DENVER -- The Broncos roster massage began in earnest Sunday as the team asked veteran punter Britton Colquitt to take a pay cut for the second straight year. Will Mark Sanchez be next? The quarterback has not yet been asked, according to an NFL source, but it has surfaced as a possibility after rookie Paxton Lynch showed his inexperience in the third preseason game.
For the second straight year, Denver wants Colquitt to restructure, first reported by Altitude TV. The Broncos would prefer to keep Colquitt at roughly $1.6 million, Denver7 has learned -- or half of his $3.25 million salary this season. The Broncos asked because they can. Rookie Riley Dixon, drafted in the seventh round to challenge Colquitt for a roster spot, has performed well enough to give the Broncos leverage against the veteran. Dixon, due $530,000 this season if on the team, took all eight punt attempts on Saturday. He delivered a 40.9 net average. He also has improved as a holder on field goals after struggling early in camp.
With a final preseason game looming Thursday at Arizona, the Broncos must cut to 75 players by Tuesday and 53 by Sept. 3.
It's unclear whether Colquitt will acquiesce to a salary reduction 12 months after "taking a haircut" to stay with organization. He would appear to have less incentive this time around. If he doesn't agree, the Broncos will look to trade him. Carolina is among the teams looking for a punter. Colquitt hit his stride in the playoffs last season, averaging 46.6 yards per attempt, while pinning teams consistently.
As for Sanchez, his future became unclear after he did not play on Saturday. Coach Gary Kubiak told him before the game that the second-half reps were going to Lynch. The Broncos needed to see more of the rookie, and watching Sanchez against third stringers in the fourth quarter served no purpose. While Trevor Siemian is expected to be named the starter, Lynch raised doubts about whether he's ready to serve as the backup. The former Memphis star completed 6 of 13 passes, and showed he might require more seasoning, even if only for another month.
"Obviously, I think I could play. I don't think I am where I am going to be later on down the road when I have full grasp of the offense and understand it well," Lynch admitted.
Sanchez has completed 20 of 30 passes for 219 yards, and three turnovers. His turnovers raise memories of his past, compared to the younger quarterbacks, who receive the benefit of the doubt. Sanchez's situation is complicated by his salary. He is making $4.5 million, a steep figure for a possible temporary backup. And if the Broncos cut him, they no longer have to surrender a seventh-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to complete the trade from March. If the Broncos trade Sanchez -- hypothetically to Dallas -- Denver would still have to give up a pick to Philadelphia. However, Denver would likely receive a similar or better one in the deal.
Sanchez has enjoyed his time in the Broncos organization, and is keeping an open mind about all possibilities. Watching the Broncos on Saturday, Siemian appeared to secure the starting job. But he's never thrown an NFL pass. Sanchez as a backup, possibly at a paycut, makes some sense when watching Lynch's development and eyeing the early schedule. The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos open with Carolina, Indianapolis and at Cincinnati.