The Denver Broncos are going to get huge cap relief from the Case Keenum trade, freeing them up for a frenzy of free agent activity.
In the days leading up to the start of the NFL’s legal tampering window (yeah right, tampering has been happening for a long time by now) teams are desperately trying to get bad contracts off the books and re-shape their rosters for 2019.
The Denver Broncos are doing so by making moves like the release of safety Darian Stewart, not picking up Brandon Marshall’s contract option, and now the trade of quarterback Case Keenum.
What seemed an impossibility a couple of months ago has now become the Broncos’ reality.
The Broncos were facing a cap hit of $21 million from Keenum in 2019. He had an $18 million base salary and a $3 million prorated signing bonus. That $18 million base salary is an ugly number and based on Keenum’s 2018 performance, it seemed like that would be an impossible number to move off the books.
John Elway and the Broncos found a taker in the Washington Redskins.
It has been a bizarre series of events leading to Keenum being traded, but the Broncos did it with virtually no leverage. How did it happen?
First of all, this trade doesn’t happen if not for Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury, one we all hope he makes a full recovery from.
Second, this trade doesn’t happen if Keenum plays well in 2018. If that were the case, the Broncos would have simply kept him on the roster.
Third, this trade doesn’t happen if Keenum doesn’t have the self-awareness to know he’s not worthy of an $18 million base salary in the meritocracy that is the NFL.
Instead of this being a difficult process for everyone, Keenum saw a chance to prove himself in Washington. The Redskins saw the ability to acquire a quarterback without throwing away their investment in Alex Smith a year ago. The Broncos saw a chance to offload a lot of money from their 2019 salary cap.
After re-working his contract a bit, the Broncos will have a dead money hit on Keenum’s deal of just $7 million this year, paying him a $3 million prorated bonus, a $500,000 restructure bonus, and $3.5 million of his base salary.
Had the Broncos cut Keenum outright, he would have counted $10 million against their 2019 cap and saved them $11 million. Had they been able to trade him without a restructure, he would have counted just $3 million against the cap.
The $7 million figure is a nice compromise, and Keenum is going to get the chance to start in Washington in 2019.
So what does this trade actually save the Broncos? We know Keenum is going to count $7 million on their dead cap pile this year, but with a previous cap hit of $21 million, the Broncos actually save $14 million with this move.
If you look at this in terms of what the Broncos are replacing Keenum with compared to Joe Flacco (who has a cap figure of $18.5 million) the Broncos are only adding $4.5 million to the cap they had previously committed to the quarterback position in 2019.
We’ll see if Flacco is worthy of a $4.5 million add-on to the QB budget over time, but the fact that the Broncos were able to offload 2/3 of Keenum’s contract is a huge win for the front office.
With all of the other moves that have been made, this now brings the Broncos’ 2019 salary cap figure to over $37 million.