A mere three games into his tenure with the Denver Broncos, Jurrell Casey’s career in orange and blue is over. His release frees up nearly $12 million in cap space. This provides Denver with enough cap space to be one of the five most financially flexible teams in the league as the team prepares for the start of the new league year. Invariably, Broncos Country will ponder what kind of off-season moves might follow a Casey release. Beyond financially, it might not seem like the move affects all that much. That said, in actuality? Casey’s release leaves a widespread ripple in its wake.
The Jurrell Casey Release and Its Ripple Effect on the Denver Broncos
After nine years playing for the Tennessee Titans, the team traded him to the Broncos for a paltry seventh-round draft pick. Casey characterized the value Tennessee accepted in exchange for him as disrespectful. He felt it was as if he were thrown away “like a piece of trash,” as he said on the Double Coverage with the McCourty Twins podcast. He expressed justified frustration over having given such considerable effort despite “the way it was going when [he was] there, 2-14, 3-13.”
At the time, the move appeared a strong forward step for the Denver defense as led by head coach Vic Fangio. Uniting Casey’s average of six sacks a season for the previous five in a row with defenders Shelby Harris, Bradley Chubb, and Von Miller yielded great expectations. Unfortunately, among countless other major injuries on the roster, a torn biceps derailed Casey’s run with the orange and blue.
Jurrell Casey and the 2020 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos presented a fresh start for the man riding five consecutive Pro Bowl selections. In Fangio’s system, Casey would play primarily from the 3-tech on the defensive line. This would allow the athletic defender to utilize his pass-rushing skills in multiple gaps with greater ease. As a defensive end in Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, Casey earned 14 tackles, a tackle for loss, and two hits on quarterbacks in three games before his season came to an inauspicious end.
This was a disappointing and unceremonious conclusion to his season—and eventually his Denver career. It prevented Fangio from seeing how the defender might have fit, or even thrived in his scheme. Unsurprisingly, his scheme requires athleticism and production from its defensive ends. As it had with Fangio, the injury prevented executives from seeing the return expected for a contract the value of Casey’s.
By the time the 2020 campaign was over, Casey was 31 years old. For the first time in his career, he had failed to play in at least 14 games. This, combined with the prospect of Casey turning 32 during the 2021 season, proved too daunting to the Broncos. Considering the extent of his injury and the 2021 salary he would have commanded, this is not surprising. Perhaps, however, the financial boon the team receives for releasing or trading Casey was more critical to the decision to move on.
Salary Cap Ramifications
Following the release of A.J. Bouye, it seems this move establishes a pattern for new general manager George Paton. He has now shed two bloated contracts, incurring almost no drawbacks whatsoever. Specifically, Casey’s contract carried no guaranteed money. The contract, therefore, cost the team no dead money against the cap.
Unfortunately, Over the Cap and Spotrac offer conflicting figures as it pertains to Denver’s salary cap situation. As a result of the wide range of numbers circulating at the moment, any figures proclaimed at the moment are purely speculative. Over the Cap lists Denver as having the fifth most salary cap space in the league: $42,350,603. Spotrac, however, has Denver at fourth most league-wide, with $47,708,129.
Either way, the Jurrell Casey release’s $11,874,750 donation to salary cap flexibility. With players like Justin Simmons, Phillip Lindsay, and Shelby Harris needing extensions, this could not have come at a better time. The team will also need to extend their young core of weapons imminently. With salary cap concerns driving the majority of rumors surrounding Von Miller’s status with the team in 2021, this donation could also potentially help keep Miller in orange and blue.
Additional Ramifications of the Jurrell Casey Release
Casey was a major veteran presence on the defensive line in Tennessee. All indications after the trade suggest he continued providing his influence, this time to the Broncos locker room. The abrupt absence of a veteran mind of Casey’s caliber cannot be understated and will have lasting effects on the defensive line in 2021, likely beyond. Without Casey, the defensive line will need to look to recently re-signed Mike Purcell and—hopefully—Shelby Harris, should he return.
The Jurrell Casey release also calls into question the depth along the defensive line. Harris and DeMarcus Walker are slated to become free agents. Second-year lineman McTelvin Agim is likely not ready for the full responsibility of starting, so Broncos Country must hope the money freed up by releasing Casey can help re-sign Harris.
This off-season move leaves behind the talented Dre’Mont Jones to start beside Purcell. In other words, the Jurrell Casey release shifts all of the pressure for the position to Jones’s shoulders. This means the third-year defender will need to take a big next step with his play. A breakout season from Jones and some free agent and draft acquisitions in the trenches would do well to assuage several present concerns.
The Last Word
The Jurrell Casey release shifted the defensive line nearly to the top of the list of 2021 off-season positions of need. With the salary cap flexibility created by the move, the team can extend a number of its important players. They can do so without compromising on carrying a fair amount of financial options into free agency. That kind of flexibility is vital to a team as young as the Broncos.
This inherently creates a wide range of opportunities for what has the potential to be Fangio’s final season with Denver. In addition to the financial benefits resultant of this off-season maneuver, the personnel changes set the stage for young players to earn their place as a contributor, or even as a starter.
All in all, the Jurrell Casey release bodes well for new general manager George Paton’s first off-season in more ways than one.
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