Broncos create cap flexibility heading into draft

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After weeks of flirting with their salary cap limit -- dipping below $400,000 in space at one point -- the Denver Broncos are less than two weeks out from the draft with plenty of room to work with and the ability to create more financial room.

In the homestretch of their draft preparations, the Broncos closed the past week with $8.77 million worth of salary cap room, according to NFL Players Association figures. Much of that space was created when the Broncos traded tackle Ryan Clady to the New York Jets a week ago, a move that added $8.9 million worth of cap space.

Defensive end Jared Crick's deal officially went on the books this past week ($1.75 million against the cap for the 2016 season) and center Matt Paradis signed his exclusive rights tender this week ($525,000 against the cap), putting the Broncos at their current number. Because he signed his tender, Paradis, the only player on either offense or defense to play every snap for the Broncos in the regular season and postseason last year, can participate in the team’s offseason program that opens Monday.

The Clady trade gives the Broncos at least some flexibility as they finish their preparations for the draft. They are still on the lookout for a veteran quarterback, and players such as Josh McCown or Case Keenum could be shopped just before, or during the draft weekend because of the other moves each quarterback's respective team has made.

McCown is currently with the Cleveland Browns, who signed Robert Griffin III to be the team's starter (depending on what they do in the draft), and Keenum is one of three quarterbacks already on the roster of the Los Angeles Rams, who just made a mega-trade to move into the No. 1 spot where they will take a quarterback. The Broncos have the room to add either in a trade, as McCown's cap figure for 2016 is scheduled to be $5.042 million and Keenum's is scheduled to be $3.65 million.

The Broncos, who had less the $1 million in "dead money" -- salary-cap charges for players no longer on the roster -- just before free agency began, have taken on more than their usual amount. With the Clady trade, they now sit at $8.428 million in dead money, with Clady ($1.2 million), Louis Vasquez ($1.25 million), Owen Daniels ($2 million) and Peyton Manning ($2.5 million) comprising the bulk of that figure.

If the Broncos decide they need more cap room before, or during, the draft, they can easily carve out an additional $9.18 million worth of space by engaging a clause in wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' contract.

The clause, negotiated into Thomas’ deal last year, allows the Broncos to turn any portion of Thomas’ $13 million base salary into signing bonus. That would allow the Broncos to account for Thomas' cap figure differently and significantly lower the 2016 cap charge.