Broncos decision with Russell Wilson increases pressure of QB situation

The pressure is on for head coach Sean Payton to find a quarterback.

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Denver Broncos have officially released quarterback Russell Wilson and designated him as a post-June 1 salary cap release. That means that the dead cap for Russell Wilson will go into effect after June 1 this year, but more importantly, how are the Broncos splitting the $85 million in dead cap from Wilson's contract?

Adam Schefter has given us an answer to that question with a report that the Broncos are eating $53 million in dead money this year and $32 million next year.

According to OverTheCap, this puts the Broncos at just under $27 million in effective salary cap space right now. Now we know the main reason why the team freed up an additional $20 million in space by restructuring the deals of guard Ben Powers and defensive lineman Zach Allen recently.

What it also means is that the Broncos are projected to have over $100 million in salary cap space in the 2025 offseason. And with over $100 million in salary cap space in 2025, the Broncos need to be ready. They need to be ready to spend. They need to be ready to surround a quarterback.

The decision to eat the majority of Russell Wilson's dead cap in 2024 has heightened the importance of finding the team's franchise quarterback as soon as possible. Sean Payton has publicly stated that the Broncos don't want the next quarterback they choose to be another one crossed off the post-Peyton Manning list that has gotten embarrassingly long. They want to find that guy that has staying power.

Payton has put the pressure squarely on his own shoulders. He's the one who has final roster say in Denver. There are a team of people helping make and inform that decision, but ultimately, the decision belongs to Payton. Finding a franchise quarterback is easier said than done. The Broncos have the 12th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and they've let almost the entire quarterback market in free agency pass them by.

Not that the Broncos can't or won't spend from that salary cap space in 2025, but to be able to have the quarterback position figured out? Just look at the aggressiveness we're seeing this offseason from teams like the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers. Teams that have a long-term solution at the quarterback position and can confidently build around them.

The Broncos need to find that.

That is going to require conviction on the part of Sean Payton. He's told the story of how he and the Saints fell in love with Patrick Mahomes back in 2017, but as they sat there at the 11th overall spot in the 2017 NFL Draft, they waited a tick too long. The Chiefs moved up into the 10th overall spot, and the rest is history.

Payton and the Saints would go on to have one of the best draft classes in modern NFL history that year. But ultimately, the Chiefs got Patrick Mahomes. Do you know who else the Chiefs got in that draft?

It literally doesn't matter. They got Mahomes.

The Broncos may not find a Mahomes in the 2024 NFL Draft, but can they find a long-term franchise quarterback? Are they going to be willing to do whatever it takes to get him? Are they going to be able to move up the board if the situation calls for it?

Now that they've decided to eat the biggest portion of Russell Wilson's dead money in 2024, they've committed to a plan of spending big in 2025. And if they are going to spend big in 2025, they need to have that quarterback situation resolved in 2024.

Buckle in for the next six weeks, Broncos Country.