The Denver Broncos only have a few notable pending free agents this spring, but are set to be well over the salary cap by just about $20 million when the next season rolls around. The team will need to make a number of moves to improve their cap situation heading into 2024, but they also must make sure to retain a few key and important players behind this team's resurgence of late.
Working around being over the cap is nothing new to Sean Payton, considering it is a staple of how the New Orleans Saints operate. The veteran head coach will get his first crack at it with the Broncos this spring. Here are three contractual moves the Broncos must make following the 2023 season.
1) Extensions: C Lloyd Cushenberry, K Will Lutz
The Broncos have a few pending free agent starters after 2023: ILB Josey Jewell, TE Adam Trautman, K Will Lutz, and C Lloyd Cushenberry. Jewell and Trautman are both at positions where the Broncos have younger depth, and could be able to hit the open market. It is a different story for Lutz and Cushenberry.
Lutz came into Denver after the Broncos cut Brandon McManus and Brett Maher, and reunited with Sean Payton. After a rocky start, the 7th year veteran has settled in and become exactly what the Broncos needed. Lutz has hit on 91.7 percent of his field goals, which would be the second best mark of his career. His 88.2 percent on PATs is a career low, but considering the Broncos are not a touchdown machine and go for two at a decent clip, he has only attempted 17 PAT kicks on the year, missing 15. Overall, Lutz has been a strong addition for the Broncos and should be able to stay in Denver for the foreseeable future.
Cushenberry, on the other hand, has been the best center the Broncos have had since the days of Matt Paradis up the middle. Cushenberry has been rock solid for the Broncos this year, and has been one of the better and more consistent centers in the game.
The former LSU product is in his 4th year, and his first three were a bit up-and-down. Cushenberry did not play much in 2022 and was even IR'd to end the year. He was handed the starting job again by Sean Payton, showing a strong vote of confidence in the center. Cushenberry has four penalties to his name this year, three in the Broncos' game against the Vikings, but has not allowed any sacks, according to PFF.
So long as the Broncos can afford to keep Cushenberry, they should. He has been an anchor for their offensive revival this year and has been a huge reason the Broncos have run the ball effectively this year.