Dead Money in the NFL: Broncos' Potential $245M Russell Wilson Fiasco

Exploring the highs and lows of Denver's recent seasons.

by Faizan Chaudhary
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Dead Money in the NFL: Broncos' Potential $245M Russell Wilson Fiasco
© Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

And so, as the Denver Broncos work through life post-Russell Wilson debacle, they loom on the precipice of a financial shift unlike anything the NFL has ever seen. A term like "dead cap" — that phrase being thrown around sports right now has weight though.

This looks into what implications dead cap money might have and what that would potentially mean for the future of the Broncos. Dead cap money, often misunderstood, refers to the payment that a player receives when an organization is seeking to dispose of his contract before it gets to the In the Broncos' context, it's an $85 million obligation to let Wilson go — a number that has been whispered for months in analyst circles.

The Denver situation is unique. The listing of Wilson's residence for sale could strengthen speculation over his future, but the financial impact is stark. "A decision could come as soon as mid-March, when the quarterback would be in line for an additional $55 million in guarantees over two more years.

Cutting Wilson would therefore result in an $85 million hit spread across two seasons. Broncos general manager George Paton stands on the precipice of a monumental decision. The team could take on about $50 million in 2024 and the rest in 2025, or vice versa.

Either way would register as the most dead cap in history, though.

Wilson's Turbulent Tenure

On reflection, during the year of Russell Wilson, 2022 also proves to have been the coaster thrills and spills Broncos fans would believe.

Hopes indeed rose with the advent of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback from the Seahawks. But it was Wilson's first season in Denver that was marked with underperformance, culminating in a 4-11 record, the lowest completion rate of his career, and mid-season firing of head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

2023 brought with it the good and the bad. Later, it was Wilson's turn to be one of those who put up a serious performance and led the Broncos to victories against the real heavy hitters—Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.

But for all those wins, there was a high-profile loss back then, to the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, one that had Sean Payton benching Wilson, his future with the team in doubt. So with the Broncos at this critical financial and strategic juncture, the outcome of the Russell Wilson matter can't help but reverberate as a defining moment, financially, and one for franchise direction in the annals of the NFL.

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