3 big free-agency questions now facing Denver

With Von Miller under the franchise tag and Peyton Manning still mulling retirement, questions remain for the Broncos.

| 1 year ago
(Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)

(Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)

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.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Tim Edell

    There is no question that Osweiler will demand more then 5 mllion a year. Chad Henne, a marginal backup at best, just signed a 2 year for 8 million. Osweiler will most likely sign a short term deal in the neighborhood of 2 years for 18-20 million.

    • Jack Casey

      Yeah, I don’t see any starting QB accepting such a deal of $5. Thats solid backup QB money. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted over $10 a year.

      • LH Almeida

        According to some reports, he’s asking for around 12.5 a year, and that’s too much.

        I’d rather see the team take a risk with an 8 M RG3 than a 12 M Oz.

        • Jack Casey

          I’m not a Broncos fan so I don’t really care who they sign, but if I was I’d much rather them keep Brock than experiment with RG3

  • Calvin Carr

    Curious – how much of a cap hit would Denver take for cutting Ware? If he won’t restructure, I would rather resign Malik than keep Ware. Have Shane Ray and Shaq ready to replace him. Ideal for Ware to restructure and keep both, but if he won’t…

    • Jack Casey

      I had the same thought for a moment.. But then thought about it, if the Broncos gave Wolfe $10m..If Jackson would have taken similar money, you would think Denver would have already signed him. So that leads me to believe he is looking for at least $12-13+..

      Also not sure if Barritt and Ray would be as good as Ware this upcoming season, but I guess you have to find out how good they are!

    • Stephen Curtis

      i think is less then 2 mil if cut him. same with clady. vasquez i think gets cut and does colquitt in end. he makes to much for an avg punter. clady and ware don’t restructure i think they get cut.

    • anon76returns

      Cutting Ware would still leave you $2-$3M short of signing Malik for the 2016 season, would likely cost the Broncos nearly 10% of the cap for the subsequent years (considering Ware’s contract comes off the books after 2016), would likely cost the Broncos two 3rd-4th round draft picks (compensatory pick for Malik in 2017, and for Ware in 2018), and would leave the Broncos older on the DL, with both Jackson and Wolfe on contracts through the rest of their 20s.
      Malik’s an excellent player, and I have little doubt that he’s better than whoever will replace him on the Denver D (though I think that Anunike will have a similar, penetrating disruptive style). But it was equally clear to me that Ware is still considerably better at rushing the passer than either Barrett or Ray. The Broncos already have a high % of superstar contracts on the books. For them to stay competitive Elway has to reign in the spending, and continue to hoard as many draft picks as possible (especially considering where the Broncos pick in each round). Keeping Malik, as nice as is it would be, works against the long term interests of the franchise.

  • JT

    5 million? What is this guy smoking?

    • Leanne Harrington

      Good Colo. ganga…that’s really about Oz’s value. I doubt Elway pays more than $12.

  • BroncoFan4Always

    If Brock makes it to free agency he’s likely gone. Would’ve liked to seen how he would have handled the team being the starter from the start of training camp. Let’s just say Osweiler moves on, Manning would be our best option! Not only could he be the game manager we need, he would most likely be willing to play for what he restructured for last year(maybe less). Freeing up money to resign at the very least Malik Jackson. Draft a QB to compete with Trevor Siemian for the back-up job. Just my 2 cents, feel free to pick it apart!