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Sutton, Patrick convert contracts to save Broncos $12.5M in cap space

It all pays the same, but pushing money from one category to another helped the Broncos sign No. 2 QB Josh Johnson and starting linebacker Alex Singleton.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton can’t shake each other.

Not that the Broncos’ top two receivers want to.

Nov. 19, the Broncos and Patrick agreed on a three-year, $30 million contract extension. Three days later, the Broncos and Sutton agreed on a four-day, $60 million extension.

On Friday, Patrick converted $6.9 million of his roster bonus to signing bonus. It pays the same, in terms of biweekly paychecks, but the creative math saved the Broncos $4.6 million in cap space. A day later, Sutton converted $10.5 million of his roster bonus into signing bonus, a pencil-pushing maneuver that saved the Broncos $7.875 million in cap space.

The Broncos had actually arranged those initial contract extensions for Patrick and Sutton so they could convert roster into signing bonuses in the event the team acquired a veteran quarterback of note for the 2022 season. The team did indeed acquire a QB of note in Russell Wilson, thus the $12.5 million in combined cap space from Patrick and Sutton.

Don’t read into the added cap space leading to a major signing. Truth is, when budgeting in their nine draft picks – even with the No. 9 and 40 overall picks they traded away for Wilson – their 15-man practice squad and injured reserve money, the Broncos’ cap space was getting tight. We’re getting less than $10 million.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton makes a catch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Still, the Patrick and Sutton cap-friendly conversions helped the Broncos sign new starting inside linebacker Alex Singleton and backup quarterback Josh Johnson to one-year deals worth between $1.1 million to $1.3 million. The Broncos hope to add safety J.R. Reed as part of his visit Monday.

Sutton led all Broncos with 776 yards receiving off 58 catches while Patrick was next with 734 yards on 53 catches. Both figure to do better with Wilson as their quarterback in 2022 and beyond.

If the Broncos need another cap-friendly conversion or two to help accommodate a new contract for Wilson -- whose $24 million payout in 2022 ranks 11th among NFL quarterbacks -- the most logical candidates would be left tackle Garett Bolles or safety Justin Simmons. Bolles is drawing a $17 million in straight salary this year, while Simmons is making $15.1 million in salary.

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