The Denver Broncos closed out their preseason with a 23-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings and now begin the process of whittling the roster down to 53 players. There are, of course, some undrafted rookies who have made a good impression, plus some younger players who have been noticed given the competition for roster spots.
And then there are the so-called “dressed veterans,” who are in a different position than younger players in terms of what it means for their salaries.
Under the veterans’ rule, any player with at least four seasons of accumulation but no guaranteed money in his base salary receives that fully guaranteed salary if he is on the 53-man roster for the first week of the season opener.
For some veterans that were on the bubble, they had guaranteed money already, so the Broncos wouldn’t save money by cutting them. For others, however, the Broncos may be prepared to cut them to avoid guaranteeing their base salaries.
However, such players can be reinstated after the first week’s game, at which point they will be paid on a weekly basis, then cut later if the Broncos determine that another player will better serve the team.
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I want to talk about these players – which means you won’t see players like McTelvin Agim (who is still on his draft contract) or Malik Reed (who doesn’t have at least four seasons). . Instead, we’ll be looking at veterans on the bubble whose base salaries will become guaranteed, if they aren’t already.
Let’s look at vested veterans who have been on the roster bubble, who have likely secured their roster spot, and who could be cut, but in some cases, could return after Week 1.
Josh Johnson | QB
Neither Johnson nor Brett Rypien have distinguished themselves as the best option to be the backup quarterback. However, Rypien isn’t a veteran, meaning his salary won’t be fully guaranteed if he’s on the Week 1 roster.
However, Johnson’s salary would be. He already received a $100,000 signing bonus, but the Broncos could save more than $1 million in cash by cutting him.
The Broncos may decide it’s best to go with Rypien as a backup, but keep an eye on other options, whether that’s bringing Johnson back at some point, signing another veteran who becomes available, or even adding a QB new from another team’s practice squad.
prediction: He is cut.
Mike Boone | RB
The Broncos could save $1.25 million in cash by cutting Boone and going with a younger, less expensive running back. However, Boone’s overall preseason play, especially against the Vikings, will likely solidify his spot.
Boone also brings more value on special teams than other players on the roster. This gives him an edge over the other defenders on the roster.
prediction: He stays.
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Eric Tomlinson & Eric Saubert | THE
Tomlinson was signed this offseason to be the primary blocking tight end. However, the Broncos then brought back Saubert, who has had his moments in the preseason.
But Saubert hasn’t put together enough to demonstrate that he should be kept ahead of Tomlinson, who has a $1 million fully guaranteed salary.
It doesn’t make sense to cut Tomlinson, given his guaranteed money, and there’s unlikely to be interest on the trade market. Thus, Saubert is likely to be the odd man out.
prediction: Tomlinson stays, Saubert is cut.
Cameron Fleming | OT
After Billy Turner and Tom Compton opened training camp on the physically disabled list, the Broncos brought back Fleming for veteran depth.
Turner is working out again, but Compton went on the PUP list for the regular season and will miss at least the first four games. That seems to open the door for Fleming to make the final roster.
However, the Broncos may not want to fully guarantee Fleming’s $1.1 million base salary. That could mean the Broncos cut him and keep a younger player for Week 1, then bring Fleming back. That gives the Broncos flexibility to move on from Fleming if or when Compton is cleared to play.
prediction: He was cut but returned after the first week.
Graham Glasgow | AND
Some may have wondered if Glasgow could be on the trading block, or even cut, and the Broncos would go with younger players for interior offensive line depth.
But this has changed for several reasons. One is that Netanue Muti underwent surgery and while he won’t miss much time, he is likely to return slowly. Second, Glasgow is arguably the best depth option among guards, plus his experience at center will help.
It makes no sense for the Broncos to move Glasgow at this point. Younger players who provide depth at guard and center are the best options for the practice squad. And with Glasgow guaranteed $3.1 million, there’s no saving money by cutting him.
prediction: He stays.
Mike Purcell | DL
Many people — myself included — believed Purcell could be cut after training camp, given that he’s due $3 million in base salary and is likely lower on the depth chart.
However, Purcell has done a good job during training camp, to the point where the coaching staff didn’t play him at all during the preseason. If he was on the bubble, you’d think he’d see action in at least one preseason game.
All signs point to Purcell making the final roster.
prediction: He stays.
Sam Martin | P
The Broncos have had a competition between Martin and newcomer Corliss Waitman for the kicking job. That was a signal that the Broncos might want to move on from Martin.
Still, it’s worth asking if Waitman has done enough to convince the coaching staff to go with him over Martin. While Martin is not a great player, he can be effective.
This will likely come down to how confident the Broncos are in Waitman.
prediction: A true 50-50 split.
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