2017 was not Denver’s finest year. After narrowly missing out on the playoffs in a competitive division in 2016, there was a feeling that with a new head coach bringing some fresh air into the building they could take on the world. Unfortunately, an aging and thinning defensive roster took a step back and their quarterback play was far from good for most of the year.
An eight-game losing streak in the middle of the season, that included a shutout against the Chargers and blowouts by Philadelphia and New England, quickly eliminated them from playoff contention and nearly cost Vance Joseph his job just one year into it.
The Broncos approach 2018 with a lot of question marks on their roster, from the viability of their expensive defense to who will be leading them at quarterback. They have $25.9 million in cap space at the moment, but with talk of a big free agent quarterback signing that space could quickly disappear. Which players may have to go to make more?
Aqib Talib, CB – save $11 million
The future of Aqib Talib has been highly discussed already this year. He is arguably the Broncos second best player behind Von Miller, but he turns 32 this offseason and represents the single biggest cap saving the Broncos can make. If they are honestly going to pursue Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles then they are going to need the $11 million Talib can save them just to help retool the roster around a newly signed quarterback.
The inability of the defense to carry the offense last year suggests that John Elway shouldn’t really have too many hesitations about breaking up the unit, and with Chris Harris and Bradley Roby they have plenty of talent at corner for 2018.
Domata Peko, DT – save $3.7 million
The veteran defensive tackle has had a productive career between Cincinnati and Denver, and he was a solid part of the rotation up front for the Broncos in 2017, but is a solid 33-year-old really worth $4.2 million on your cap? I’m not so sure.
While Elway has struggled to identify talent around the draft at certain positions, he has done pretty well with the interior defensive line in the past. Derek Wolfe and Sly Williams have both been very strong picks by him and been hugely important pieces in Denver. I have a feeling Elway will back himself to find another productive young defensive tackle at a fraction of the cost of Peko.
CJ Anderson, RB – Save $4.5 million
Anderson has two more years on his $18 million contract remaining, but without a cent left of his guarantee. Denver can trade or release him without any dead money and thus he becomes an easy name to remove from the depth chart.
While he has been a reasonably productive piece of the Broncos offense in his time with the team, averaging 4.4 yards a carry and 8.3 yards per catch, he has never really shined as the full-time starter. He has averaged just 17.3 touches per game in the last two seasons and has seen the endzone just nine times. He is reliable, but not electric, and while that makes him a solid piece of the roster he is also pretty replaceable. Especially at a time when backs are entering the league as highly polished and productive players.
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