The Denver Broncos are going to have their work cut out for them in order to improve the team before the 2024 season. The team improved in its first year under new head coach Sean Payton, but not enough to make the playoffs.
Payton was always in for a rocky road in year one and now that he knows what he is working with, he has a better idea of which spots to look for an upgrade at this offseason. In order to get those upgrades, the Broncos are going to have to draft well, but they may also have to do some re-working of the roster in order to create some spending money.
Looking at the team's current payroll, these six players have contracts that are currently making things tricky for the front office. The Broncos won't be able to get out from under all of these without consequences, however.
Russell Wilson, QB
Contract: In 2022, he signed a 5-year, $245 million contract ($165 million guaranteed)
2024 cap number: 35.4 million
Let's get the most obvious one out of the way first.
No team in the entire league has the kind of salary-cap roadblock in front of it the same way the Broncos do with the Russell Wilson deal. No matter which road the team chooses to take, it's going to be a lot to overcome.
Wilson was benched for the final two games of the 2023 season in order to protect the team from an injury that would prevent him from passing a physical with a new team in 2024 and would also keep it on the hook for a ton of guaranteed money.
Of course, that has soured the relationship between Wilson and the Broncos but is it bad enough that the team should cut him and eat a record amount of dead money?
The expectation is that the team will do just that, taking the penalties and navigating them the best they can. But here is something to consider. If Wilson is cut before the 2024 season, the dead money hit sits at $85 million with a salary cap of $49.6 millon. Ouch. However, if the team keeps Wilson for just one more season, the dead money hit in 2025 goes down to $49.6 million and actually creates a cap savings of $5.8 million.
That is still a steep price to pay, but a considerable difference. For this reason, I am a proponent of hanging onto Wilson for the upcoming season.