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Projecting Which Unrestricted Free Agents Broncos Will Retain

The Broncos are poised to lose a calvalcade of free agents.

There's certainly a lot of interest in the Denver Broncos coaching search, but once that's completed, attention will turn toward building the roster for the new head coach and his staff.

I previously talked about the younger players who are either getting futures contracts, exclusive rights free-agent tenders, or possibly restricted free-agent tenders. The Broncos have already given multiple players futures contracts, and as we get closer to the start of the new league year, we'll see those tenders come into play.

But there's more work that lies ahead, and that's regarding what players may need to be released and what players who are eligible for unrestricted free agency will be brought back.

Let's continue our offseason preview with roster decisions to be made when it comes to these veterans.

Potential Cap Cuts

General manager George Paton didn't wait long to get one contract adjusted — offensive guard Graham Glasgow agreed to take a pay cut. Glasgow's base salary was reduced to $3.1 million and he can earn back up to $1.4M in incentives based on playing time.

In doing so, the Broncos reduced his cap charge to $6.2M — a more manageable number that ensures that Graham will be with the team at least for 2022.

Two other players have been previously mentioned as possible cap cuts: defensive tackle Mike Purcell and punter Sam Martin.

Purcell will have a cap charge of $4.5M, which is a bit high for a nose tackle. If the Broncos tender DeShawn Williams, it may mean that Purcell will be cut to save $2.9M in cap space.

Because Purcell has no guaranteed money in 2022, nor does he have a roster bonus due (he has $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses, but that's only paid for games in which he's on the 53-man roster), there's no rush to cut him. The Broncos can safely release him at any time.

The same is true for Martin — he has no guaranteed money in the final year of his contract and cutting him would free $2.25m in cap space. If the Broncos do move on from Martin, it probably won't happen until they add another punter.

Because the punters set to hit free agency aren't great options, it might be better for the Broncos to retain Martin. However, Denver should definitely add competition at some point, preferably around the draft.

Free Agents to Possibly Retain

The Broncos have 18 players who are set to hit unrestricted free agency. Most of them aren't priorities to keep, but there are a few who might be re-signed.

However, I would expect the following free agents to be allowed to test the market first. Furthermore, a lot will depend on what the new coaching staff is looking for in players.

The most likely candidates that Paton will retain are:

Josey Jewell, LB: Jewell was drafted when Vance Joseph was head coach and there were questions about whether or not he could fit into Vic Fangio's scheme. But Jewell adjusted and played well before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season. That he adapted to a new scheme could mean he's a candidate for a one-year deal.

Kenny Young, LB: Young was acquired in a trade with the Rams after both Jewell and Alexander Johnson were injured. Young had his moments, but whether he comes back may depend on how well he fits the scheme of the new coaching staff. But the possibility he stays on a one-year deal is there.

Nate Hairston, CB: Hairston did some good things as a depth player and, given that the Broncos need depth there, he's a candidate for a one-year deal.

Eric Saubert, TE: Saubert was signed to a one-year deal to be the primary blocking tight end and did well for himself. Like Hairston, he's a candidate for a one-year deal to provide depth.

Stephen Weatherly, OLB: Weatherly was acquired in a trade with Minnesota when the Broncos need edge rusher depth. He was solid in that role and is another candidate for a one-year deal as a depth player.

Mike Ford, CB: The Broncos claimed Ford off waivers after training camp and utilized him primarily on special teams. With Ford, it depends on who takes over as special teams coordinator. However, I wouldn't rule out a one-year deal for him.

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As you can see, every player the Broncos might bring back isn't likely to get more than a one-year deal. Such deals are going to be cheap and, in several cases, for the veteran minimum.

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Free Agents Likely Gone

Most of the other unrestricted free agents aren't likely to be retained. In most cases, they are going to be 30 years or older and it's time to let them move on.

Let's remind everyone about these free agents — though there's one, in particular, I'm going to pull from the list.

Melvin Gordon, RB: Gordon was a productive player for the past two years, but it would be best for the Broncos to go with a younger player to pair with Javonte Williams. I don't see Gordon coming back for 2022.

Kyle Fuller, CB: After the Bears released him last year, the Broncos signed him to a one-year deal. Fuller never lived up to his potential and it's almost certain he'll be moving on.

Bryce Callahan, CB: Callahan has played well the past two seasons, but he's missed a lot of games with injuries. Between that and the fact he'll be 31 next season, the Broncos will be better served by letting him depart.

Kareem Jackson, S: Jackson has done plenty of good things during his three seasons with the Broncos. But he's older and his play has declined. It's better that the Broncos let him seek his fortunes elsewhere.

Bobby Massie, RT: Massie was solid in 2021, but given his age, it won't surprise me if the Broncos opt for a younger player, whether that's through the draft or possibly another free agent.

Alexander Johnson, ILB: Johnson emerged in the 2019 season and has done some good things, but he'll be 30 years old in 2022. As with Massie, it won't surprise me if the Broncos let him depart and go with a younger player instead.

Shamar Stephen, IDL: Stephen was a decent depth and rotational player, but given his age, it's probably for the best to let him depart and seek out a younger player to fill his spot in the rotation.

Cameron Fleming, OL: Like Stephen, Fleming provided decent depth, but because he's older, it would be best served for the Broncos to look for younger players to provide depth.

Justin Hamilton, IDL: He was signed off the Cowboys practice squad late in the 2021 season. I'm not convinced the Broncos will keep him around.

Brett Jones, C: Added to the roster last July, Jones was injured during the preseason, placed on injured reserve, and never activated. He's not likely to be retained.

Micah Kiser, ILB: Kiser was signed off the Rams practice squad in September, missed a few games because of injury, but was activated late in the season. He didn't do enough to justify returning for 2022.

What About Teddy Bridgewater?

Now we come to the unrestricted free agent I pulled from the list. Bridgewater was solid but not great in 2021. He provided leadership to the locker room, but he was inconsistent with his play and wasn't helped by the play calling.

Whether or not Bridgewater stays for 2022 depends on what the new coaching staff wants in a quarterback and what options the Broncos have this offseason.

That's going to lead us to the next part of our offseason primer: quarterback options. We'll talk about different names, ranging from pending free agents to players rumored to be on the trading block, in our next segment.


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