Two of the top three questions currently swirling around the Broncos as free agency approaches revolve around the futures of Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Cornerback Aqib Talib. Rumors have it that either Sanders or Talib could be forced out the door as free agency gets underway. The third and most important question: what is General Manager John Elway’s plan for finding a quarterback? Will he try free agency or try the Draft again? It seems that the answer to one question would answer the others. It appears that Sanders or Talib’s future could show Elway’s hand in his QB search.
Talib’s Future Could Show Elway’s Hand In QB Search
Before March 5, 2018, the Broncos would have had to cut either Sanders or Talib in order to make room for any decent free agent quarterback. However, the league announced that they were going to raise the salary cap by ten million dollars to $177.2 million this year. Just a few days ago, the Broncos had only $23 million in cap space but after the raise, they now have $33 million in the bank. What does this mean for Talib and Sanders?
Cutting Talib would have saved the Broncos $11 million while cutting Sanders would have saved $5.7 million, meaning that Denver doesn’t have to cut a player to make extra room. The addition of an extra ten million dollars essentially allows the Broncos to be able to afford any free agent on the market, at least mathematically speaking. However, if the Broncos were to go after the golden goose in Kirk Cousins, Sanders and Talib would not be safe.
Will That Be Credit Or Debit?
Kirk Cousins will likely eclipse Matthew Stafford’s current record for the highest paid quarterback in NFL history, currently sitting at $27 million per year on average. While the Broncos have more than $27 million to give, with only $33 million they don’t have much room to maneuver if a bidding war were to occur.
Even if the Broncos were somehow magically able to land Kirk Cousins for $27 million per year, they would still only have about $6 million left in cap space which would leave hardly any space for another decent free agent acquisition, or re-signing one of their own, let alone sign all of their 2018 draft picks. It is obvious that Cousins would be a massive free agency upgrade for the Broncos but the offense still needs a solid third wide receiver or receiving tight end in addition to a very good lineman, a tall task with only $6 million left in cap space.
It’s clear that if Elway were to go for Kirk Cousins he would need to cut someone to make space but who? Sanders and Talib are roughly the same age — 31 and 32, respectively — and both are stars. However, the Broncos have much more depth on the defensive side of the ball and can save nearly double the money by cutting Talib. Therefore, expect Sanders to stay put and, if Elway should need to cut someone to free up cap space, it would be Talib that gets the ax.
If he were to get cut, the Broncos would save $11 million in cap space which would increase their total to $44 million. With that kind of cash, the Broncos could afford to make a competitive bid for Cousins and still afford to bolster the offensive side of the ball. Talib’s future is linked to that of Cousins in this respect. In other words, if Talib gets cut then there is no other real option for Elway other than to go for Kirk Cousins.
What If Captain Kirk Flies Away?
That being said, it is possible that the Broncos do not get Kirk Cousins, whether it is because of Elway’s refusal to enter into a bidding war, Cousins’ belief that he can win more with another team, or otherwise. If that were to happen, Talib’s future could remain with Denver, but at this point, his trade or release looks imminent.
The possible other two free agent quarterbacks that Elway would take a chance on would be Case Keenum or Sam Bradford. Spotrac estimates that each of these quarterbacks will cost anywhere between $21 and $23 million. This means that Elway would have about $10 to $12 million to work with, likely enough to pick up some additional pieces without requiring cuts.
Of course, there is always the draft. Rookie quarterbacks are the best deals in the NFL, assuming they perform. With the number five overall pick this year, Denver can possibly get a “Kirk Cousins” for next to nothing.
However, looking at Elway’s history, he has failed twice in a row in picking quarterbacks of the future with Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch. Trevor Siemian was a seventh-round pick so he should not really count as the expectations could not have been that high, to begin with.
Even though Elway has struggled in the past, he has to be tempted to take a shot at saving a lot of cash. On the other hand, he did land Peyton Manning in free agency and that paid dividends. After swinging and missing twice, Elway will probably try a bit harder to sign a free agent this year, and Talib’s future is likely done in Denver.