Six Broncos Not-Named Simmons Poised to Hit Unrestricted Free Agency in 2021
Uncertainty lingers about what the salary cap will look like in 2021. With revenues almost certain to be down because fewer, if any, fans will be allowed to attend in person, the salary cap is expected to drop next season.
The cap won't drop any lower than $175M, though. And because the Broncos are expected to carry over a lot of cap space, they shouldn't have to make a lot of cuts.
Right now, the Broncos have $29.6M in cap space, but that is based on the top-51 cutoff in effect. That number will change once the final 53-man roster is set and players are added to the practice squad.
But a safe estimate is that the Broncos should have at least $25M in cap space. Assuming a $175M cap in 2021, that means the Broncos should be at least $33M under the cap next season.
The Broncos will have some players who will have deals expiring, though. The most notable is Justin Simmons, who will play under the franchise tag this season. The Broncos can't talk extension with him until after the season, but one would think he'll be a priority to extend.
But who else is entering a contract year? Let's look at the most notable players, other than Simmons, who are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2021.
Note that we are only looking at unrestricted free agents. Players such as Alexander Johnson and Phillip Lindsay will be restricted free agents, so the Broncos will have tenders they can utilize to keep them.
1. Brandon McManus, K
McManus has been a consistent performer from year to year, but now he enters the final year of his current deal.
If the Broncos get Simmons extended, McManus is a possible candidate for the franchise tag, assuming he turns in another good season.
However, it's possible that John Elway decides to spend less money on a kicker. After all, McManus will make $3M in base salary this year and the top kickers average at least $4M per season.
This one could go either way, but there's a very real chance Elway will move on, regardless of McManus' performance this season.
2. Garett Bolles, OT
We all know that the Broncos didn't pick up the fifth-year option for Bolles. The 2017 first-round pick is now out to prove he's worth an extension.
The fifth-year option would have been about $11M. Assuming Bolles puts together a good season, what could he expect to get?
Given that the cap is likely to go down in 2021, it wouldn't surprise me if the market for Bolles isn't that strong. Though teams sometimes overpay for the position, a lower salary cap plus Bolles' track record might keep him away from a top-10 average salary per year.
It's possible Bolles' price tag could fall below $10M per year, even if he plays well. And a soft market might increase his chances of staying with the Broncos.
3. Todd Davis, ILB
Davis has been a reliable veteran when called upon in run defense, though he's not the guy you want to drop back in coverage.
He enters the final year of his contract and his $5M APY salary falls in the lower range for off-ball linebackers.
Between a market for off-ball linebackers in 2020 that wasn't as strong as 2019, and the likely reduction of the salary cap, it's hard to see Davis getting a big payday.
If Davis can be had for $4M to $5M per year, he could very well be back with the Broncos.
4. Shelby Harris, DL
Harris had a solid 2019 campaign and the talk was that he would cash in on free agency. But such offers never came and Harris returned to the Broncos on a one-year, $3.25M deal.
The lack of a market for Harris would indicate that most teams don't view him as even a second-tier player, but more of a situational player.
Unless Harris has a monster season in 2020, I don't think things will change. At this point, $4M to $4.5M may be his best bet on a new deal.
That doesn't mean the Broncos will keep him, though, because they'll be eyeing the development of Dre'Mont Jones and McTelvin Agim.
5. Mike Purcell, DT
Purcell played well at nose tackle last year and he'll play under the restricted free agent tender of $3.25M this season.
Nose tackle isn't a premium position, so Purcell isn't likely to command much in a new contract. That could increase his chances of sticking around.
With the cap expected to be down, the Broncos might be able to keep Purcell for $3.5M or so. Of course, they could be more inclined to look for a younger player to take over that role.
If Purcell does hit the open market, don't expect him to land a big payday.
6. Elijah Wilkinson, OT
Bolles isn't the only offensive tackle with an expiring contract. Wilkinson is playing on the RFA tender for $3.25M this season.
Wilkinson has been solid as an offensive guard, but struggled at right tackle last season. It's possible he could improve this season, but the Broncos bringing in Demar Dotson for a visit inidcates they aren't just handing over the job to Wilkinson.
Still, Wilkinson might be somebody the Broncos consider to keep as the swing tackle. But if that's the case, it's hard to see them paying more than $3.25M for his services, if they even pay him that.
It goes without saying that I don't expect Wilkinson to hit it big in free agency in 2021.