Although Patrick Surtain did not repeat his first-team All-Pro performance from 2022, the standout Broncos cornerback earned his second Pro Bowl nod. As expected, the Broncos kept Surtain out of trades at the deadline. The next step — once Surtain’s fifth-year option is exercised — would be an extension.
The Broncos sound interested in that coming to fruition at some point, with GM George Paton indicating (via the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel) the team wants the third-year corner in Denver for a long time. Surtain became extension-eligible last week, though the fifth-year option buys the Broncos another year.
The cornerback salary ceiling still sits at $21MM (Jaire Alexander), but with the cap back on a steady climb and young corners like Surtain and Sauce Gardner immediately establishing themselves as top-tier talents, $25MM per year is probably a better projection for where the top CB salary will be by the time these two land extensions. Gardner does not become eligible for a new deal until 2025, but Surtain has become the Broncos’ defensive centerpiece.
Teams generally wait until Year 5 to extend first-rounders, due to the option, but the Broncos are in an atypical situation. Their expected Russell Wilson post-June 1 cut designation will produce a larger cap hit in 2025 compared to 2024, with the total package coming to $84.6MM in dead cap. That record-shattering figure will complicate matters for the Broncos, who will have Surtain undoubtedly eyeing CB-record money when talks begin.
The Broncos extended Chris Harris and signed Aqib Talib, but their last brush with top-tier CB money came when they extended Champ Bailey after acquiring him 20 years ago. Surtain is closer to Bailey’s trajectory compared to Denver’s recent CB All-Pros, pointing to a monster extension either this year or next. Denver would also have the franchise tag at its disposal in 2026, when the Wilson contractual damage is projected to be finished.
As for this year, the Broncos are not expected to be big spenders. After splurging for Mike McGlinchey, Ben Powers and Zach Allen on Day 1 of the 2023 legal tampering period, Denver will be restricted by both the Wilson contract — which would call for $35MM in 2024 dead money — and its limited cap space. Paton said (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) the team will not be in on the first wave of free agency come March. The team currently features the NFL’s fifth-worst 2024 cap situation, though it is poised to enter the draft with a first-round pick for the first time since 2021, when Surtain arrived at No. 9 overall. The Broncos hold the No. 12 pick.
Additionally, free agents-to-be Josey Jewell and P.J. Locke would prefer to stay in Denver, Tomasson adds. Jewell played out a two-year, $11MM deal and has now started 58 games since being chosen in the 2018 second round. Locke ended up usurping Kareem Jackson to become a starting safety, making an impact as a blitzer during Denver’s five-game win streak. Jewell and Locke, a former UDFA, could see their statuses complicated by other contracts at their respective positions. Justin Simmons is attached to a $15.25MM-per-year deal, though that through-2024 pact contains no more guaranteed money, while Denver gave top tackler Alex Singleton a three-year accord worth $18MM in 2023.
The Broncos stood pat at the trade deadline, but Jewell’s name may have come up. The Cowboys targeted linebacking help last October, and ESPN.com’s Ed Werder notes they discussed a deal with the Broncos. It is not known if Jewell or Singleton was Dallas’ target, though the former was in a contract year. The Cowboys later pursued Shaquille Leonard, seeing him sign with the Eagles. Jewell and Singleton have been the Broncos’ ILB starters for two seasons.