INDIANAPOLIS -- John Elway is set to appear Thursday afternoon in the interview room at the NFL combine, where the Denver Broncos' executive vice president/GM is certain to address quarterback Peyton Manning's status as well as the prospects for a long-term deal for linebacker Von Miller.
But there is also the matter of some rather hefty salary-cap figures for at least two other veteran players. DeMarcus Ware, who will turn 34 on July 31, currently carries the third-highest salary-cap charge among Broncos players for the upcoming season at $11.67 million. It is the final part of the three-year, $30 million deal Ware signed in 2014.
And left tackle Ryan Clady, who spent the majority of the 2013 season (foot) and all of the 2015 season (knee) on injured reserve, is set to carry a $10.1 million cap charge for the upcoming season. Asked about Ware Wednesday, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak talked about Ware’s trip with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to Africa as well as the upcoming conversations about contracts.
“DeMarcus and [Thomas] went to Africa … they went on a good vacation,’’ Kubiak said at the scouting combine. “I haven’t talked to him. Obviously I think the world of him and what he did for our football team. John will visit with all those players.’’
The Broncos are in fairly good shape at the moment, about $11 million to $12 million under a projected $155 million to $156 million salary cap. They also have very little “dead’’ money -- salary-cap charges for players no longer on the roster -- at $905,302.
But with a long list of their own free agents they'd like to re-sign -- including Miller, defensive end Malik Jackson, quarterback Brock Osweiler and linebacker Danny Trevathan -- any and all cap space the team can create would help the Broncos’ cause. Which is why contracts like Ware’s and Clady’s will at least be a talking point before free agency opens on March 9.
Clady, who is the longest-tenured Broncos player, has said publicly he would be willing to renegotiate his deal in order to stay with the team.
The Broncos would gain $19 million of cap space if Manning elects to retire; Kubiak said Wednesday both he and Elway have spoken to Manning in recent days. But like last season, when the Broncos negotiated the $4 million pay cut for Manning to gain a little more cap space for their offseason, the Broncos will explore any and all options to finish any deals they can.
They have had discussions with Osweiler’s and Jackson’s representatives in particular, with Miller expected to get the franchise player designation in the coming days as the two sides try to work out a long-term deal. All of the Broncos' most popular free agents will formally know what the market is around the league for their services in the two-day negotiating period before free agency opens, but the Broncos have particularly tried to get a deal with Osweiler before free agency opens.
Miller said repeatedly he expected negotiations to be “peaceful’’ and said last week he expected a long-term deal to get done.
“If I was with any other organization, if I was with any other team, maybe I’d be worried about everything, but I’ve got John Elway. He’s played, he’s had experience with this whole process,’’ Miller said. “I feel comfortable. Me and John’s relationship is great. He was there when I was going through stuff and he never wavered. I feel like we won’t waver now either. It will be a great experience, and it will be peaceful -- there’s no reason for it not to be.’’
Pending Miller’s franchise tag, Manning, Thomas, Ware and Clady are the only players currently under contract for the ’16 season who are slated to count at least $10 million against the cap.