The first day of legal tampering is underway and new Denver Broncos GM George Paton is making moves. After re-signing defensive lineman Shelby Harris and signing cornerback Ronald Darby to lucrative deals, the Broncos decided they needed to make space by not exercising the option on 12th-year veteran safety Kareem Jackson’s contract.
By not exercising Jackson’s option, the Broncos have created $10 million in cap savings at the cost of $2,8M in dead cap. Per Mike Klis, the Broncos did approach Jackson with a restructure before choosing to decline his option, but in the end, the two sides could not come to an agreement on a restructured contract.
The end result is Jackson heading to the open market of free agency and what remains is a massive hole across from recently franchise-tagged star safety Justin Simmons. After retaining Harris and signing Darby on the first day of legal tampering, the Broncos effectively solidified all of their immediately pressing roster holes heading into the 2021 season. shoring up the interior defensive line and at the cornerback position.
While the Paton and the Broncos still will very likely look to add a backup quarterback, depth at offensive tackle, athleticism at the off-ball linebacker position, and perhaps even another cornerback, the team really did not have any overwhelming roster holes that could have limited its flexibility when it had come to April’s NFL draft.
That now has changed with the departure of Jackson as the options currently on the roster beyond Simmons should not be viewed as NFL-starter quality. After utilizing the exclusive rights tender on Trey Marshall as well as retaining P.J. Locke and Chris Cooper, the Broncos have depth options at safety but if any of the listed above are starting in Week 1 , the Broncos secondary will be in a rough spot.
With John Johnson III being signed by the Cleveland Browns and Jalen Mills being signed by the New England Patriots as the most notable safeties to be swooped off the market on Day 1, the Broncos still have plenty of options (and now an extra $10M in cap space) to look for a more cost-friendly option for the team’s other safety option.
Such names as Kenny Vaccaro, Keanu Neal, Desmond King, and Anthony Harris (ex-Viking) could be possible. Also, with no decision yet to be made on Von Miller, that extra $10M could be the make-or-break amount for the Broncos in keeping the Super Bowl 50 MVP in 2021.
After being reportedly very interested in Los Angeles Rams’ edge rusher Leonard Floyd (a former Vic Fangio acolyte in Chicago), Miller's future in Denver is murky at best.
The Broncos did a good job on Day 1 of free agency fortifying roster holes on the defensive line and cornerback. However, not exercising Jackson’s option rips open a new roster hole that will have to be addressed by Paton and the Broncos before the start of the 2021 season.
UPDATE: Just three days after saying the "door is open" to Jackson returning to Denver, Paton re-signed the safety to a one-year, $5M deal.
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