What does the NFL's unprecedented salary cap increase mean for Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos?

Henry Chisholm Avatar
February 23, 2024

The Denver Broncos’ offseason outlook became much brighter on Friday.

The NFL announced Friday that the salary cap in 2024 will be $255.4 million. The $30.6 million jump over last year’s cap is the largest in NFL history.

The salary cap is reset yearly to about 48% of the league’s annual revenue., per the collective bargaining agreement. The league attributed the growth to paying off its debts from the Covid season and new media deals.

The salary cap increase is larger than anticipated. For example, Spotrac projected a $242.5 million cap for 2024. For the Broncos, the extra $13 million is big news.

Prior to Friday’s news, the Broncos were estimated to be about $26 million over the 2024 salary cap. Russell Wilson ($35.4 million), Garett Bolles ($20 million) and Zach Allen ($19 million) hold the biggest cap hits on the roster.

After Friday’s news, Spotract projects the Broncos are $13 million over the salary cap, and OverTheCap estimates Denver is $10.7 million over the cap.

In other words, the Broncos got somewhere between $13 million and $15 million closer to salary cap compliance on Friday.

The Broncos still have work to do to get back into the black. The biggest savings would come from:

  • Cutting or trading Garett Bolles ($16 million)
  • Cutting or trading Justin Simmons ($14.5 million)
  • Trading Jerry Jeudy ($13 million)
  • Cutting or trading Courtland Sutton ($9.7 million)
  • Cutting or trading Tim Patrick ($9.5 million)
  • Cutting or trading DJ Jones ($9.5 million)
  • Trading Zach Allen ($7.75 million)

Denver can also push money back to future years easily. For example, they could push nearly $10 million of Mike McGlinchey’s money or $12 million of Russell Wilson’s money if they decide to keep them on the roster.

Essentially, the larger-than-expected increase in the salary cap means the Broncos can hold on to one more player than we previously believed.

In theory, the Broncos could on from Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy and be able to pay their draft class while remaining cap-compliant. If they push some money to the future or move on from another veteran, they could give themselves a little spending money in free agency.

While an additional $13 million in cap space might not seem like much, it’s important to remember that the first year of contracts is generally the cheapest.

Last year, the Broncos added three tier-one free agents. Mike McGlinchey, Ben Powers and Zach Allen combine to make more than $45 million per year. But their first-year cap hits combined to be $17.25 million.

The Broncos’ brain trust said after the season that their 2023 offseason spending was a one-time occurrence and that they weren’t planning on making any moves in the first wave of free agency. Given the surprising increase to the salary cpa, they could rethink that position.

The more likely outcome is that the Broncos will hold onto a veteran they otherwise would have moved on from, or they’ll push fewer of their bills into future years.

Either the painful part of the offseason became less painful on Friday, or the exciting part of the offseason became more exciting. It’s up to the Broncos to choose their path.

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