ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With a week’s worth of work in free agency in the books and what could be a 10-player draft class on the horizon, the Denver Broncos still have the salary-cap space to tweak some things, but they have used about half of the available salary-cap space they had when free agency opened on March 9.
They’ve signed five free agents since March 9 -- guard Ronald Leary, tackle Menelik Watson, defensive lineman Domata Peko, nose tackle Zach Kerr and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali -- and according to Friday’s figures at the NFL Players Association, the Broncos have $20.973 million worth of cap space after their top 51 contracts are calculated against the $167 million salary cap for each team.
Only a team’s top 51 salary-cap figures for the upcoming season count against the salary cap until the rosters go to 53 players just before the regular season begins. At that point all 53 contracts as well as players on injured reserve count against the cap.
The Broncos elected not to engage the option bonus for tackle Russell Okung, which would have added four years to Okung’s contract, and they opened free agency north of $40 million in workable space. Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the time that the team had enough room to be “involved’’ in free agency.
Leary and Watson, who will count a combined $11.7 million against the cap for 2017, have the biggest contracts of the players the Broncos have added thus far.
Denver also has 10 picks in the April draft, including four in the top 101 picks, and five in the top 126 picks. Those 10 picks project to a draft pool of just over $7 million. Teams must have the salary-cap space to fit the draft pool before the draft opens in order to make any selections.
Take away the current draft pool, and the Broncos have about $13.5 million in workable cap space to sign any additional free agents without adjusting any of their current contracts. Elway has also consistently said that he doesn’t like “to be right up against the cap because you’re going to have injuries.’’
Thanks in part to reworking tackle Donald Stephenson’s deal (and not releasing him) and structuring Okung’s deal as it was, the Broncos have managed their salary-cap business effectively with little “dead money’’ against this year’s cap. “Dead money’’ is the salary-cap term for players no longer on the roster.
At the moment, Darius Kilgo, who was released late last season, has the biggest dead money charge at $55,778 against the cap. The Broncos have seven other players with dead money charges, but none of those is for more than $6,700.