KUSA - A little fatter in their savings account, thinner in experience, the Denver Broncos set their 53-man, season-opening roster Saturday.
The most notable transactions were the releases of veterans Mark Sanchez and Ronnie Hillman, and the signing of quarterback Austin Davis, who played briefly for the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns.
The Broncos had tried to trade both Sanchez and Hillman in recent days. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys both showed strong interest in Sanchez but preferred to wait until the quarterback was released. Sanchez wound up quickly signing a one-year deal with the Cowboys, the team announced.
By releasing Sanchez, the Broncos did not have to give the Philadelphia Eagles a seventh-round draft pick, which was a condition in their trade back in March. The Broncos also saved $3.5 million of Sanchez’ $4.5 million salary. There is also offset language so that the remaining $1 million the Broncos would owe on Sanchez’s deal would be erased should the Cowboys sign him for at least $1 million (the minimum salary for a player with seven years’ experience is $885,000).
Releasing Hillman also saves the Broncos at least $1.4 million of the $2 million he was owed. And the team can recover another $400,000 through offset language.
Cutting Sanchez and Hillman, along with the Broncos’ decision to release veteran punter Britton Colquitt, who was scheduled to make $3.25 million, and keep rookie Riley Dixon, who will make $530,008, the Broncos just saved up to $9.02 million.
Was money a factor in those three moves?
"There's always combinations,'' said Broncos general manager John Elway. "You have to look at it. That's all part of it. It's part of what we're doing, it's about the money at times, but if it hurts our team because of money, it's not an issue. We've never made a decision on money that hurts our football team.''
The Broncos needed to move 22 players – 21 cuts and placing safety Shiloh Keo on the suspended list – by 2 p.m. Saturday. The team actually moved 23 players, saving one spot for their new quarterback. One player that wasn't cut was defensive lineman Kyle Peko, an undrafted rookie from Oregon State.
Peko was actually called in to a Broncos upstairs office Friday and told he would be waived. But the team reconsidered overnight and before they turned their moves into the league office at 2 p.m. Saturday, Peko wasn't on it.
Elway explained because the team opened three days early this year on Thursday night, they moved up their cuts a day so head coach Gary Kubiak could talk to each player who was getting cut.
"We had one we changed our mind on in the 24-hour period we had to talk to him," Elway said. "He was very happy.''
The 23 Bronco players moved off the roster Saturday:
Hillman, Melton and Sanchez were veterans who were released. Keo was placed on the reserve/suspended list. The 19 players who were waived: Dillon Day, center; Vontarrius Dora, Eddie Yarbrough and Sadat Sullyman, outside linebackers; Mose Frazier and Kalif Raymond, receivers; Lars Hanson and Justin Murray, offensive tackles; Kyle Kragen and Dwayne Norman, inside linebackers; Lars Koht, defensive end; B.J. Lowery, John Tidwell and Taurean Nixon, cornerbacks; Ryan Murphy, safety; Robert Myers Jr. and Aaron Neary, guards;and Juwan Thompson, running back;
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