ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are snug caps, really snug caps -- as in crush-your-temples snug -- and there is the salary cap the Denver Broncos currently wear.
Just before free agency opened earlier this month, the Broncos were over the salary cap. But then quarterback Peyton Manning retired and the Broncos released three veteran players -- Louis Vasquez, Owen Daniels and Aaron Brewer -- to start free agency. After signing tackles Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung, matching an offer sheet from the Miami Dolphins to keep running back C.J. Anderson and trading for quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Broncos have used up most of that workable cap space.
Looking through figures from the NFLPA from this past week and considering Okung’s deal -- it likely won’t be formally calculated by the NFL’s management council until Monday -- the Broncos open the week with about $6.6 million worth of salary-cap space under their $154.095 million salary cap when the top 51 cap figures for the coming season are added. By league rules, teams only count the top 51 cap figures until the final roster cutdowns to 53 players just before the regular season begins.
The rub for the Broncos, at the moment, is they have 10 picks in next month’s draft, so they are expected to need just over $6 million worth of cap room to cover their league-mandated draft pool. Teams cannot make picks in the draft until they have the room to account for their respective draft pools.
The draft pool for each team will be determined by the league and is based on the number of picks and what rounds the picks are in, but the Broncos don't have enough room to account for their draft pool and sign any other players.
Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said of cap situation and decisions in free agency: “You never have all the answers, but we do have the draft. We’ve got 10 picks in the draft and we’ll continue to survey the playing field out there as far as what’s available in free agency. This is by far [not a finished product] of what we need to get done and we’ll continue to work each day to work at that and try to find the right guys for our team.’’
The current figure includes Ryan Clady’s $10.1 million salary-cap charge. The Broncos have spent the past few days, since Okung agreed to a deal last Friday, trying to trade Clady. If they cannot trade Clady, the Broncos are expected to release him, which would create $8.9 million worth of salary-cap space.
It all means if the Broncos are intent on adding another veteran quarterback to the mix or want to continue to negotiate toward a long-term deal with linebacker Von Miller, whom the Broncos have designated as the franchise player, the Broncos need the salary-cap room they could get from a move with Clady. They also have other players who could have contracts in the cross-hairs for reductions, like punter Britton Colquitt, who currently is slated to count $4 million against the salary cap.
Colquitt took a pay cut before the 2015 season to remain on the roster and linebacker DeMarcus Ware already took a cut in base salary and lost some bonus money in an agreement to lower his salary-cap number. Ware was given some sack incentives to earn the money back if gets eight, nine, 11 or 13 sacks.