The Denver Broncos have taken advantage of their 2006 salary cap surplus to sign two backup defenders to short-term contract extensions.
Middle linebacker Nate Webster and defensive tackle Demetrin Veal each signed two-year extensions that will keep them with the Broncos through the 2008 season, and will preclude them from going into the free agent market next spring. Both deals were consummated before a Monday deadline that allows teams to count what normally would be considered signing bonus money as base salary for the 2006 season.
By completing the extensions before the deadline, the Broncos don't have to defer any salary cap charges to future seasons as prorated signing bonuses.
A three-year veteran, Veal, who saw his playing time increased the past two weeks because of an injury to starting defensive tackle Gerard Warren, had his base salary for 2006 bumped from $425,000 to $1.775 million, with the latter figured prorated over the balance of the season. His base salaries for the extension years in the deal are $650,000 for 2007 and $950,000 for 2008.
Veal, 25, has emerged as a solid No. 3 tackle for Denver, which signed him off the Baltimore practice squad in 2004. He can also play end and is carving out a bigger role for himself in the Denver defensive line rotation.
The former University of Tennessee standout, who entered the league with Atlanta as a seventh-round pick in the 2003 draft, has appeared in 25 games, and has 43 tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery.
Webster, 28, hasn't been active yet for a game this season. But the Broncos' coaches feel that once he is beyond the knee problems that have sidelined his career the past two seasons, he will be a viable backup to starting middle linebacker Al Wilson, and perhaps a contributor on special teams units.
The six-year veteran had his base salary raised from $585,000 to $1.435 million, prorated over the rest of the season, and added two years to his contract, at $770,000 for 2007 and $780,000 for 2008. There is also an incentives package included in the extension years.
A former University of Miami star, Webster previously played at Tampa Bay (2000-2003) and Cincinnati (2004-2005). He was signed by the Bengals to be their starting middle linebacker, and started the first three games in 2004 before suffering a patella tendon injury. Webster has played in only four games since the start of the 2004 season, but the Broncos obviously have plans for him.
Webster's resume includes 168 tackles, two sacks and six passes defensed.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.