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How the Sutton and Patrick Extensions Give Broncos Salary Cap Flexibility in 2022

George Paton set the Broncos up for salary-cap flexibility when he extended Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick.

General manager George Paton got wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick signed to extensions during the Denver Broncos' Week 11 bye.

Getting both receivers extended on a contract that was likely to be less than they would have received on the open market, respectively, was a great move, but how will it impact the Broncos' cap situation?

As it turns out, Paton will still have flexibility going into 2022 when it comes to finalizing the roster.

Per Over the Cap, the Broncos are projected to have $37 million in effective cap space, assuming a base cap of $208.2M. Effective cap space is the space the Broncos will have once they get 51 players under contract. With Sutton and Patrick extended, the Broncos have 40 players under contract for 2022.

Sutton's contract was structured to keep him with the Broncos through 2023. He'll have a cap charge of $13.2M in 2022, with $10.5M payable as a roster bonus.

Patrick's contract is also structured to keep him on the Broncos through 2023. His 2022 cap charge is $9.25M, with $6.965M payable as a roster bonus.

The structures allow Paton flexibility because he can either pay out the roster bonuses in full or convert them into signing bonuses for additional cap space, depending on any moves he makes to acquire a quarterback.

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What that Means

Let's say Paton is able to trade for a quarterback. This means the Broncos will need to add a free agent or two to fill needs — most likely, an edge rusher to pair with Bradley Chubb and possibly a veteran offensive tackle. That's because the Broncos will likely have to give up their 2022 first-round pick, plus a 2022 second-round pick, as part of a trade package.

Converting Sutton and Patrick's roster bonuses into signing bonuses allows Paton additional cap space to sign such veterans. Paton isn't likely to break the bank to do so, but having the option to convert those bonuses gives him additional wiggle room under the cap.

However, if Paton is unable to trade for a QB, he will have the draft capital to fill those needs and, therefore, doesn't need to pursue additional free agents. He can settle for adding a free-agent QB on a short-term deal and either look for value in the 2022 draft or target the 2023 class.

Paton can still keep certain players who are about to become unrestricted free agents, but will likely do so by letting them test the market first. Players such as LB Josey Jewell, LB Kenny Young, TE Eric Saubert, OLB Stephen Weatherly, and CB Nate Hairston Jr. may be worth bringing back, but not at a higher-end contract. 

Better to let these players explore free agency first — the Broncos should stand a good chance of keeping two or more on lower-cost deals.

It's great that Paton kept Sutton and Patrick on value deals, but better still that the GM structured the contracts to give the Broncos cap flexibility. That means the Broncos are well-positioned to fill remaining holes, including at QB — and regardless of how they acquire that guy.

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