Denver Broncos salary cap outlook: Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are significantly underpaid

Brian McIntyre
August 2, 2013

The "Shutdown Countdown" has entered the home stretch. In addition to previewing each team, Shutdown Corner will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Denver Broncos.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $139.76 million (3rd-highest in the NFL in 2013)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $9.287 million (11th in the NFL, as of Aug. 2)

Best Bargain(s): In their first seasons with Peyton Manning, wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combined for 179 receptions, 2,498 yards and 23 touchdowns, while finishing third and fourth in Football Outsiders' receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. With Wes Welker on board, Thomas and Decker may see less balls, but with combined salaries of $2,159,500, they are outstanding bargains for the Broncos, who will pay Welker at least $6 million in cash this season. In fact, there are 52 wide receivers in the NFL who are scheduled to earn more cash this season than the $2,159,500 that Thomas and Decker will take home, including San Diego Chargers wideout Eddie Royal, who caught 206 passes for 2,107 yards and nine touchdowns in 57 games with the Broncos from 2008-11.

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: Speaking of wide receivers, Thomas, Decker and Welker could make Andre Caldwell expendable. Caldwell played in 142 offensive and special teams snaps last season, catching one pass for 18 yards and making one tackle on special teams. The Broncos would save $900,000 in cash and cap space by releasing Caldwell. The Broncos can save $1.7 million in cash and cap space by releasing running back Knowshon Moreno, who was inactive for much of 2012 and is behind Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball on the depth chart.

Looming Contract Issue: The Broncos have a few players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason, most notably Decker and linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who stepped up when D.J. Williams served multiple suspensions last season to lead the Broncos with 114 tackles, while also tying for the team lead with three interceptions to go along with 5.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss and nine hits on opposing quarterbacks.

Neither Decker nor Woodyard are likely candidates for the franchise tag. However, for those keeping track, the projected value of those tenders would be $10.282 million for Decker and $9.407 million for Woodyard if the league-wide cap number remained at $123 million. If the cap increases, so will the value of the franchise tags.

Other free agents include punter Britton Colquitt, defensive end Robert Ayers, center J.D. Walton and offensive lineman Chris Clark.

Next offseason will also be the first time the Broncos are eligible to extend the contract of linebacker Von Miller, the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowler who has 30 sacks during his first two seasons in the NFL. The Broncos will have until May 3, 2014 to exercise the "fifth-year" option they currently hold on his contract. That option will be worth the 2014 transition tag at the position where he plays at least 50 percent of the snaps. Miller is listed as a linebacker and, if the league-wide cap number remains flat in 2014, the transition tag for that position would be worth around $8.4 million.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The "Top 51" contracts on the Broncos roster for the 2014 have salary cap numbers totaling $119.95 million and the team will carry $666,667 in "dead" money after releasing running back Willis McGahee and linebacker Joe Mays. Of that total, $17.5 million is on Manning and $10 million is on 35-year-old cornerback Champ Bailey, who has a $1 million roster bonus that comes due on the fifth day of the 2014 league year and a $9 million base salary. The Broncos may also have a decision to make on Welker, whose $3 million roster bonus and $3 million base salary next season are guaranteed for injury only at this time.