The Broncos have to make decisions in free agency, both on their own players and those from other teams. They also have to make decisions on players who are still under contract but they may find it best to part ways with prior to the 2020 season.
This is my “Keep or Cut?” series.
In this series of articles, I will examine the players that are on the roster bubble for the Broncos – for various reasons. Some players are just past their prime and not worth the money anymore. Some players have a price tag that is too high and the team could move on in a money-saving effort. Some players are a combination of both.
There are only a few players to look at before free agency, but some of them are big names and important former (and current) starters for the Broncos. The Broncos have around $60 million in cap space right now, but with a few cuts here and there, that number could grow to around $90 million. That extra money could come in handy as the Broncos are expected to be one of the most-active teams in free agency this offseason.
First up, let’s start with veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. Should the Broncos keep or cut? Let’s take a look.
Easy Answer Frees Up Cap Space
The answer here is cut, right? Almost everyone under the sun is going to agree that the Broncos need to part ways with their former starter. That’s the easy answer.
However, it might not be that easy to get rid of him based on the restructured contract the Broncos gave him last year. The Broncos re-worked Flacco’s deal to create cap space in 2019. They did not add any other guaranteed money to his deal, they simply moved around some money and spread it out over the remainder of his deal.
Getting around $10 million in cap space by cutting Flacco will help when it comes to keeping key free agents like Justin Simmons or going after other top free agents like Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones. Armed with some of the most cap space in 2020 and with as many as 12 draft picks (including five in the top 100), the Broncos are in line to make big strides this offseason.
If they get this right, the Broncos can get back into the playoff picture – even in the incredibly tough AFC West. They don’t have to be 100 percent on target in free agency, but having more money to make more deals (or keep more of their own players) could get the Broncos closer to respectability again.
Drew Lock is clearly the starter for the Broncos in 2020. He’s earned the right to have that job after going 4-1 last year in the final five games of the 2019 season. Lock could be the franchise quarterback the Broncos have been searching for and he will have this season to prove he is that guy.
The Broncos need to find the right backup to work behind Lock and Flacco is not that guy.
Flacco is a much different quarterback than Lock; he cannot do the things Lock can do when it comes to extending plays with his legs. He would not be a disgruntled backup quarterback, but Flacco just wouldn’t be a good fit for what the Broncos want to do.
Instead, the Broncos should find a veteran backup to add behind Lock. They need someone who is not any threat to push him for the starting job, but they need someone who does some things that Lock does. In case Lock gets banged up, the Broncos need a quarterback who could fill in for a game or two and it wouldn’t disrupt the whole offense.
Someone like former Titans starter Marcus Mariota might be a target for the Broncos. Like Lock, Mariota has a strong arm and is athletic. He’s in the backup portion of his career and may have to wait for another opportunity if he wants to start again – just like the guy who replaced him for the Titans (in a game against the Broncos) Ryan Tannehill.
Mariota would be a better backup for Lock than Flacco would in 2020.
Not Really Dead Money
Cutting Flacco does free up $10 million, but it also comes with around $13.6 million in dead money. This dead money comes from the restructured contract the Broncos gave Flacco last year.
It’s a bit complicated, but the team carried over most of the saving from Flacco’s deal in 2019 to this season.vTeams are allowed to carry over money that was unspent from one season to another. Yes, there is still a dead money officially on the salary cap, but it turns out to be more of a wash for the Broncos.
There was a time that this team was one of the best in the league when it came to limiting dead money. In fact, some seasons, the Broncos didn’t even have $1 million in dead money on their salary cap. Bad draft picks and bad free-agent additions have caught up to the Broncos, however. Last year, they had more than $20 million in dead money counted against their salary cap.
This hit from Flacco’s contract will heavily inflate their number for 2020, but the team is getting back to a more manageable dead money situation.
The easy answer is the best answer for the Broncos – despite how painful it might be to take on that much dead money. The team will get $10 million in cap space if they get rid of the veteran quarterback and that money helps.
They’ll need to find a veteran backup to Lock this offseason and the team can keep Brett Rypien as a developmental third-string quarterback.
Flacco is in the part of his career where he can bounce around the league as a backup quarterback – if he wants to. There are no teams that will hand him a starting job and it’s doubtful that Flacco would even get a chance to compete for a top spot on any depth chart. Signing Flacco in 2019 didn’t work out, and there’s no need to keep him on the roster in 2020.
Should the Broncos keep or cut Flacco? Let me know in the comments and on social media.