ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Without ever really getting to know Jurrell Casey, the Broncos have said goodbye.
The veteran defensive lineman was released Thursday, a move that spares the Denver Broncos from the final two years and $25.7 million of Casey’s contract.
When the Broncos acquired Casey a year ago from Tennessee in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick, they thought they were getting one of the premier interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Casey had come off five consecutive Pro Bowls with the Titans and had recorded 45.5 sacks in his previous seven seasons – a 6.5 per year average that is considered remarkable production for a defensive tackle.
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Injury prevented the Broncos from getting that kind of player.
Drawing an $11.44 million salary in 2020, Casey had 0 sacks through the Broncos’ first three games last season, then learned after the team’s game 3 loss to Tampa Bay he had suffered a torn biceps that required season-ending surgery. Casey, who turns 32 in December, was recently deemed sufficiently healed from his injury.
New Broncos general manager George Paton has now released two 30-something defensive starters in the past two weeks that cleared a combined $23.56 million off the 2021 books. Earlier this month, the Broncos released cornerback A.J. Bouye, who turns 30 in August and had $11.69 million due in what would have been the final year of his contract in 2021. Casey was due to make $11.875 million this year and $13.85 million in 2022, with none of that money guaranteed.
In a year of the pandemic, when the media was prevented from entering the locker room and all press conferences were conducted via Zoom -- and even the players were prevented from in-person meetings for much of the season -- Bouye and Casey were one-and-done without having a chance to get to know the city of Denver or the Broncos’ organization, for that matter.
The Broncos had already ranked 7th in 2021 salary cap space with $36.5 million before cutting Casey.
In turn, cornerback and defensive line are priority positions of need for Paton this offseason. Besides losing Bouye, the Broncos lost their other top two cornerbacks, veteran Bryce Callahan and rookie Essang Bassey, to season-ending injuries last year. And besides losing Casey, the Broncos lost nose tackle Mike Purcell to season-ending injury last year and defensive end Shelby Harris is about to become a free agent.
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