ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In a move that was most surprising because of its timing, the Denver Broncos released kicker Brandon McManus prior to their start of OTAs on Tuesday morning.
McManus had been with the Broncos since he was acquired via trade from the New York Giants prior to the 2014 season, making him the longest-serving Denver player until his release. Justin Simmons, a safety drafted in 2016, is now the senior member of the Broncos' locker room
McManus, who will turn 32 as training camp is set to begin in late-July, was released in part because of salary reasons. He was set to make $3.75 million this year, which would have been tied for 8th among NFL kickers. But because none of his money was guaranteed, McManus was vulnerable to a a release as all NFL veterans with non-guaranteed salaries are.
However, the timing is peculiar. Many, if not most money-saving moves are made prior to the start of free agency in mid-March — as the Broncos did while releasing Graham Glasgow, Ronald Darby and Chase Edmonds.
But situations change. A source said the Broncos did not offer McManus a pay cut prior to his release. Are the Broncos clearing salary cap room as a step towards adding a veteran player with a significant salary?
The Broncos will conduct tryouts Wednesday with multiple kickers with Brett Maher among them. Maher kicked for Sean Payton in New Orleans in 2021 and the Cowboys last season. Maher made 16 of 18 field goals for Payton but missed two extra points that year. With the Cowboys last season, Maher was an incredible 9 of 11 on field goals from 50 yards-plus but he got the extra point yips in the postseason, missing five of six over two games.
When McManus was acquired prior to the 2014 regular season, it was supposed to be a temporary gig as a fill-in until Broncos' top kicker Matt Prater served a four-game suspension. But McManus kicked well enough in his four-game audition to earn a permanent job while Prater was released.
Prater caught on with the Lions and Arizona Cardinals, where he is still kicking. McManus struggled the rest of his rookie season in Denver, as he was replaced by Connor Barth on field goal and extra point attempts. But McManus bounced back to reclaim full kicking duties in 2015 and helped lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl 50 title.
McManus was 10 of 10 in field goals and 3 of 3 in 33-yard extra points during the Broncos' three-game postseason run. He made 3 field goals during the Broncos' 24-10 win against Carolina in Super Bowl 50, drawing a humorous shoutout later from President Obama during the team's White House celebration.
From there McManus established himself by and large as one of the league's top 10 kickers until last year, when he finished 30th in the league with a 77.8 field goal percentage.
Known particularly for having one of the league's strongest legs, McManus' 40 field goals from 50-plus yards is No. 1 in Broncos' annals. His 223 field goals made overall are second only to Jason Elam's 395.
McManus is also the Broncos' No. 2 all-time scorer with 946 points. Elam had 1,786 points.
It's unclear whether McManus' leadership role with the team had an impact on his release. New head coach Sean Payton is trying to establish a new culture for a team that has not made the playoffs since their Super Bowl 50 victory and are currently in the throes of a six-season skid of losing records.
McManus was the Broncos' players union representative through the labor negotiation of 2020 that coincided with the start of the Coronavirus breakout. In recent years, McManus had stayed away from the team's voluntary offseason workouts, although he did attend the OTAs and mandatory minicamp. He was in Tuesday for the start of OTAs when he got his walking papers.
His release means Payton has completely cleaned house from the Broncos' special teams unit.
For 2023, the Broncos have a new special teams coaching staff (Mike Westhoff, Ben Kotwica, Chris Banjo), new punter/holder (Riley Dixon), new full-time long snapper (Mitch Fraboni) and now will have a new kicker.
Besided Maher, experienced kickers who are currently free agents: Mason Crosby, Robbie Gould, Ryan Succop, Elliott Fry and Randy Bullock.
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