Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Broncos’ salary cap spring cleaning likely to include moves with marquee players

It’s spring cleaning time for the Broncos.

Sure, there’s probably more snow ahead at some point here on the Front Range, but the NFL calendar is about to turn over to 2024, and that means work ahead for Denver and many other teams.

The Broncos on Monday made official their intention to release Russell Wilson next week when the league year begins and the details will instruct some of how they go about the rest of their business.

Here’s why:

The legal tampering period of free agency starts March 11 and the league year officially starts two days later. Teams have to be in salary cap compliance at the end of every day of the league year, meaning once 2024 starts the Broncos must be under the 2024 cap.

Denver is projected by OvertheCap to be about $16 million over the salary cap for 2024 after the NFL set the number at a surprisingly high $255.4 million last month.

However, that OTC number assumes Denver exercises an option on Wilson’s contract before releasing him. In that event, the Broncos take $35.4 million of Wilson’s dead cap in 2024 and $49.6 million in 2025.

If instead Denver declines the option, it will take $53 million of dead money in 2024 and $32 million in 2025. In that scenario the Broncos would be more like $34 million over the cap. The team as of Tuesday was still deciding how to split Wilson’s dead money, sources told The Post.

Broncos general manager George Paton said his team will be “strategic” in free agency, and they’re not expected (or able) to go on a spending blitz like they did last spring.

Even still, Denver will want to create not just enough space to get to the cap, but enough to do at least some work in free agency. They’d like to bring back some of their own impending free agents, including safety P.J. Locke and kicker Wil Lutz. They’ll also need to have space for their draft class come late April.

The Broncos don’t necessarily need to cut a bunch of players. In fact, with the way the roster is currently constructed, restructures, conversions and a potential trade or two look like more likely options.

Converting base salary to bonus is the easiest way to create salary cap space short-term, but all that does is kick salary cap charges down the road. Ideally, then, you choose carefully about who to make such moves with.

“You just look at the contracts we have. In the players, some of the veterans we have and some that make more sense than others,” Paton said last week. “You don’t want to mortgage the future, so some (contracts) you don’t have to mortgage as much. Really, it’s the player, it’s the youth, do you feel like they’re going to be there a while?

“Those are the ones maybe you go to. And I’m not sure we’re going to do that or not, but we do have that flexibility.”

Holding the line is an option for any of the below players, but this is the group where action is most likely.

*Numbers via

WR Tim Patrick

2024 cap number: $15.572 million
Guaranteed: None
Action: Renegotiate or release
Potential savings: Up to $9.5 million
Dead money if released: $6.072 million

The Broncos will have Patrick’s $6.072 million in prorated bonus on their books in 2024 regardless of his roster status. Patrick hasn’t played in two years after missing 2022 with an ACL tear and 2023 with a torn Achilles. His $9.5 million base is not guaranteed, so the question is if the sides can find a mutually acceptable lower number. Perhaps Denver guarantees a little bit and builds in incentives for Patrick to earn if he gets back into productive form. There should be an easy $5 million-$7 million or more here in savings for Denver and a spot for a respected veteran back on the roster.

LT Garett Bolles

2024 cap number: $20 million
Guaranteed: None
Action: Trade or release
Potential savings: Up to $16 million
Dead money if traded/released: $4 million

Bolles played solid ball in 2023 coming off a 2022 broken leg. He will also be 32 by the start of training camp and carries the highest non-Russell Wilson cap number on the roster going into the final year of his deal.

Denver can let him play out the contract and hit free agency next year. Or perhaps Bolles draws interest via trade and the Broncos can recoup some draft capital while also saving money. Either of those options are better than out-and-out releasing him without a clear succession plan at a premium position. They could also try to guarantee some money for 2024 in exchange for lowering the cap number or explore a short extension, but it would be surprising if Denver committed to top-end money for Bolles long-term.

S Justin Simmons

2024 cap number: $18.25 million
Guaranteed: None
Action: Trade or extend
Potential savings: Up to $14.5 million
Dead money if traded/released: $3.75 million

Simmons is a franchise stalwart and still clearly capable of playing at a high level. He’s also entering the final year of his contract and has no guaranteed money for 2024. The Broncos could save north of $10 million for 2024 if they extend the 30-year-old. They could be tempted to trade him if a market develops, considering their lack of draft capital. A release can’t fully be ruled out, but would be more surprising than either of the first two options.

DT D.J. Jones

2024 cap number: $12.598 million
Guaranteed: None
Action: Extend or release
Potential savings: Up to $9.97 million
Dead money if released: $2.99 million

Jones came on strong over the course of 2023 and the Broncos don’t have a ton of great options for their interior defensive line besides him. At the same time, with no guaranteed money, the team could be tempted to try to find a more modestly priced replacement or to extend the 29-year-old by a couple of years to spread out the cap hits.

WR Courtland Sutton

2024 cap number: $17.396 million
Guaranteed: $2 million on March 18
Action: Extend, restructure or trade
Potential savings: Up to $9.58 million
Dead money if traded/released: $7.65 million

Sutton’s situation is slightly different in that he is under contract through 2025. Still, he’s got no guaranteed money left save for $2 million that kicks in March 18.

The Broncos could convert some of his $13 million base to bonus, spread it over the next two years and lower Sutton’s cap number while maintaining flexibility for 2025. Or they could tack a year or two on and more dramatically lower Sutton’s cap for 2024. He’s coming off a 10-touchdown season and the Broncos have plenty of ways to keep him.

WR Jerry Jeudy

2024 cap number: $12.987 million
Guaranteed: $12.987 million
Action: Trade or extend

Jeudy’s fifth-year option is guaranteed, so the potential moves here are simple. The Broncos can trade him — Cleveland was among those interested at the trade deadline during the season — find a contract extension that works sometime in the next 12 months or let him hit free agency after this season. If they trade Jeudy, his money comes off the books. If they keep him, it doesn’t. Pretty straightforward.

Other potentials

Payton talks about vision for players all the time, and he had a clear vision for each of the following players a year ago in free agency. Perhaps he does again going forward, but here’s a trio at smaller numbers that could be cap casualties: RB Samaje Perine ($3 million saved, $1.5 million dead cap), CB Tremon Smith ($2.5 million saved, $700,000 dead) and QB Jarrett Stidham ($5 million saved, $2 million dead).

Money for nothin’ (right now)

The biggest savings to be found by converting salary to bonus are in last year’s free agency group. The top trio of DL Zach Allen ($15.25 million), RT Mike McGlinchey ($15 million) and LG Ben Powers ($12 million) have big base salaries and multiple years left on their contracts.

Remember Paton’s advice about long-term commitment here. Even still, converting salary to bonus can net the Broncos between $7.25 million (Powers) and $10.4 million (McGlinchey) for each of the three if they need it.

McGlinchey, too, will see his $17.5 million 2025 base salary (already guaranteed for injury) become fully guaranteed on March 18.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.

Popular Articles