The Denver Broncos acquired kicker Brandon McManus from the New York Giants for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. However, it is highly unlikely that the Broncos actually send said pick to the Giants.
The condition that must be met for the trade to actually happen is McManus has to continue to be the Broncos’ kicker after Matt Prater returns from his four-game suspension. The fact that the Broncos have publicly backed Prater and have continually reiterated that his job is waiting for him when he returns makes the condition practically unattainable. The Broncos basically got McManus for free.
While McManus does have two preseasons worth of NFL experience where he has performed at a very high level, he has still never kicked in a regular season game. He lost a tight battle to veteran Josh Brown for the place kicker job with the Giants, but had performed well enough that several teams around the league were prepared to put in waiver claims for him after the Giants released him. He has proven that he has NFL-caliber leg strength and has received high praise from the players and coaches he has worked with around the league. Still, if he falters in the Broncos’ final preseason game, they have no financial or trade obligation to keep him.
With their current salary cap situation, the Broncos probably cannot afford to bring in a vested veteran for Week 1. If they were to do as such, that veteran’s salary would be fully guaranteed for the entire 2014 season. The Broncos simply cannot afford to pay Prater’s hefty salary when he returns and pay his replacement to not play for the rest of the season. That reduces the Broncos’ options down to non-vested veterans or rookies for their regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos have already waived undrafted rookie Mitch Ewald, so the job appears to belong to McManus for now. With that being said, Denver’s personnel department will surely be monitoring other young kickers around the league as final cut down day looms.
Kicking battles to keep an eye on include the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. All have two young kickers competing for their job. Other kickers to pay attention to include John Potter of the Miami Dolphins, Quinn Sharp of the Cincinnati Bengals, Derek Dimke of the New Orleans Saints and Cairo Santos of the Kansas City Chiefs. All fit the profile of what the Broncos are looking for and are likely going to be available after final cuts are made.