Each year, teams have to make decisions on certain free agents who have few accrued seasons in the NFL. The Denver Broncos are no exception, as they have multiple players who will be eligible for futures contracts, exclusive rights free-agent tenders, and restricted free-agent tenders.
Futures contracts are typically given to players with three or fewer accrued seasons who spent the bulk of the previous season on the practice squad. They usually come in at about $750K, which isn't guaranteed and are a cheap way to retain young players in hopes that they will develop into contributors.
Exclusive rights free agents are players with no more than two accrued seasons who finish a given season on the active roster. These tenders, if exercised, commit the player to a team for another season unless the player retires. They are less than $1 million for a season and carry no guaranteed money, meaning there's little downside if things don't work out.
Restricted free agents are different. They're players with three accrued NFL seasons who finish the season on the active roster. Usually, they apply to undrafted players, but sometimes they apply to drafted players who are waived before their contracts expire.
RFA tenders cost more, depending on the level used. There's the first-round tender, the second-round tender, the original-round tender, and the right-of-first-refusal tender.
First-round tenders are the most expensive, but a team that signs on to an offer sheet must send back a first-round pick as compensation. For second-round tenders, the pick sent must be in Round 2. For original round, it corresponds to the round in which the player was drafted. For right of first refusal, there is no draft pick compensation.
The thing about RFA tenders is their costs are increasing as the salary cap increases. A first-round tender is projected to be $6M, a second-round tender is projected to be $4.3M, and the lowest tenders are estimated to be $2.7M. Though no tender carries guaranteed money, they are all a bit high for most depth players.
Thus, it's becoming less likely that the Broncos will tender restricted free agents, unless they become starters like Chris Harris, Jr. and Shaquil Barrett did in the past. However, the Broncos may still sign such players to one-year deals if they want to keep any RFAs.
Let's go over these players, starting with RFAs, then ERFAs, and then possible candidates for futures contracts.
Restricted Free Agents
Brett Rypien, QB: The Broncos backup quarterback would be in line for at least a $2.7M salary if tendered. If the Broncos chose to re-sign him to a one-year deal, they would pay a little more than $1M. Rypien's future depends on whether the Broncos think they need an upgrade at backup quarterback.
P.J. Locke, S: Locke has proven to be a quality depth and special teams player. However, it's not a given that he'll get tendered. The Broncos could just re-sign him for one year at a little more than $1M, which would be cheaper than the lowest tender.
Essang Bassey, CB: Bassey has had his moments with the Broncos as a depth player, though he's never proven himself as a starter. Like Locke, it's not a given he'll be tendered. Once again, the Broncos could just re-sign him to a one-year deal for a little more than $1M.
Jacob Bobenmoyer, LS: There's no reason to use even the lowest tender on a long snapper. The Broncos have shown they don't absolutely need Bobenmoyer in the role. He might get a one-year deal (the minimum is a little more than $1M), but he won't get tendered.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
It remains to be seen who will qualify as ERFAs because the Broncos could promote certain players from the practice squad if there are more injured players, or move them back to the practice squad when others get healthy.
At this time, the ERFAs are P Corliss Waitman, LB Jonas Griffith, OT Quinn Bailey, and ID Jonathan Harris.
Griffith will likely get tendered, and Waitman may get that as well, though with Waitman, the Broncos might find another punter for competition. Bailey and Harris are to be determined, because they could get moved down to the practice squad to make room for any players coming off IR.
If that happens, they go into the next category.
Players that are eligible for futures contracts are those with no more than three accrued seasons. Of those players currently on the practice squad, those eligible are ID McTelvin Agim, WR Victor Bolden, WR Tyrie Cleveland, WR Kaden Davis, OT Christian DiLauro, CB Faion Hicks, WR Brandon Johnson, EDGE Jonathan Kongbo, EDGE Zach McCloud, CB Ja'Quan McMillian, OG Netane Muti and OT Will Sherman.
Again, it remains to be seen who is on the 53-man roster at season's end, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Broncos retain the majority of these players on futures contracts. There may also be those from other teams who could get such contracts if those teams don't retain them.
In our next segment about free agency, we'll get to the Broncos pending unrestricted free agents.
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