DENVER — Jurrell Casey arrived in Denver as a five-time Pro Bowler designed to end the Broncos’ four-year playoff drought.
The math did not work. He played only three games, his season ended abruptly by a torn biceps tendon after 14 tackles and two quarterback hits.
A leader in the locker room and off the field, Casey’s age and contract conspired against him Thursday as the Broncos, as expected, moved on from the 31-year-old. Denver released Casey, who had two years remaining on his contract at $25 million, but none of it was guaranteed. As such, new general manager George Paton cut Casey.
It mirrors the decision with cornerback A.J. Bouye, who stumbled through a disappointing season because of injuries and suspension. Releasing Bouye and Casey freed up roughly $25 million in salary cap space, and began to crystallize Paton’s desire to trend younger as he remakes the roster in the draft and free agency.
Former general manager John Elway acquired Casey from the Titans as a potential run stuffer and inside pass rusher. He looked the part in camp, and helped the development of Dre’Mont Jones. However, Casey suffered the early-season injury, never realizing his potential in Denver.
As it stands, the Broncos own roughly $43 million in cap space as decisions await on the futures of eight-time Pro Bowler Von Miller and strong safety Kareem Jackson. Miller has a $7 million option on his $18 million 2021 salary that must be exercised by March 16. Jackson carries a $1.5 million contract option due on the same date. The Broncos are not desperate for cap space. They are a cash-to-cap team, leaving them with the ability to move to create space for players, if desired.
Cutting Casey and Bouye also can help provide some elasticity as the Broncos attempt to sign free agents Justin Simmons, who remains a franchise tag candidate, and defensive end Shelby Harris. However, it was not the motivating factor.
Paton has methodically grinded through his first six weeks, meeting with the coaches, support staff, and talking to players. He has drawn rave reviews for his tireless work ethic and inspiring collaboration. Difficult decisions remain, but the plan is starting to take shape as the Broncos attempt to post their first winning season since winning Super Bowl 50.