February 17, 2009 11:21 PM
Broncos Inbox -- Feb. 18
Welcome, the Broncos Inbox is open and in a nod to a slew of regulars, who led the charge in a week roster reduction for the Broncos . . .
Dennis Smythe asked . . .
Q: It is apparent that one positive result from the recent Broncos' "regime change" is that the new management is not tied to some of their ineffective and overpriced players, as witnessed by Monday's roster purge of several of my least favorite players. I think many of us fans were perplexed as towards how Dewayne Robertson, John Engelberger, Marquand Manuel, and Jamie Winborn were starters for Denver, let alone any team. Do you have a sense of which other players may potentially be on the chopping block?
A: The Broncos added cornerback Dre' Bly to the list as well on Tuesday. Bly fit the profile of most of the players the Broncos have released so far - veteran player, acquired from someplace else, whose cap figure did not fit the production the new regime thought the player should have.
Robertson was acquired in a trade, Engelberger was acquired in a trade and Bly was acquired in a trade during Mike Shanahan's tenure. Winborn and Nate Jackson were signed after another team released them while Manuel and Niko Koutouvides were signed in free agency before the 2008 season.
So, this week the Broncos have released seven players, none of them having been selected by the team in the draft.
The Broncos may be a little more active in free agency - likely in the middle tier of things for the most part - this year simply because of the roster turnover they are already producing, but general manager Brian Xanders said this week that moving forward the Broncos would build the core of the team in the draft.
So, given that profile so far I would think linebacker Boss Bailey, who is coming off microfracture surgery on his knee, would get a hard look as well. Bailey, also signed as a free agent last year, has a cap figure of $3.855 million for '09.
However, league rules prohibit releasing an injured player without some kind of settlement and Bailey has not been cleared by the Broncos doctors for full speed work just yet.
So if the new staff wants to release him they are going to have negotiate some kind of injury payment. Usually a player will go to a doctor of his choice to receive a timeframe for his return to the field and the team's medical staff will give their assessment as well.
Rarely do the two match. So from there the player's agent and the team usually meet somewhere in the middle of the two figures to produce the injury settlement, which often is a player's game check total in the season times however many weeks have been agreed to for his return.
It's possible the team could ask players sporting some of their larger cap figures - Champ Bailey ($13.689 million, Daniel Graham ($6.65 million) and Ben Hamilton ($4.84 million) - to do some kind of renegotiation as well. D.J. Williams has already turned some roster bonus money into signing bonus, which gave them some minimal relief.
The Broncos are roughly $30 million to $31 million beneath the $123 million salary cap at the moment so they don't have to make any more moves to be ready when free agency opens Feb. 27 - the first day of the new league year and the first day teams have to be under the cap.
But it's clear Josh McDaniels and Xanders have made up their minds about the roster they inherited and it's also clear they didn't like many of the acquisitions Shanahan had paid so much money to acquire.
A.P. Crisafi looked at the first-round of roster cuts . . .
Q: I see that the Broncos released Anthony Aldridge, who was spoken of highly all last year, although we never saw him play. I've also seen on some draft blogs the Broncos taking a running back in this year's draft at No. 12. I would like to ask what you think of the backs the Broncos already have, and where they are on the depth chart?
A: I think initially it may be prudent for folks to look at the Patriots' draft model to see where the Broncos may go on draft day. And only once in Bill Belichick's tenure did the team take a running back in the first round - Laurence Maroney with the 21st pick in 2006.
Ironically Shanahan was set to take Maroney as well that year if the team had not traded up in the first round to get Jay Cutler. And had that happened it would have been the first time the Broncos had taken a running back in the first round in Shanahan's tenure.
In Belichick's tenure so far the Patriots have taken a defensive lineman more often in the first round than players from any other position.
The Broncos' current depth chart at the running back is fairly simple. Right now Ryan Torain, Peyton Hillis and Selvin Young are the only three running backs under contract for 2009. Michael Pittman is an unrestricted free agent and Andre Hall, having just completed his third year, is a restricted free agent.
Torain is coming off ACL surgery so will not be full speed when the team goes through it's offseason workouts, but he is the back most of the players feel has the stuff to be the primary runner.
However, after suffering two serious injuries in his one NFL season - elbow, in training camp, and knee - he has played all of one half of football. So until he stays on the field he can't be considered more than a situational player at this point.
And coming back from an ACL surgery is never easy and often it takes a player well over a season to fully regain his speed and explosiveness.
Hillis will coming back from a serious hamstring injury and is a power back who takes plenty of punishment. That is not the recipe for a long career as a 30-carry a game back. But, by virtue of his prospects to be ready when training camp opens he is probably at the top of the depth chart.
