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Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Survey makes sense of Broncos' dollars

By Jeff Legwold

When ESPN The Magazine and Sportingintelligence went to work to see who is showing whom the money in professional sports around the globe, the Denver Broncos did not check in as one of the biggest spenders on the big blue marble.

Not that owner Pat Bowlen would agree, having used up most of the cash on hand in recent weeks with the Broncos' aggressive spending binge in free agency. But in 2013 The Magazine/Sportingintelligence found the Broncos were 125th among professional sports franchises around the world in average spending per player ($2,213,884).

The Broncos were the fourth-highest ranked NFL team in per-player spending, but still two spots behind their Denver sports brethren, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche ($2.225 million average per player).

The figures are salaries only, and do not include endorsements or appearance fees. The figures used for the Broncos and other NFL teams show that signing bonuses and roster bonuses were used in the totals;  players who signed new deals before the 2013 season ranked far higher than if just their base salary had been used.

But perhaps the item that will come as a bit of a surprise to folks in the Rocky Mountain region is the Broncos sit a smooth 63 spots behind their other neighbors downtown, Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies. The Rockies, whose fans routinely lament that the team's ownership is not committed to winning, were 62nd in the global survey, having spent an average of $3.688 million per player in 2013.

Overall it was Manchester City of the English Premier League that led the way in spending at an average of $8,109,912 per player in '13, just ahead of the Yankees ($8,031,948) and the Dodgers ($7,778,336). The first NFL team didn't check in until the Minnesota Vikings at No. 115 ($2,315,053 per player).

The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were at No. 116 at $2,303,317 per player and the Chicago Bears were at No. 121 ($2,235,822).

Because of the number of NFL players on an active roster in a season, NFL team's total wage bill ranked much higher than its per player ranking. For example the Broncos' total wage bill in 2013 -- $117,335,842 in base salaries -- was 26th overall, behind only the Seahawks, Bears and Vikings among NFL teams.

For Broncos individual players, quarterback Peyton Manning and his $25 million in 2013 led the way. It was by far the largest total on the team -- left tackle Ryan Clady was next at $15 million after signing a five-year contract extension just before the 2013 season. Manning's $25 million salary, in addition to bonuses, placed him, the survey said, tied for 16th in the world among individual athletes. That total did not include Manning's extensive endorsement income with major deals with companies like Gatorade, Buick and Papa John's. Broncos officials, however, put Manning's compensation at $20 million for 2013, a total that included a $5 million advance on future salary.

The survey shows the team spent an average of $2,213,884 per player, but the Broncos had 17 players -- or 32.1 percent of the roster -- receive at least $2 million in cash payouts in 2013. Just three -- Manning, Clady and Champ Bailey -- received at least $10 million. In the 2014 season only Manning, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib are scheduled to receive cash payouts of at least $10 million by season's end, including base salary, signing and other bonuses.