The Denver Broncos disappointed in the 2020 NFL season, though a big reason for the team’s lack of success can be attributed to its roster being absolutely ravaged by injuries on both sides of the football. However, there is nothing to suggest that the Broncos will be a much improved team in 2021-22 as Denver appears to be nothing more than a middling AFC franchise as presently constructed.
If the Broncos are going to compete in both the AFC and AFC West moving forward, this franchise is going to have to improve through the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, free agency and potentially via the trade market. With that in mind, the Broncos front office might need to get crafty in order to pave the way for some new faces in Denver, which could lead to some serious changes throughout the roster.
One player that could ultimately become a surprising roster cut for the Broncos is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Casey was originally traded from Tennessee to Denver last offseason after initially spending his entire NFL playing career as a member of the Titans. Even though Casey is a five-time Pro Bowl selection while previously serving as the heart and soul of the Titans defense — and locker room for that matter — the Broncos were able to poach the veteran defender for merely a future seventh-round NFL Draft pick.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, though, Casey appeared in just three games for the AFC West franchise last season as he almost immediately suffered a torn biceps muscle. During that span, Casey tallied 14 total tackles and three pass defended with no sacks, fumble recoveries or forced fumbles. One of several key players for the Broncos to miss extensive time due to injury a season ago, it remains to be seen as to whether the 31-year-old Casey can revert back to his former self moving forward. This is the risk the Broncos need to be willing to take in order to retain his services into 2021-22 as Casey won’t come cheap over the course of the next two seasons.
Even though the Broncos were able to secure his services in exchange for only a late round NFL Draft pick, Casey arrived in Denver with three years remaining on his current contract — which has since been knocked down to two. If the Broncos were to cut ties with Casey before the 2021-22 campaign, the team would save $11,874,750 while the team would save $13,850,000 if it were to move on from the Titans legend prior to the 2022-23 season. It is also worth noting that there is no dead cap hit attached to Casey for either season regardless of when he is cut whether it be before or after June 1st.
The rationale is pretty simple, though the decision certainly won’t be. Now over 30 years old and fresh off of a major injury that cost him the majority of his first go-round in Denver, can Casey continue to serve as a dominant player like he did for years in Tennessee? If the Broncos don’t believe that this is possible, cutting bait sooner rather than later could be in the cards for Denver.
Prior to suffering his torn biceps muscle, Casey was a pretty durable player as a member of the Tennessee Titans. The former third-round NFL Draft pick in 2011 notably appeared in at least 14 regular-season games every year with the Titans while appearing in all 16 regular season games five times along the way. Producing 51 sacks and 507 total tackles across 142 career regular-season games, Casey impressively tallied 10.5 sacks in 2013-14 and at least five sacks in every season since then — outside of last year, of course.
In addition to the logistics surrounding this potential roster move, Casey’s future in Denver could be predicated on the players alongside him on the Broncos’ defensive line. Because the Broncos are uber talented along the defensive front, it could be a blessing and a curse for Casey as his presence may be expendable at the end of the day. With DeShawn Williams, Bradley Chubb and the infamous Von Miller all in the mix for the Broncos up front, perhaps a cheaper option with similar impact like a 2021 NFL Draft pick or a player on a team-friendly one-year free agent contract can fill the void that may be left by Casey.
Because the Broncos barely gave up anything in order to originally acquire Casey, it shouldn’t be too difficult for the team to part ways with him considering his salary across the next two seasons. On the other hand, though, paying his salary may very well be worth it if Casey can return to form in 2021-22.