The Denver Broncos released Justin Simmons. What comes next?

Henry Chisholm Avatar
March 7, 2024

Justin Simmons’ time in Denver is done.

The Denver Broncos released the eight-year veteran safety on Thursday. Simmons, 30, is a two-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro. He was the longest-tenured Bronco, joining the team as a third-round pick in 2016. Simmons leads the NFL in interceptions since entering the league.

The Broncos saved $14.5 million by releasing Simmons in 2024 salary cap space. OverTheCap.com estimates the Broncos are $2.7 million over the salary cap. Spotrac.com says the Broncos are $5.5 million over the salary cap.

The Broncos must comply with the salary cap by Wednesday, the start of the new league year.

So what will they do to clear the final few million dollars?

Well there’s one thing they won’t do: trade players to clear space.

While teams can negotiate trades and agree to terms, the NFL is still technically in a dead period for trading that lasts from the trade deadline in October until the start of the new league year. Since trades can’t be consummated until after the league calendar flips to 2024, trading players won’t save any space for the Broncos.

The easiest way to get under the salary cap is to restructure contracts. The Broncos could give players their 2024 salaries up front and split this season’s cap hit over the rest of the contract. This approach, for example, could push about $10 million of Mike McGlinchey’s salary cap hit to the future.

But releasing Simmons might be a sign that the Broncos are going to suffer through a rebuilding year. And if that’s the case, they’re unlikely to want to push bills to the future.

That leaves two options to clear cap space.

The obvious move is to make more cuts. Wide receiver Tim Patrick hasn’t played on the three-year extension he signed two years ago because of injuries. The Broncos would save $9.5 million if they move on from him before the final year of the deal. They could also renegotiate the contract if he’s willing to stick in Denver at a lower number.

Moving on from defensive lineman DJ Jones would save $9.5 million in cap space. Moving on from wide receiver Courtland Sutton would save $14.5 million. Moving on from left tackle Garett Bolles would save $16 million.

Losing any of those players would hurt the Broncos’ chances in 2024, and Denver might be able to get something in return for them in trades if they can get under the cap without releasing them.

The final option to clear salary cap space is to extend players in the final year of their deals. By adding years to the backend of the contracts, Denver could push some of this year’s hit to the future. But if the Broncos don’t want to push their bills to the future, when they figure to be more competitive, this might not be an option.

Garett Bolles and DJ Jones could be candidates for extensions that help the salary cap in the immediate.

While the exact moves the Broncos will make to reach cap compliance are unclear, some combination of the above will happen before Wednesday.

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