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Previewing Broncos' 2023 RFA & ERFA Decisions

The Denver Broncos have some big decisions to make on restricted and exclusive rights free agents.
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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.

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Let's go over these players, starting with RFAs, then ERFAs, and then possible candidates for futures contracts.

Denver Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (4) attempts a pass in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Empower Field at Mile High.
Denver Broncos linebacker Jonas Griffith (50) celebrates after an interception in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Empower Field at Mile High.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (16) warms up before a game against the New Orleans Saints at Empower Field at Mile High.

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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