3 big free-agency questions now facing Denver
With the franchise tag in Denver being applied to Von Miller, the Broncos have a handful of personnel decisions looming large before free agency starts next week.
Here we tackle three big questions still hanging over the Broncos at the moment:
1. How does Peyton Manning play into all this?
In a dream scenario, Manning takes a hefty pay cut, returns injury-free, and somehow recaptures his 2013 form, leading them back to the Super Bowl. In a more likely scenario, though, Manning rides off into the sunset after his second ring. Either way, Manning’s $21.5 million cap hit next year has to come off the books, and if the future Hall of Famer continues to drag his feet, the Broncos may be forced to cut Manning, lest his contract become fully guaranteed on March 9.
2. Should Brock Osweiler be paid like the QB of the future?
With Manning likely out of the picture, Denver is bereft of a starting quarterback. All signs point to Osweiler being the heir apparent, but can the Broncos make the money work out? They’ll have around $15 million in space, but they also have a handful of other free agents they’d obviously like to retain. Osweiler graded out right about average last year in 521 snaps, but after four years of development, his performance certainly wasn’t enough to make me feel comfortable in him as “the guy.” The only other viable option that seemed destined for the open market—Sam Bradford—just inked a new two-year deal with Eagles. They’ve invested too much in Osweiler to let him walk now, but if they have to go above $5 million a year for the former Arizona State standout, they could be in serious danger of losing some of their other pending free agents.
3. What about Malik Jackson?
This is one player that Denver might just have to bite the bullet on and take the hefty compensatory pick. They already have $32.6 million in cap space in 2016 dedicated to Derek Wolfe, Von Miller, and DeMarcus Ware. If they were to re-sign Jackson, that would mean over a quarter of their cap would be dedicated to the defensive line. Jackson is one of the best interior pass rushers in the entire NFL, with a top-10 grade at his position each of the last two seasons, but if it’s a choice between him and a quarterback, Denver has to go with the more valuable position.