7 Broncos Vets Most Vulnerable to Being Cap Casualties in 2021

These veterans shouldn't be surprised if the Broncos look to cut bait in 2021.
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The Denver Broncos are expected to have $14 million in cap space for 2021, which means the team isn't in a bad position, but it could use more room to retain free agents or add others.

I've talked about what the Broncos' options are with Von Miller, but he's not the only veteran whom the team could be prepared to move on from.

New general manager George Paton will have decisions to make about a number of veterans under contract for 2021, many of whom are aging or saw their play decline in 2020.

As I continue my preview of the Broncos offseason and the decisions before Paton, I want to look at veterans, other than Miller, who are under contract for 2021, their respective cap hits, the cap space saved by cutting or trading them, and the likelihood of whether or not they will be back in 2021. We start with the three most vulnerable. 

AJ Bouye, CB

2021 cap hit: $13.375M

Savings if cut or traded: $13.375M, no dead money

Likelihood he stays: Between health issues, poor play, and a suspension, I'm not betting on Bouye being retained. The cornerbacks who may be available in free agency are a solid group and the Broncos should be able to find better value there.

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Kareem Jackson, S

2021 cap hit: $12.8M

Savings if cut or traded: $10M, $2.8M dead money

Likelihood he stays: Jackson wasn't as good in 2020 as he was in 2019, but his situation could go either way. Because fellow safety Justin Simmons is a candidate for an extension, it's not likely the Broncos sign a second safety in free agency.

There's no guarantee Denver will find one in the draft that it likes either, so that may mean Jackson is kept for the final year of his deal. One possibility is the Broncos ask him to restructure his contract, converting base salary into incentives to give the team flexibility in adding free agents to help the defense.

Jurrell Casey, Von Miller

Jurrell Casey, DL

2021 cap hit: $11.8M

Savings if cut or traded: $11.8M, no dead money

Likelihood he stays: Casey played just a couple of games before a torn bicep ended his season. Whether he stays depends on what the Broncos want to do for a veteran defensive lineman. If the Broncos, say, re-sign Shelby Harris, they likely cut Casey to make room for him.

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Second-Tier Vulnerable Vets

Melvin Gordon, RB

2021 cap hit: $9M

Savings if cut: $2.5M, $6.5M dead money

Savings if traded: $7M, $2M dead money

Likelihood he stays: Gordon played well overall in 2020 and, while the Broncos could void his guarantees in 2021 because of his DUI arrest, that doesn't guarantee they part ways with him. It won't surprise me if he's retained.

Note that Gordon has some fully guaranteed money due in 2021, which is why the savings are less at this time if he's simply cut, rather than traded.

One thing to keep in mind is, if Gordon is convicted, he has to serve a three-game suspension in 2021. In that case, the Broncos wouldn't have to pay him for the games he misses.

Denver Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan (29) battles for the ball with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) in the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High.

Bryce Callahan, CB

2021 cap hit: $8.1M

Savings if cut or traded: $6.8M, $1.3M dead money

Likelihood he stays: Callahan had a season worthy of the Pro Bowl, but he missed the last few games because of a foot injury. But because he played well, and because his injury won't require surgery, Callahan will likely be retained.

Nick Vannett, TE

2021 cap hit: $3.575M

Savings if cut or traded: $2.7M, $875K dead money

Likelihood he stays: Vannett had a bad start to 2020 and was inactive for one game because of the coaches' decision, but played better in the second half. While the Broncos could save some cap space by cutting him, there's a chance he's kept for the time being. The Broncos can always cut him later if they find a better option in free agency or the draft.

Jeff Driskel, QB

2021 cap hit: $3.25M

Savings if cut or traded: $2.5M, $750K dead money

Likelihood he stays: Driskel fell behind Brett Rypien on the depth chart. That means there's not much to say other than that he will be cut. There's no justification for keeping a third-string QB at the cost of $2.5M in cap space.

Other Potentially Vulnerable Vets

There are two veterans, offensive guard Graham Glasgow and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who've been mentioned as possibly being let go and replaced with younger players.

Cutting either player wouldn't help the Broncos, because both have fully guaranteed base salaries for 2021. However, the Broncos could trade either player to gain a little cap space.

It wouldn't be much for either player, with $3M freed and $9M dead money for trading Glasgow, and $4M freed with $9M dead money for trading James, respectively. Still, trades are an option for the Broncos, and they wouldn't necessarily have to include a draft pick to move either player.

With that said, I don't expect the Broncos to trade either player. But they can revisit in 2022 when they get more cap flexibility by moving on from either player.

Most Likely Scenario

My expectation is that Bouye, Casey, and Driskel will be cut. Moving on from that trio would grow the Broncos' cap space to about $39.5M. Keep in mind the top-51 cutoff applies, so a few players who fall below the cutoff would rise above it with those three released.

But that much cap space would give the Broncos more than enough to retain free agents such as Simmons and Harris, or to give a second-round restricted free-agent tender to the likes of Alexander Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Tim Patrick.

And after those moves are made, the Broncos should still have enough to add an outside free agent or two. I don't expect Paton to go wild in free agency, but the GM will be in position to find value.

Next up, I'll look at Broncos players who are set to become free agents and the likelihood that they will be retained. Stay tuned. 

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