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Contract Extension Examination: Wil Lutz

The Broncos made a surprising change at kicker late in the offseason by cutting longtime kicker Brandon McManus. It didn’t take them until all the way until just before the regular season started to settle on a replacement by trading a 7th round pick for Wil Lutz, who Sean Payton was familiar with when he was in New Orleans. I was critical of these moves at the time, but so far Lutz has held up well in taking the job. But he’ll be a free agent next offseason, so the Broncos will have address the kicker position once again.

The return to previous form

As it stands right now, Lutz had made 27 kicks on 29 attempts. That’s 8th in percentage leaguewide, so that is some good consistency. On the other hand, he has not been tested much beyond 50 yards, with his longest thus far coming only from 52, and one of his misses was from 5 yards. but on the other hand one can only take on the opportunities that is given.

Aside from a very rough Week 1, Lutz has at least been steady, and his steady performance harkens back to his first extension with the Saints. That was a $4.05M APY contract with $9.2 million fully guaranteed, and $9.2M made up his two year cash flow. It’s this deal that I would look to replicate for a second extension to remain in Denver.

The recreated contract

Base SalaryProrated BonusRoster BonusCap NumberCash DueRunning Cash

italics – fully guaranteed salary

This is a four year, $17 million contract–$4.25 million APY is a slight raise from his previous extension in this regard. The concession that Lutz is making here is taking his full guarantees down to $8 million, via a a signing bonus just over $5 million, and low base salaries in 2024 and 2025. However, the positive tradeoff for Lutz is a $3 million roster bonus that is scheduled to be due on or around July 1, which boosts his two year cash flow to $11 million if he is still on the roster by then.

The approximate date of July 1 is designed to be set after OTAs and minicamps, but before training camp. This date placement is to give the Broncos options in case that they want to acquire a new kicker in 2025–either in free agency or in the rookie class–and to give that kicker early but limited competition for Lutz. If the Broncos move on to a new kicker, doing so would not be painless with $1.75 million in dead cash, but also manageable as the Broncos’ new kicker would likely be on a near minimum salary.

Limits need to be placed

If one looks at the kicker contracts leaguewide, it’ll be seen that the above contract is nowhere near the top tier of pay. Its metrics are approximately just above that of Harrison Butker, who is an accomplished kicker in Kansas City. I think that’s fair to Lutz to not go to far behind that contract, and I think it’s also proper for the Broncos given where they’re going.

With new contracts that I’ve already laid out, and new contracts to come after that, priorities have to be placed, with emphasis on positions of impact. Kicker, of course, is low on that priority, and particularly in Denver’s altitude. As stated, the contract I’ve laid out for Lutz is not top tier, and given that Lutz’s first extension dates well back to 2019, this represents a relative step down from where he was back then. Nonetheless, I think this is prudent for where the Broncos are as they continue to build as competitive of a roster as they can for the future. I am skeptical that Lutz will be able to secure a contract better than I’ve laid out elsewhere, but if he does, then I would be quite happy for him in doing so.