Remaining free agents Sean Payton of the Broncos could target before camp

In explaining the Broncos’ decision to release veteran kicker Brandon McManus on Thursday, coach Sean Payton acknowledged that money played a role.

It sometimes boils down to “must-haves,” he said, and Denver didn’t think McManus fit that category when compared to the $3.75 million he could free up against his 2023 cap in launching it with a post-June 1 designation.

Denver will have to sign a kicker, of course, which will eat into the available money to some degree, but that’s not the only position Payton has his eyes on.

“The transactions continue here until training camp,” he said. “There’s maybe one in two players we’re still looking to sign. We took a lot of that into account and then we made that decision.

NFL Players Association data for the Broncos was not fully up to date Thursday night, listing $10.943 million in space but 93 players under contract. Let’s be real and say Denver is probably sitting somewhere around $10 million in wiggle room. It’s always nice to defer some of that to next year (the Broncos did it with about $10.6 million last year), but the team can be active in seeking help. of veterans either in the remaining free agent market or via trade in the next few months.

The Broncos added depth on both lines already this week by bringing back offensive tackle Cam Fleming and signing defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster.

Here’s a look at five veteran free agents who could potentially help the Broncos. You will notice a positional theme.

Edge Justin Houston: Broncos fans will remember Houston well from its dominant days in Kansas City. He’s spent the past two seasons in Baltimore and, at 34, can still pack a passer punch. He recorded 9.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits in 2022 while playing 44% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps. Is he a 60 snaps a game guy these days? No. But put him out there for 20 a game in pass-rush situations and watch the opposing offensive lines still pay attention to him.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray #1 avoids a Los Angeles Rams scramble past linebacker Leonard Floyd #54 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 3, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Edge Leonard Floyd: Chicago’s first-round pick in 2016, Floyd had nine sacks for the Rams in 2022 but was a victim of the cap given his big salary and lack of guaranteed money remaining. He has started 107 games in his career and has 47 career sacks. His three best sacks have come in the last three years, starting with 10.5 in 2020, 9.5 in 2021 and nine last year.

Floyd wouldn’t necessarily have to be an all-around player for Denver, but he would provide pass juice to a group that has real questions. Floyd has 187 tackles (28 for loss) in three years with the Rams, who have led a similar defense under Raheem Morris to what Vance Joseph will have in Denver. He’ll turn 31 two days before Denver’s season opener, but his market should start to warm up as camp approaches.

Yannick Ngakoue (91) of Indianapolis...
Yannick Ngakoue (91) of the Indianapolis Colts sacks Russell Wilson (3) of the Denver Broncos during the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on Thursday, October 6, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post )

Edge Yannick Ngakoue: Like Floyd, Ngakoue is a veteran passer who could bring stability to an injury-plagued group. Ngakoue has started more than 15 games in six of his first seven professional seasons. Broncos point man Randy Gregory has only played more than 12 games once in his career. Ngakoue is younger than Floyd at 28 and posted 10 sacks in 2021 for Las Vegas and 9.5 last year at Indianapolis.

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