Examining the cap savings Broncos could garner by cutting six more bubble vets

What does Denver's salary cap situation look like on the doorstep of the regular season opener?
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The Denver Broncos' decision to cut veteran defensive lineman Zach Kerr and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson came mostly because younger players on cheaper salaries outperformed them. Because the vets' base salaries weren't guaranteed, the Broncos could save some cash and cap space by moving on.

The Broncos could gain some additional cap relief by parting ways with other veterans and, in some cases, draft picks. Denver isn't likely to see a massive influx of cap space, but the team could get a little more wiggle room than what they have now.

One thing to keep in mind is that, when the 53-man rosters and practice squads are set, every player's salary counts toward the cap, including anybody on injured reserve — though players on IR will see their salaries reduced if they aren't guaranteed.

Currently, there's a top-51 cutoff in place, which reflects the fact that teams can have up to 90 players on the active roster during the offseason and preseason. The Broncos currently have $4.45M in cap space, but that reflects the top-51 cutoff. Once Denver has finalized the roster, fans will have a better idea about where cap space stands.

However, experimenting with Over the Cap's calculator and accounting for players currently on IR, or likely headed to IR, the Broncos could have as much as $5M in cap space available. That all depends, however, on who the Broncos keep.

Another point to keep in mind is that any veteran or rookie whose deal runs past 2019 is treated as a post-June 1 cut, meaning any remaining signing bonus the Broncos must account for is spread out between 2019 and 2020 — though any fully guaranteed base salary will apply to 2019.

With all of this in mind, who are some players who the Broncos could cut or waive to get a little cap relief? Let's review veterans and recent draft picks who are on the bubble but first, keep this in mind: Some cap savings can be offset by anyone added to replace players, or by players currently under the top-51 cutoff applying to the cap when the roster is set.

Theo Riddick: Though the Broncos fully guaranteed $1M in salary when they signed Riddick, a shoulder injury will sideline him for at least six weeks of the regular season. Putting him on IR with a designation to return is an option. However, because Devontae Booker has been solid, the Broncos could cut Riddick, but promise to bring him back later in the season once he's healthy. (Bear in mind that because Booker's on the final year of his rookie deal, his salary doesn't become fully guaranteed if he's on the 53-man roster for Week 1.) Cutting Riddick frees $1.4M in cap space.

DeMarcus Walker: The Broncos 2017 second-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations his first two years with the team. However, he's shown some promise this preseason, though he's still been inconsistent. If waived, Walker would get the post-June 1 treatment because he has two years left on his deal. It would mean about $926,000 in cap space freed. However, it appears unlikely that Walker will be waived — because the Broncos invested a second-round pick in him and he has shown improvement, the Broncos are more likely to keep him and see if his improvement continues.

Kevin Hogan: The Broncos are likely to look at upgrading the backup quarterback position, at least until Drew Lock is cleared to play. Hogan's $900,000 base salary wouldn't become guaranteed if he's on the 53-man roster for Week 1, because he doesn't have at least four accrued seasons. However, if the Broncos find a better backup QB on waivers, they can save that $900,000 by waiving Hogan.

Su'a Cravens: Because Denver acquired Cravens in a trade with Washington, the Redskins assumed the dead money from his rookie signing bonus. Thus, there's no dead money (even though Cravens has two years left on his deal) and $852,000 freed if the Broncos waive Cravens. But Cravens has shown promise at times this preseason, so it's no guarantee they let him go.

Jake Butt: With the 2017 fifth-round pick undergoing another procedure on his knee, some fans may wonder if it's just time to say goodbye to Butt, who has two years left on his deal. However, that likely means paying him an injury settlement, meaning the $645,000 of cap space freed could be negated. Still, the option is there to waive Butt and be done with it. But it's more likely the Broncos just place him on IR, knowing that his $645,000 salary will be reduced and thus save them a little cash.

Keishawn Bierria: There won't be significant cap savings if Bierria is waived — a move that appears likely because he hasn't shown improvement from last season. However, I note Bierria because he would get post-June 1 treatment as a result of his signing bonus from his 2018 sixth-round contract. That represents $570,000 in cap space freed with a $29,600 dead money charge.

Total cap savings: $4.648M (not counting Butt, due to injury settlement probability).

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