ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos continued to do what they could this past week with the salary-cap space they have as they moved through most of the business side of their draft class.
The Broncos have now signed five of their eight picks, including safety Justin Simmons (third-round pick) and running back Devontae Booker (fourth-round pick) on Friday, but beyond their first-year class they remain largely in a holding pattern on contracts until they can, or can’t, hammer out a deal for linebacker Von Miller.
The Broncos have not signed an unrestricted free agent since they added tight end Garrett Graham on April 25 with a low-impact, one-year deal for $840,000, including an $80,000 signing bonus. The Broncos did try to claim fullback Toben Opurum off waivers last week, but then waived him two days later when he did not pass the team’s physical. They had waived tight end Anthony Norris to make room for Opurum, so they do have a roster spot available.
But after they did their work with the rookie deals this past week, they open this week with $7.12 million worth of salary-cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. They have three draft picks left to sign in first-round pick Paxton Lynch, second-round pick Adam Gotsis and fifth-round pick Connor McGovern.
Lynch’s deal will impact the team's top-51 salary-cap figures -- only the top 51 cap figures count, per league rules, until the week before the regular season begins when all 53 cap figures will count against the Broncos' total. Lynch projects to eventually sign a deal that will count just over $1.7 million against the salary cap for the coming season.
Lynch was selected 26th overall in the first round. To this point, the only first-round picks signed around him are Laquon Treadwell, at No. 23, to go with Robert Nkemdiche at No. 29. Nkemdiche’s deal will count $1.564 million against the Arizona Cardinals' cap this season.
On the Miller front, both sides continue to play as nicely as possible in public, even as they still disagree on the guaranteed money that will be included in the blockbuster deal. Miller and the Broncos have consistently expressed the belief a long-term deal will get done before the July 15 deadline for designated franchise players. Both the Broncos and Miller have gone as far as to use "for life" to describe Miller’s future with the team.
Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said Miller’s deal "is first" on the team’s to-do list outside of the rookie contracts. The Broncos will need to carve out some cap room to close Miller’s deal, especially after Lynch signs, so an indicator of something imminent will continue to be whether the Broncos release another veteran player or engage a clause in wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' contract.
Thomas has a clause in the contract he signed last July that would turn base salary for the 2016 season into a signing bonus and that could create as much as $9.1 million worth of additional cap space. Elway said following the draft that the team had not engaged that clause and the NFLPA’s cap figures confirm that.
The Broncos will continue to work through those rookie deals in the coming days and are set to begin their first set of organized team activities on May 24. OTAs will include the first 11-of-11, on-field workouts of the offseason program.