The Denver Broncos are hiring Sean Payton as the team’s next head coach. As exciting as this news is for the team, it’s not overly thrilling for fans who love the NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, the Broncos’ first selection won’t be until the 60s where they own picks 68 and 69.
As nice as it is to have those picks, not having selections in the first two rounds means the Broncos will have to supplement some other way. They can’t go an offseason without adding impact players, and although the team is typically pretty active in free agency, the acquisition of Sean Payton plus the absence of NFL Draft capital in rounds one and two means this Broncos team will be major players in 2023 NFL free agency.
Presumptively, of course, but it’s an assumption with merits.
Denver Broncos will be major players in 2023 NFL free agency
When we look at the Denver Broncos roster that Sean Payton inherited, it’s certainly not devoid of talent. The Broncos have an excellent stable of skill players (when healthy), they have one of the NFL’s best overall defenses which isn’t projected to lose many pieces (although there are a couple, of course), and the team is armed with $12 million in salary cap space.
As of right now, that $12 million figure is the 13th-most in the NFL, and the Broncos could almost double it with one move. Releasing Graham Glasgow would save the team $11 million and nearly double their current cap space situation.
Factor in the potential of other roster cuts, restructure possibilities, and more, and the Broncos are in really good shape to manipulate the salary cap as-is. Even with that under consideration, the team is cash rich with the new ownership group. The Broncos can now afford to write massive signing bonuses to these players to further manipulate the salary cap, whereas, in the past, they have needed to push numbers down the line to get year-one salary cap hits lower.
As we look ahead to NFL free agency in mid-March, what do the Broncos need the most? I think everyone would agree that the offensive line will be in focus, but you’re not always going to be able to find the highest quality starters in free agency there. Maybe, if you get lucky.
The Broncos might also have to look to the trade market again for some upgrades to the roster, which they can absolutely still do. Teams are always looking to dump player salaries for mid-late round draft picks, and the Broncos could still be part of that market even with fewer picks than they had yesterday.
Another note here — expect the Broncos to be heavily involved in some of the top cap casualties around the league. With draft picks in shorter supply, the Broncos might be looking to work the compensatory pick formula looking ahead to 2024 and beyond. I don’t think they’ll sacrifice quality free agents in this year’s class to do that, but it’s something to monitor anyway, and it could be a motivating factor for the team to push for some bargain acquisitions in trades.
One way or another, fans who have been fretting over how the team will upgrade the roster can rest a little easier, at least in my estimation. This ownership group didn’t sign off on the Russell Wilson extension (the biggest for a player in team history) as well as hiring Sean Payton (likely the biggest coaching contract annually in NFL history) just to get frugal in March.
Some pretty big myths were debunked when the Denver Broncos got a deal done to bring in Sean Payton as the team's next head coach.
Let the games begin.