The Denver Broncos haven’t become one of the NFL’s most successful franchises the past six years by accident, they’ve built it from the top down. At nearly every level of the organization the Broncos have some of the best in the business—from owner Pat Bowl to general manager John Elway and even on the field with Von Miller.
Besides the star studded names listed above, Denver has another valuable asset that has helped build them into a championship organization: Mike Sullivan. While Sullivan’s official title is director of football administration, his biggest role is constructing and managing the Broncos’ salary cap.
Although he receives little public recognition, Sullivan plays a crucial role in helping Elway build his roster. Much like players have agents to handle the specifics of their contracts, the Broncos have Sullivan.
Just like Elway, the offseason is Sullivan’s busy season. Although free agency doesn’t open until the start of the new league year, March 9, Sullivan and the Broncos have examined nearly every possible scenario dealing with the salary cap to allow Denver to build the best possible roster. Here is an overview of everything the Broncos have, and will, consider regarding the salary cap.
2017 salary cap (expected): $167 million
2016 rollover: $7.243 mil
Broncos adjusted salary cap: $174.243 mil
Total salary cap liabilities: $144.469 mil
Total cap space: $29.774 mil
After the Broncos decided to not exercise tackle Russell Okung’s option, Denver freed up an additional $11.7 million in cap space.
While Okung was the only player that had an option in his contract for 2017, there are other players on the team that could be released to free up more cap space for Denver this offseason. On the other hand, there are also players that would decrease the Broncos salary cap if they were to be cut.
Here are the most notable players for both of those situations.
Note: this is not suggesting these moves will happen, it is merely showing what could happen. It is likely that Elway and Sullivan have looked at all of these scenarios.
Cuts to create cap space
RT Donald Stephenson; 2017 cap savings: $3 mil (cap hit $5 mil – dead cap $2 mil)
—After a poor first year on the team, the Broncos could realistically look to move on from Stephenson while saving money in the process.
CB Aqib Talib; 2017 cap savings: $10 mil (cap hit $12 mil – dead cap $2 mil)
—Although Talib had another Pro Bowl year, his off-field issues may cause Denver to move on and save significant money in the process, however unlikely this may be.
S T.J. Ward; 2017 cap savings: $4.5 mil (cap hit $5.75 mil – dead cap $1.25 mil)
—Denver will likely let Ward finish out his contract in 2017. However, if management feels comfortable enough with second-year safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks, the Broncos could move on from Ward a year early. Again, not likely.
TE Virgil Green; 2017 cap savings: $2.8 mil (cap hit $3.3 mil – dead cap $0.5 mil)
—Green hasn’t developed into the player Elway expected when he extended him in 2015. If Denver is comfortable with other options at tight end, they could realistically look to cut Green.
Cuts that would eliminate cap space
OLB Miller; 2017 cap reduction: $10.2 mil (cap hit $20.4 mil – dead cap $30.6 mil)
—Denver wouldn’t move on from their superstar player even if money weren’t an issue. Considering they would lose over $10 million by cutting Miller is even more reason why he will be wearing orange and blue for many years to come.
WR Demaryius Thomas; 2017 cap reduction: $3.066 mil (cap hit $12.033 mil – dead cap $15.1 mil)
—While many fans call for Thomas to be cut, it wouldn’t make sense to cut such a talent and lose money in the process.
S Darian Stewart; 2017 cap reduction: $4.2 mil (cap hit $7.4 mil – dead cap $11.6 mil)
—After signing an extension just a few months ago, there is no reason Elway would want to move on from the veteran safety, especially when it would cost Denver money to do it.
LB Brandon Marshall; 2017 cap reduction: $6 mil (cap hit $4.5 mil – dead cap $10.5 mil)
—Very similar to Stewart, Marshall’s extension in 2016 all but guaranteed him a spot on the roster next season.
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