Although Broncos wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have both been mentioned as potential cap casualties, the “belief” is that both are safe bets to stick on Denver’s roster given that the club is searching for a top-end quarterback this offseason, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
General manager John Elway is reportedly considering any and all options to improve the Broncos’ quarterback situation over the coming months. As PFR’s Sam Robinson detailed in an extensive look at Denver’s offseason priorities, the Broncos could theoretically target a free agent solution such as Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, or Tyrod Taylor, or perhaps look to draft a collegiate signal-caller like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, or Josh Allen. Either way, Denver’s ability to retain its top two pass-catchers should help the club’s next quarterback.
Additionally, salary cap space shouldn’t be a problem for the Broncos in 2018, so saving money by cutting Thomas or Sanders isn’t an absolute necessity. Although Denver currently boasts only $27MM in cap room (16th in the NFL), it can easily create more space through personnel moves that don’t involve Thomas or Sanders. The Broncos could release cornerback Aqib Talib, running back C.J. Anderson, and offensive tackle Menelik Watson — each of which is a rumored transaction — and catapult their available cap space to more than $40MM.
Thomas, 30, has two years left on his current contract, and is scheduled to count for roughly $12MM in 2018. Denver could release him and save nearly $5MM, but the team would also take on $7.06MM in dead money. A post-June 1 designation would create $8.5MM in savings, but having extra room in June wouldn’t help the Broncos sign a quarterback in April. Thomas managed only 949 receiving yards last season, his lowest total since 2011, but the lack of effective quarterback play in Denver played a large part in that lack of production.
Sanders was also affected by the Broncos’ dismal efforts under center, as he posted just 555 receiving yards while appearing in 12 games. Prior to 2017, the 30-year-old Sanders had produced three straight campaigns with at least 1,000 yards through the air. If they were to release Sanders, the Broncos would pick up ~$5.563MM in cap space but incur $5.375MM in dead money.
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