I won’t paraphrase that Vietnamese hooker in “Full Metal Jacket” by saying “anything they want”, but Kirk Cousins(or free agent QB of your choice) “ain’t too goddamned beaucoup.”
If a player is cut, traded, or moved on from, then there are a number of reasons involved as opposed to simply being a salary cap necessity to sign Kirk Cousins. Can the Broncos keep their core group of players and sign Cousins to a high end contract? Yes. Anyone suggesting otherwise is simply ignorant of the NFL Salary Cap.
The Broncos via overthecap.com/sportrac.com have roughly 25-26M in cap space. That # could increase when the cap is officially set likely within the next 20-30 days(more on that later).
Reports have it that Kirk Cousins could seek a $25-30M per year deal, but that doesn’t mean it has to be $25-30M across the board in each year. It can be structured as such, and it can be structured in various other ways too. San Francisco had the luxury of being able to front-load much of Jimmy Seven Starts contract that was announced last week. Denver doesn’t have that luxury. If anything, they would be more likely to back end the contract meaning lower cap totals up front that grow higher each year.
I went with a fairly conservative estimate of 7%, an even more conservative example of 5% is shown a little bit lower.
Broncos Recent Spending on the QB position
As you can see, the Broncos have shopped at the bargain bin ever since Peyton Manning retired. The Broncos have spent the fewest $’s in the NFL over the past two years on the Quarterback position and it is not relatively close. The lack of development from the QBs that are on the roster is a main reason forcing John Elway and the front office to look at every option. Kirk Cousins is an attractive option and thankfully Washington shit the bed in how they handled him by tagging him two years in a row and not investing that money in a contract extension.
I won’t pretend to say that this is the contract that Kirk Cousins will sign with Denver, or that they will even offer him a contract structured in this way, or anything along those lines. It is simply being presented as an option available to them. It is simply one option that a) allows the Broncos to sign the top free agent QB to hit the market since Peyton Manning (Drew Brees is a free agent, but he’s said he’s a Saint for life). b) it is structured in way that would give Cousins a 2018 cap hit under $10M, and a 2019 cap hit under $17M and more importantly allows them to keep players in place. It comes at a secondary cost as that it pushes money down the road, but the cap has historically grown, and with the new Thursday Night TV deal, I would be surprised if that the estimated cap of $178M, doesn’t end up in the $182-185M + range.
Hypothetical Kirk Cousins contract proposals
It is a pretty generic. 5 year $135M. It can be tweaked here and there. It gives him a workout bonus. As structured, it comes with $87M guaranteed and set up to convert his 2019 base salary into a 2nd bonus, thus generating cap space in 2019 as well.
A second option would be to ignore the conversion of the 2019 base salary and simply pay the $30M base salary. If they felt comfortable with accounting for it all in that year It would increase the year 2 cap hit drastically, but would lower the cap #’s in the last three years of the contract when compared to the first hypothetical proposal
They could go with an initial 3-4 year deal that comes with a year 3 or 4 team option bonus that if the marriage is working it allows the team to tack on some years, but that can become to look complicated, so we will stick with the simplicity above, but the team has options.
Again, this is not suggesting this will be a deal offered or signed, but it would be a viable option. It provides a very affordable deal over the first two years and doesn’t obscenely or grossly compromise the future like some suggest. It’s not ideal but it can be done.
Cousins’ $/% of Future Cap Years
If you scroll up to the first chart, the Salary Cap has increased at a 7.7% rate over the past four years, so the 7% and 5% increases in the chart directly above are pretty much lowball estimates, and even with the ballooning $35,36,37M cap hits in ’20-’22 they are still at 16-18% of the cap. If the Cousins deal is more evenly distributed, then those numbers would be higher in first two years and lower in the last 3. It’s all about the structure.
Oh and this is done without touching or massaging a current contract or cutting a current player. Imagine that. /Sarcasm
So if this deal were signed, and Kirk Cousins is under contract for 2018 with a $9.2M dollar cap hit. The Broncos would have 14M-15M left to spend on other free agents. That’s not a ton of space, the rookie class could take $8-10M on their own. You’d like to improve other positions, have the ability to go shopping.
But guess what? They can easily manufacture cap space.
Some players from the 2017 team will not be in Denver in 2018. It happens every year. There is turnover, it happens for various reasons. Age/ability/not a good schematic fit/etc. Some guys that are free agents won’t even be offered a contract, I’m looking at you Eric Decker. A prime example. They didn’t even talk #’s. Malik Jackson? He likely fits that example as well. Maybe they would have took less to stay with the only team they ever knew at that point. Who knows. The guys that were on the ’17 team that currently don’t have a contract some know their time in Denver is done. It happens.
Creating Cap Space
Here are 5 moves that retain key pieces and create $35M which would push the available total after signing Cousins to contract(if structured in that way) to $49-50M in cap space without cutting a single player. It’s not presented as a fact that it will happen, just as potential options. These are not all or nothing type deals, the total listed is just a cumulative total of the moves. Any one could be done as single move.
Out of these five, two are more questionable than others(Talib/Thomas). If Talib doesn’t accept the deal that extends his stay in Denver, then they cut/trade him and his cap savings increases(more on that below). Thomas has the last years of his deal replaced with a portion of his ’19 contract guaranteed and paying him the cash he would receive in 2018 anyway. The other 3 are simply converting all but the league minimum of their base salary which would lower their current cap hits. Again, the pros of these moves is it keeps players in place, it creates immediate cap room and and the con is that it pushes the savings down the road. This defense is built to win now and has wasted two years on Quarterbacks that have not developed.
Option 2 creates more space, but you lose a 1,000 yard rusher, a pair of wide receivers and two key defenders and that would make Denver less attractive to free agents whether they are quarterbacks or not.
This is more blow everything up and start over scenario, but quite frankly without upgrading the Quarterback position there is not much need to spend $22M on wide receivers. The status quo sucks. They are a dynamic pair and are great players and I am certainly not advocating this scenario in any way shape or form, but with the quarterbacks currently on the roster they are being wasted and they are expensive. It’s like putting a set of $500.00 racing tires on a wrecked 1990 Ford Escort.
There are likely players that are currently under contract that John Elway wants to move on from, whether they go after a high end QB or not. Some will spin it as blah blah blah Kirk Cousins blah blah blah. There are guys that Elway will likely talk to and say “we need to talk about your cap #”, so of those might find employment elsewhere, some can restructure. The examples above, like Wolfe, it’s just an option that might present itself. With his injury, #7 might make that decision for him.
Other options that could be in play would be to extend a couple of the younger guys, guys that you know that are going to be in Denver over the next three to four years barring a catastrophic injury. If structured the right way that can create space. There are many tools available to Elway and Mike Sullivan and his staff have more knowledge about the salary cap than I do, but I know enough about it to know that the things documented here are possible.
This was simply a post to show that Kirk Cousins can be obtained without cutting every player but #58 and that it can be structured in a way that does not totally sacrifice the future. There has simply been too much misinformation spewed that taints this subject.
He might go to New York, or Cleveland for more money than anyone has even suggested he will get. Good for him. He might take less than the $27M that has been tossed around so much to go to a Minnesota, a Jacksonville or a Denver. Again, this was based on Kirk Cousins since he’s at the top of the list, but the same concepts could be used with lower sets of #’s for say a Case Keenum or other free agent QBs, or even if they traded draft capital and extended a QB like Nick “I just beat the Patriots Ass” Foles, but that can involve other scenarios.
Can Cousins come to Denver? Easily. Will he come to Denver? Time will tell. Time always tells.