Key Additions: DeMarcus Ware ($10M per year), Aqib Talib($9.5M), TJ Ward($5.7M), Emmanuel Sanders ($5M)
Key Re-Signings: Andre Caldwell ($1.35M), Winston Justice ($1.2M)
Key Losses: Eric Decker (Jets), Zane Beadles (Jaguars), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants), Knowshon Moreno (Dolphins), Shaun Phillips (Titans)
Major Cuts: Champ Bailey ($10M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
There was certainly a great deal of turnover in Denver this offseason. Gone are a starting receiver, guard, corner, running back and defensive end, all of whom played pretty well last year for the AFC Super Bowl representatives. The Broncos would allocate the cash by sinking big money to one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL, a top salaried cornerback, and a top level safety. For the most part Denver has a team built around a one or two year window where, in most cases, an emergency reset button can be hit pretty quickly.
Taking a chance on Ware could pay big dividends or they could end up writing a big check for little. Ware battled injuries all of last season and $16.5 million in guarantees and $20 million in cash is a high number for a 32 year old declining pass rusher. It’s probably a move they needed to make since Von Miller’s status is always going to be a concern, but you just have to wonder how much they regret losing Elvis Dumervil who would have been more economical and played in last years Super Bowl. Signing Ware is probably an admission of the mistake.
Talib, if healthy for 16 games, is better than Cromartie and could be cut after one year if things go really badly. I do think this is a team that should have been in the Revis sweepstakes, but this is a good signing and contract. Ward I think is a terrific signing. He’s a good all around player on a team friendly deal. Like Talib he could be moved after one season, but I’d be very surprised if there was any downside to his signing.
Sanders is a questionable call. Decker is a better player, but I think the worry is he would warrant a five year contract which the Broncos had no desire to do, especially with Demaryius Thomas up for an extension soon. If one stays post-Manning it does make sense for it to be Thomas, but I don’t see the lure of Sanders at $5 million a season, even if it’s just a one season trial run.
Overall Grade: B
I like the notion of going for it when you are a team in a position like Denver, but I feel like they could have gone further. When you are already going to risk some cap health in 2015 with these contracts I would have rather done it with Decker and potentially Revis than Sanders and Talib. Revis would have played no role in 2015, so I understand that one, but Decker should have been retained. The team will likely need to look for some offensive line help in the draft, but they were pretty capped out and could not be expected to do better than they did in lower level signings like Winston Justice and Will Montgomery. Even if things don’t click this year they wont be that compromised so it’s a good set of moves from a contractual standpoint.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.