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Broncos will count $53 million of Russell Wilson’s dead cap charges in 2024 after officially processing release, sources say

The Broncos have spent some of the past few days clearing cap space and now they’re using some of it on their former quarterback.

Denver officially processed the release of quarterback Russell Wilson on Wednesday, the first day of the 2024 league year, and declined to pick up an option in the process. That decision means that Wilson will count $53 million against Denver’s salary cap in 2024 and $32 million in 2025. The “dead cap” charges would have totaled $85 million regardless, but the Broncos could have opted to account for $35.4 million this year and $49.6 million in 2025.

Though the math can be a little confusing, the bottom line is this: The Broncos are eating the larger chunk of Wilson’s record dead cap charge sooner rather than later. It will set Sean Payton’s team up with more flexibility in 2025 while saddling it with an additional $17.6 million in dead cap charge this year.

After general manager George Paton said last month he expected Denver to be “strategic” rather than aggressive in free agency, the Broncos hinted at their approach in recent days by restructuring the contracts of defensive lineman Zach Allen and left guard Ben Powers and clearing an extra $20 million in cap space for 2024 in the process.

Denver didn’t really need that space for free agents, per se, but it helps create the flexibility to consider adding more players while also accounting for the bigger chunk of Wilson’s cap charge.

The $85 million total is more than twice the previous largest dead cap charge for a single player in NFL history. The Broncos already had about $14.1 million in dead cap charges on their books after the release of players like safety Justin Simmons, outside linebackers Randy Gregory and Frank Clark, kicker Brandon McManus and wide receiver Montrell Washington. Adding Wilson’s 2024 total will put the Broncos’ number at about $67 million.

Though Wilson’s charge is unprecedented, the team total is not. In fact, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams all made the playoffs in 2023 with similarly large dead totals on their salary cap. That’s part of the reason the Broncos made it clear last week when they announced Wilson’s impending release that they will not use it as an excuse in their quest to remain competitive in 2024 and 2025.

Most services, including OvertheCap, accounted for Wilson’s $35.4 million cap number for 2024 in their calculations of space. Given that he’ll now count an extra $17.6 million against the cap and the team has a few minor deals being processed, the Broncos likely currently have about $20 million to $22 million in cap space.

Wilson announced he’s signing with Pittsburgh after his release is processed. There he will make the veteran minimum of $1.21 million and the remaining $37.79 million will be paid by the Broncos.

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