Restructuring Demaryius Thomas' deal could create $9M in cap space

There's no downside to the conversion clause for Demaryius Thomas, who sees precisely the same amount of money. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos continue their offseason roster construction, it will eventually require some cap management, with the team currently carrying just $1.62 million in space (prior to signing veteran defensive lineman Jared Crick on Wednesday).

Among the easiest ways for Denver to create a pile of cap space -- up to $9.18 million, to be specific -- is by visiting the contract of star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. When the team and Thomas agreed to a five-year deal last offseason, it included an automatic conversion clause that entitles Denver to convert any portion of Thomas’ $13M base salary in 2016 into a signing bonus, which would be prorated for cap purposes over the final four years of the deal.

If Denver were to reduce Thomas’ base salary down to the minimum of $760,000 for 2016, the team would create $9.18 million in cap space, a sum that could well be needed as it continues to explore a trade for quarterback Colin Kaepernick and also plans for activity such as signing draft picks and other free agents.

There’s no downside to the conversion for Thomas, who sees precisely the same amount of money. As a matter of fact, he would get a lump of cash even sooner than currently scheduled. The Miami Dolphins included a conversion clause in the contract for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, allowing the team to create $16 million in cap space earlier this offseason.

If Denver wants to create even more cap space, another vehicle toward doing so would be to trade or release veteran offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who is due $9.5 million in base salary this season. After adding Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson to a stable of tackles that also includes 2015 second-round pick Ty Sambrailo, Clady is an expensive projected back-up whose status with Denver bears monitoring. Releasing him would add $8.9 million in cap space.