Ugly realities are setting in for the Denver Broncos. The team is 1-5 and playing some of the worst football we have seen in the post-Peyton Manning era, which is really saying something. Patrick Mahomes is a staggering 12-0 against the Denver Broncos in his short career. The Broncos are barely a blip on anyone's radar anymore. They are the butt of all NFL jokes these days.
Nothing is working for the Broncos. Changing coaches, drafting quarterbacks, signing quarterbacks, trading for quarterbacks. The team can't field a competent offense at the same time they field a competent defense, and vice versa. The Broncos have become an embarrassment, and part of the reason for that is the mega contract they gave to quarterback Russell Wilson before he ever played a down with the team.
Now, that wasn't universally hated at the time. Before the 2022 season started, nobody really felt like Russell Wilson was going to be as bad as we saw last year, and certainly nobody felt the team would be this bad, but here we are. The Broncos are a combined 6-17 since Russell Wilson came to the team.
And now they face a situation where they might have to get out of his contract early in 2024.
Since Wilson started playing poorly, people have been trying to project when the Broncos could realistically get out of his deal. It seems as though Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio has done the best job of laying this scenario out detail by detail so we can know exactly what that would look like.
Essentially, the Broncos would face dead money hits of $85 million over the next two years if they cut Wilson before the 5th day of the 2024 league year (in March). They would owe Wilson $90 million (plus) over the next two years if they keep him plus $37 million cash in the form of his 2025 base salary.
The 2025 base salary guarantee of $37 million kicks in on the 5th day of the 2024 league year, so the Broncos would either be on the hook for $90 million cap and at least $37 million cash if Russ is still on the team or they would be on the hook for $85 million dead cap and save $37 million cash if he is cut.
If the team continues to play poorly, it makes way more sense for the Broncos to save that cash rather than guarantee it a year in advance. With this writing on the wall, and with the Wilson contract putting the team in such a bind, you can't help but wonder if he's going to be willing to rip up some of the deal, but players rarely ever give money back to teams.
I don't think Russell Wilson has been the primary "problem" for the Broncos this year but he's also clearly not the solution. I think Tony Gonzalez did a great job of laying that out on Amazon Prime's postgame on Thursday. If you're not the solution at this price point, the Broncos can't justify paying it.