Elway opened checkbook for special teams

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
6:00
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John Elway may have played the league's glamour position in his Hall of Fame career, but as a football executive Elway works the nuts and bolts of roster building.

Sure, he's placed plenty of value on the quarterback position -- Peyton Manning's $96 million deal is proof of that. But Elway also values defense -- his first draft pick in each of the last three drafts has been a defensive player (Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams) -- and he has opened the checkbook on special teams.

Just before the Denver Broncos' 2012 training camp opened the Broncos signed Matt Prater to a four-year, $13 million deal. And Sunday, the Broncos signed punter Britton Colquitt to a three-year extension worth $11.7 million.

In 2012, Colquitt was third in the NFL with a 42.1 yard net average and had the second lowest return average at 6.2 yards. Colquitt is also the Broncos' all-time leader in gross average (46.2) and net (40.2) over the course of his career.

The $3.9 million per year average over the life of the deal makes Colquitt the highest paid punter in the league. With a total windfall of $4.275 million this year ($3 million signing bonus to go with a $1.275 million base salary) Colquitt also leads the league's punters in total pay in 2013 as well.

The Buccaneer's Michael Koenen ($3.25 million base salary this year), the Chargers Mike Scifres ($3 million base) and Britton's brother Dustin ($4 million signing bonus to go with $950,000 base salary) are the only punters in the league to come in at or above the $3 million mark this season.

That's a lot of salary cap coin for the kicking game. Toss in the three-year, $5.5 million deal the Broncos signed special teams ace/safety David Bruton to earlier this year and Elway has made it clear the third phase of the game is a priority.

Some would consider that special teams spending a luxury, but it's no-frills foundation thinking in team building for Elway where field position is an important component.

With Ryan Clady's five-year, $52.5 million deal that was signed just before trianing camp opened, the Broncos sit at just more than $121.6 million against the cap on their top 51 salary cap figures (only the top 51 count until final cuts when all 53 players must fit under the cap). The Broncos do have some rollover space added on -- about $11.5 million -- so they do have some wiggle room, but they would need to make some adjustments for another major deal.

Jeff Legwold

ESPN Denver Broncos reporter

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