Cap Expert Unleashes Startling Stat About Broncos

Chad Jensen

The Denver Broncos are one of eight teams who have more salary cap dollars invested in their running back stable than their quarterback room, according to Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap. That's an unsurpsing distinction, as the Broncos are rolling with a starting quarterback one year removed from hearing his name called in the draft. 

The Broncos are in a unique and advantageous position in having Drew Lock on a cost-controlled contract for the next three seasons. Having Lock on the cheap will allow GM John Elway to invest those salary cap dollars into different spots on the roster that can complement the young signal-caller. Build that nest. 

I'm not sure the same logic applies to Fitzgerald's next point. Let's examine. 

It's significantly more diffiult to find the advantageous angle here. Thanks to the two-year, $16 million deal the Broncos handed to Melvin Gordon, the team's investment in the RB stable now grossly outweighs even that of the wide receivers. 

Again, with Emmanuel Sanders getting traded away last fall, and Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton still playing on rookie deals, it's no big surprise. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't concerning, as our Thomas Hall reported in his analytics-based study of the Broncos' current roster strengths and weaknesses post-free agency. 

As it stands today, the Broncos would enter the season with only one (17%) player out of the six they will likely keep on the roster with an above-average Performance Value. Even if Sutton continues to ascend as projected, that is vastly inadequate.

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The question is, do the Broncos realize their lack of investment in the WR position? After all, it's not as if Elway has ignored the position. Sutton was a 2018 second-round pick, while Hamilton was a fourth-rounder. In 2019, the Broncos also drafted Juwann Winfree in the sixth round. 

However, outside of Sutton, who's coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark despite playing with three different starting QBs, the impact of those draft picks have been miniscule. Hence, Hall's revelation that only one of the six wideouts on the roster can be considered above-average. 

Meanwhile, Elway and company have completely ignored the WR position in free agency, despite there being a few intriguing options available. That's okay, provided the Broncos capitalize on the 2020 draft class, which is replete with studs at the position. 

As I've told MHH readers and listeners of the Huddle Up Podcast since the move was made, Gordon is an above-average running back. Undoubtedly, he upgrades Denver's RB stable. 

But will Gordon be worth the $13.5M in guaranteed money he's set to receive over the next two years, compared to the relative impact the Broncos would have gotten by rolling with Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman and a couple of rookies? I highly doubt it. And there's the rub. 

No one needs me to explain the wisdom of paying top dollar to a 27-year-old RB in today's NFL. The reality of the RB position being rendered one of the least-valuable (in terms of wear-and-tear and the ubiquitious and readily-available talent pool), despite the league's high usage and high dependency on it, over the last 15 years is common knowledge. It's why rarely a RB goes in the first round nowadays. 

I remain open to the possibility that Gordon can meet the expectations of his exhorbitant contract but he will have to be near-transcendent in order to justify the $8M/year investment. The silver lining is that it does show Elway's commitment to building the nest around Lock and providing him with the tools the GM believes will allow the young QB to succeed. 

The Broncos need to upgrade the WR room. That's something we've known since last fall. Fortunately, this draft class is believed to be the strongest and deepest WR collection of collegiate talent all-time. 

It's a fortuitous time to be WR-needy. That's the good news. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

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Comments (8)
No. 1-6
B'wana Beast
B'wana Beast

Round 1 Ruggs Round 2 Regor Round 3 Shenault Jr. ??? That would be so deadly. Not realistic. But, a great madden draft.


I am relieved to possess a RB that has the physical presence in the backfield. Gordan has the experience, vision and maturity, I hope, to see the need for receiving and take advantage of the opportunity. His health is the biggest risk I think, but he is a physical, big and a stronger back than most and I'm hoping this translates into a better chance of him being able to craft the physical, good receiving back, that we know can block and make our QB a little more confident.
For $8 million per year, Shelby Harris for $3.25 million and roughly $15 million in cap space left this team is looking paper attractive. Perhaps a talented veteran that gets cut for youth will be attracted too. When's the Pre-Season start?


I’m coming around to getting a stud WR in round 1 and won’t be surprised if they trade up to get their guy. Would be nice to get OL and CB high too but we have enough top 100 picks I think we can fill some holes. Wish we would sign one more CB before the draft. Hard to trust a rook out there.


If they need to trade up to get their wr that's fine. Much better than sitting still and losing out and complaining that your guy was gone. Be aggressive and be right about the player.

In terms of next year they really have too many holes to fill in a single off season. The low level of replacement players on the roster now is due to them blowing 3 of the last 5 drafts.


Joel Klatt has long argued against paying WRs super contracts as a dependent position...and diva brain damage. So one could say an analysis thats highly weighs the contract in saying how good a WR is could be vastly overblown. Perhaps the same might be said of RB...dependent on O line and scheme and deception...except for burst speed, making tacklers miss, balance and the the ability to change direction on a dime...maybe...Such is the reason many players do better in a change of scenery...its more about fit and a coach who will best position them to their strengths...salary cap analysis means nothing..IMHO


Once again it seems like you are making issue of something that is nothing. Due to the talent pool in this draft and past history with wide receivers, I hope the Broncos take best available in the first round, which I hope is an offensive tackle. Second round can be a wideout. It starts up front, and from past history, reaching for wide outs doesn't translate to championship's. Elway has been really smart and tactful these past 3 years and will have another solid draft this year.