koppen, Brooking, and Willis are still available after the draft if I want to bring them back later on minimum deals. For now, we need to count on Philip Blake and Nate Irving to step into bigger roles, and you can always find a fourth receiver.
Let’s go bargain shopping through the league-wide list of UFAs, shall we? By position, here’s the player I like best as a minimum salary candidate for the Broncos.
QB – Nobody really grabs me, actually. I don’t think the Broncos have much of a need at the position, and Caleb Hanie is as good as any other third-stringer.
RB – How about a return to White Boy Day? No? My favorite player in the list is actually Cedric Benson. He’s the most talented runner, but his behavioral problems over the years have left him out of fashion. I would probably only sign him if either Willis McGahee or Knowshon Moreno blew out a knee before the season starts, though.
WR – If I want an outside guy, as insurance for a Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker injury, I am thinking about Ramses Barden. He’s big and physical, and has looked good in limited opportunities playing behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with the Giants. If I’m looking for a slot type, Matt Willis is out there, and a guy like Greg Camarillo is interesting. There are a lot of quality receivers on the market, and that’s going to tend to depress pricing for middle-class, and lower-middle-class players.
TE – There are a lot of quality names in this group too. If I need one cheap guy, how about Benjamin Watson? I don’t think he’d command much more than the minimum at this point, and he still has his talents.
OL – Among OTs, I’d take a flyer on Jeff Otah. He was an excellent player when he was healthy, and he has history with John Fox and Dave Magazu. You could do a lot worse as a swing tackle. If I’m checking out OGs, how about Chris Williams? Many Broncos fans liked him better than Ryan Clady in 2008, and maybe they were right after all. At the center position, I’m keeping in touch with Koppen, but I’m really hoping Blake is recovered from his thump injury, and is ready to play in his second season.
DE – The Broncos use two different kinds of DEs, and their depth at the position is excellent. If I’m looking for a cheap open-side DE (backing up Elvis Dumervil), I might look at Juqua Parker. For the closed-side position (backing up Derek Wolfe), I’d give Matt Roth a look.
DT – I’ve always liked Tony Brown, and I’m not sure why he didn’t get picked up when the Titans cut him last season. You could buy low on him, and see what you’ve got in camp. For more of a nose tackle type, Shaun Rogers may be worth a look. He missed the 2012 season with a blood clot in his calf, but he may still have something left if he’s cleared to play.
LB – If I could get Dannell Ellerbe for around $2 million, I’d look at signing him. Since he’s playing in the Super Bowl, though, he’ll probably cost more than that. On the bargain rack, I like Bradie James as a potentially younger version of Keith Brooking. I’d also keep in touch with Brooking, like I will with Koppen.
CB – To replace Tracy Porter, I’d look at a guy like Derek Cox from Jacksonville. He has experience with Jack Del Rio, and he may come cheap, being from an out-of-fashion team like the Jaguars. Maybe a veteran like Quentin Jammer would play for cheap for a chance to contend too.
S – I’d seriously consider signing a box safety like Yeremiah Bell, if he came cheaply. He’s slipped some from his best years with Miami, but he’s still solid. Among more obscure guys, I think Matt Giordano from Oakland may be worth a look. People who love white boys would like him, so there’s that.
K – I got criticized in the comments yesterday for suggesting that the Broncos cut Matt Prater for a measly $250K in cap savings. I suggested he be cut for performance reasons, not financial ones. He was lousy in 2012, without question.
Even beyond the performance issues, though, cutting Prater saves $8.75 million in cash over the next three years, plus $3.8 million against the 2014 cap and $4.1 million against the 2015 cap.
He's presently scheduled to have the fifth highest base salary on the team in 2013, once D.J. Williams and Joe Mays go away. Does that seem reasonable, based on his performance? The free agent situation at kicker is kind of weak. I prefer drafting either Dustin Hopkins or Caleb Sturgis in April.
So that’s what I’m doing, friends. I’m splurging for one year on Seymour, and re-signing most of my own players. I’ll sign some bargain veterans to compete in camp, and I’ll keep in touch with a few veterans like Brooking and Koppen. I’m going into the Draft knowing I need a long-term answer at DT, and could most probably stand to improve immediately at MLB. After that, it’s a depth game.
It’s way too early to project draft picks, but for the hell of it, let’s say we can get a DT from among Johnathan Jenkins (Georgia), Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State), Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), Sharrif Floyd (Florida), and Kawann Short (Purdue) with the 28th pick. Those are the third- through seventh-ranked DTs according to ESPN Scouts Inc, and it’s reasonable to think that the Broncos will be able to pick from among a few of them, due to the glut at the position.
Maybe in the second round, it’s a middle linebacker like Kevin Reddick (North Carolina), and in the third round, it’s a corner like Jordan Poyer (Oregon State), who really flashed some playmaking ability in the Senior Bowl.
The Broncos can come back improved in 2013, even by mostly standing pat with their current personnel, and making a few quality additions. Their continuity is going to be better, and young players will improve. I’m very bullish on their future, and I think what I laid out here would help them improve.
What do you think? Are you still pining for Welkah?