Today, John Elway once again showed the football world why he is one of the best general managers in the NFL. He made a trade with the New York Giants for a promising, young kicker named Brandon McManus. The move merely cost the Denver Broncos a conditional seventh round draft choice. What’s even better is that the condition that must be met for the draft pick to actually be sent to the Giants is nearly unattainable. For the draft pick to switch hands and go to the Giants, McManus would have to continue to be the Broncos’ kicker even after Matt Prater, who was the best kicker in the league in 2013, returns from his four-game substance abuse suspension. The Broncos have made it clear that Prater’s job will be there when his suspension ends and have backed the All-Pro kicker wholeheartedly.
The Broncos have a tight salary cap situation for the 2014 season, so the thought of signing a proven veteran would simply be too costly. Were the Broncos to sign a vested (three or more accrued NFL seasons) veteran kicker, that kicker’s salary would be fully guaranteed for the 2014 season. Prater has a salary cap figure of $3.812 million in 2014, though he forfeits $705,000 due to his suspension. A vested veteran would be signed for a veteran minimum salary in the range of $730,000-$955,000. This would mean the Broncos would be committing more than $4.5 million of salary cap space to their kicker(s), a luxury they cannot afford in 2014.
One way around this would be to wait until Week 2 to sign a vested veteran kicker, but if McManus, or some other young kicker, proves to be capable of handling the job in the Sunday Night Football season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, then it would make little sense to replace him after one game.
If everything works out as planned, Elway likely landed Prater’s fill-in basically for free. The Giants will not receive the conditional draft pick, McManus’ four-week salary will be roughly $100,000, and he will be giving a young kicker with loads of potential his big break into the NFL.