Cap Expert Unleashes Startling Stat About Broncos
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.