Selvin Young has been hurt plenty and looked tentative at times. Some of that may have been due to lingering pain in a groin injury he tried to play through last season, but even before he was hurt he did not have the same explosiveness in '08 that he showed in '07.
The free agent class at running back isn't all that spectacular with players like Cedric Benson, Rudi Johnson, Dominic Rhodes, Alvin Pearman, Heath Evans (who played for McDaniels in New England) and Derrick Ward being the major names on the list.
Darren Sproles was on the list, but he was given the franchise player tag by the Chargers Wednesday.
Traditionally running backs know their careers are short and they are often looking to cash in big so it takes a big contract to lure one from the top of the group. But the Falcons success with Michael Turner having been added to the offense in free agency shows the right guy can have an impact if that's where a team wants to spend its money and the back has a good health history.
Turner was a rare case in that he did not have that many carries before he hit the open market. Players like Johnson, Rhodes and Benson can't say that.
Ward is an intriguing option given what he did in the Giants offense. But again, it's about risk-reward at such a high-impact position.
And Robert Johnson wondered . . .
Q: Do you think the Broncos will be awarded any compensatory picks for the 2009 NFL draft?
A: At first blush I wouldn't think so, given how many players they signed before the 2008 season in free agency, including Manuel, Koutouvides, Marlon McCree, Keary Colbert and Boss Bailey.
While those guys didn't play much and playing time is part of a complicated formula, the Broncos losses in free agency last year likely won't equal that. And to get the picks teams have to show a negative impact.
So even if they did get a pick it's unlikely it would be better than one tacked on the end of the seventh round. But I don't think they will get a pick.
Kelly Losey in Johnstown asked . . .
Q: I enjoy team building activities like the draft and free agency. I'm a bit confused why a traded player (Colbert) or a dismissed player (Henry) still count against the salary cap. Also, I'm sure you have met Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders. What's your take? Do these two have the know-how to turn the team around in short order? How do you feel about nepotism? Jim and Jeff Goodman are gone, but the head coach hired his brother. Methinks it's risky to employ relatives.
A: In terms of the salary cap, the so-called "dead money'' - money counted for players no longer on the roster - is an accounting affair.
When a player signs a contract, he often receives a signing bonus. While the player may actually get the cash from that bonus all up front or in one or two deferred payments, it's counted in the salary every year of the contract.
So, if a player received a $10 million signing bonus in a five-year deal, $2 million of the bonus counts against the salary cap each year. That bonus, plus a player's base salary for the season usually forms the bulk of his salary cap figure.
When a player is released with years remaining on his contract, those bonus portions still count against the cap. Which is why Travis Henry and Keary Colbert are still on the books. Teams can take the entire hit over two seasons, so Henry was on last year and this one.
While Colbert will be on this year and next.
Hope that helps.
In terms of McDaniels and Xanders, people who have worked with them both speak highly of them. But until now they have never had this much decision-making power, so no one can really be certain if they're ready for it until they have the chance to succeed or fail.
That's the thing about experience it's easy to want it, but far more difficult to let somebody get it on your watch. But that's what Pat Bowlen has done.
McDaniels is extremely organized and the players I've talked to are excited about what the team could be able to do on offense. Defensively the questions remain about what the depth chart will even look like and what scheme they'll end up using when they see what kind of players they have to run it.
I will say they have been decisive when attacking the roster already and free agency doesn't open until the 27th. It was clear the Broncos roster hasn't been good enough to get the team into the postseason for three consecutive years and the new regime didn't waste any time in clearing out players it didn't think will fit what it wants to do.
There's something to be said for that and it kind of sets the tone for those who remain that people are watching.
Hiring his brother may be the only move that has raised some eybrows locally and around the league, but the position is an entry level position that is often filled by those who have the same credentials.
A guy shouldn't be penalized for being a relative, just like he shouldn't be hired over someone more qualified because he is a relative. It's happened a lot in the league and how it goes over depends on how the two handle themselves.
If they do the work, don't have two sets of rules on the job -- one for family, one for everybody else -- it usually comes off without a hitch. Because deep down most coaches have a relative they would like to coach for them.
And finally, because a few folks asked once again -- the Broncos draft picks:
(Only the positions in the first round are set right now. The Broncos draft 12th overall. Beyond that the official positions won't be locked in until March when all of the compensatory picks are awarded around the league.)
No. of picks Round
1 First (12th overall)
2 Fifth (one from Broncos, one from Seattle in Keary Colbert trade)
2 Seventh (one from Broncos, one from Atlanta in Domonique Foxworth trade)
Again, specific picks after the first round won't be set until late next month.
That's it and thanks.