Broncos’ 2022 Salary Cap Space Is Staggering

Denver Broncos

Getty The Denver Broncos will have an influx of cash under the 2022 NFL salary cap.

Life as an NFL general manager is a tremendous balancing act, having to stock a roster for the present while also keeping an eye towards the future — which is exactly what Denver Broncos first-year general manager George Paton is trying to master.

And judging by the way he’s constructed a competitive 2021 roster while leaving the 2022 salary cap cupboard bountiful, shows the neophyte executive is masterfully learning on the fly.

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Salary Cap Cup Runneth Over

Paton has the Broncos sitting pretty in 2022 and poised to make some splashes in not only free agency but re-signing the team’s own pending departures.

According to a tweet by Over The Cap founder Jason Jones, a salary cap and contract expert, the Broncos are estimated to have $61.6 million in salary cap space in 2022.

The new league year — and NFL free agency — will begin on March 16, 2022.

That number is projected to be the second-highest total in the NFL, trailing only the Miami Dolphins ($64.2 million). Broncos Country will be happy to know that Denver’s number dwarfs two of the three AFC West rivals.

The Los Angeles Chargers are estimated to rank third in the NFL ($59.1 million), but the Las Vegas Raiders ($37 million), and the Kansas City Chiefs ($12.7 million) will need to be creative to remain competitive.

Interesting Dilemma

The Broncos will likely use some of its cap space to give contract extensions to players already on the roster.

That list of key players who’ll be on Paton’s radar includes wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick, inside linebackers Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and running back Melvin Gordon III.

Mid-season additions like inside linebacker Kenny Young, cornerback Mike Ford, and outside linebacker Stephen Weatherly will also be highly considered. Young came to Denver via trade with the Los Angeles Rams, in late October 2021. The teams swapped future late-round picks, with the Rams getting a 2024 sixth-rounder, and the Broncos netting a 2024 seventh-round selection, along with Young.

It was a need at the time for the Broncos, who were hit with the injury bug early in 2021, with eight linebackers injured and six on injured reserve — including starters Johnson and Jewell. And while Young initially wasn’t too thrilled at being a Bronco, he now seemingly wants to be in Denver long term.

Ford was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions on September 1, 2021. He was placed on short-term IR on October 16, 2021, but recently activated on November 6.

Weatherly was also brought aboard in late October, via trade with Paton’s former employer, the Minnesota Vikings. He’s been a solid contributor for the injury-riddled defense, as he’s registered a sack in his two appearances in orange and blue.

Pay the Men

The list of aforementioned homegrown pending free agents is daunting. But of that group, two players stand out the most as must-signs — wideouts Sutton and Patrick.

The former was a 2018 draftee, but being that he was selected in the second round, he does not qualify for a fifth-year option on his rookie deal, so he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2021 season. The latter has a more winding story to his unrestricted free agency, as he entered the NFL undrafted in 2017.

Patrick initially signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in May 2017, but was released in July 2017. The San Francisco 49ers claimed the wideout later that month, only to waive him in September. The Broncos became his next stop — and hopefully last — when he was signed to the practice squad on October 21, 2017.

He went through a carousel of transactions in Denver, as he was then released on November 8, 2017, re-signed a week later, and then signed to a reserve/future contract with the Broncos on January 1, 2018. He then signed a one-year exclusive-rights free-agent tender with the Broncos on April 18, 2020, before Denver placed a second-round restricted free-agent tender on him on March 16, 2021.

That maneuver by Paton helped keep Patrick on the Broncos’ payroll until the team was able to sign the receiver to a one-year, $3.384 million deal in May 2021.   

And his excellence has been touted by national publications, as noted by a recent tweet from Pro Football Focus.

Such perseverance — and production — is what has endeared Patrick to his teammates and Broncos Country. Hopefully, Paton can find a way to bring his wideouts back into the mix for the 2022 season.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8

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