ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos, given they are not one of the two teams that will get down to their Super Bowl work in Arizona next week, are in the business phase of the offseason.
They have a substantial list of 17 prospective free agents, restricted and unrestricted combined, to work through. That includes some of their front-line players -- nine starters -- and two of the five team captains in wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
But the big picture shows that the Broncos have plenty of core players, including all of their players in Arizona for the Pro Bowl, under contract well beyond next season.
None of the Broncos’ eight players taking part in the Pro Bowl practices this week leading up to Sunday’s all-star game are prospective free agents. Demaryius Thomas (ankle, toe), tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) and quarterback Peyton Manning (thigh) were also selected for the Pro Bowl, but elected not to participate because of injuries.
Of those three, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas will be free agents while Manning, signed through the 2016 season, has not stated whether he will return for the 2015 season.
Of the other Broncos in the Pro Bowl:
Of the Pro Bowl group, only Manning (38) and Ware (32) were older than 28 this season. So if the players stay reasonably healthy, it means the Broncos have several key players locked up for two or more seasons, before most become 30-somethings. Demaryius Thomas will almost certainly get the team’s franchise player tag if no long-term deal is worked out this offseason, so that’s another player to mark down for 2015.
Julius Thomas’ representatives have made it clear they’re interested in negotiating in the highest-paid-player-at-the-position area, as you would expect, and that might prove too daunting for a Broncos front office that is already planning for a potential salary-cap squeeze in 2016. And, as the Pro Bowl list shows, Miller will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season and Anderson will be a restricted free agent, free to get offers that the Broncos can match, if they wish.
Miller and Anderson are both players the Broncos are going to want to keep, but they'll have to open the checkbook to do it.
The Manning question looms as well on the business side with a $19 million salary that is guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the last day of the league year, March 9.
Another business item that will bear watching among the Pro Bowl selections is if the Broncos will take a look at Clady’s contract for a future reduction. Tight end Jacob Tamme, a prospective free agent in the coming weeks as well, took a contract hit before this past season.
Clady, who struggled with groin and thigh injuries this season and hasn't yet shown his form of 2012 since a season-ending foot injury early in 2013, is slated to count $10.6 million against the cap next season, $10.1 million in 2016 and $10.6 million in 2017. He also has already received the bulk of his guaranteed money, with a $3 million signing bonus in 2013 to go with a $10.5 million roster bonus in July 2013.
That combination always puts a player in the crosshairs for a re-do. Clady’s base salary for 2015 -- $8.5 million -- is also guaranteed in the fifth day of the new league year, which will be March 14.