The bad news is the Broncos are $24 million over the 2024 salary cap as of right now.

The good? Basically every AFC playoff team from this season is in similar shape. The one shining bastion on salary cap spending is the Houston Texans, benefitting from C.J. Stroud being on a rookie contract.

With Denver so far over the cap, and finishing the year 8–9, are they set for another year of missing the playoffs in 2024? Not necessarily.

Some call the NFL salary cap “fake” but cap expert explains it’s not

Simply, the NFL salary cap is a complicated thing. Teams manipulate contracts, move money around, and work it so they’re competitive every year.

In fact, it’s so shrouded in mystery, that some call it fake. Well, Jason from Over the Cap explains it’s not fake and short-term fixes lead to long-term problems for teams.

According to Over the Cap, the Broncos are currently $23.5 million which is set to be $242 million, though the official number hasn’t been announced yet. That’s bad, but many teams are in worse shape.

That brings us to the AFC playoff teams from this year: The Texans, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Looking forward to the 2024 season, a majority of those teams are in negative territory when it comes to the salary cap.

For instance, the Dolphins have so many contracts on the books they’re at -$51.9M. Their AFC East rivals the Bills are at -$43.7M. Continuing down the list: The Browns have -$19.5M, the Steelers are at -$15.6M. Then, the Ravens are in plus territory at $13.7M in salary cap room, the Chiefs have $28.5M to play with, and finally the Texans have a seventh-most $57.8M.

But really, the only one safe of those teams is the Texans.

That’s because the Chiefs have a mere 43 players signed in 2024. That $28.5M doesn’t seem like such a high number anymore, especially considering they need to sign receivers for Patrick Mahomes, and more. Like them, the Ravens only have 44 players signed.

Of course, a Super Bowl run or win will help those teams get players under contract for less money if they want to keep chasing rings.

But for the Dolphins, Bills, and previously unmentioned Los Angeles Chargers (-$45.8M), they’re so far in the negative, some drastic changes may need to be taken.

Salary cap woes for others could help Broncos reach playoffs

The Broncos are in some salary cap trouble, sure. But so are many of the playoff teams from this year. The salary cap woes for the Bills, Dolphins, and Chargers could help Denver get back into the playoffs.

Keep in mind, the Broncos have a lot of work to do within the salary cap. They are $23.5M over the cap currently, but there will be a lot of movement on that number this offseason. They have many places to trim the fat and get under the cap.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson will be cut. The timing of that move will dictate how the massive $85M dead cap will be distributed. However, an offset clause in Wilson’s contract means if he signs with a new team, the amount he makes in 2024 will reduce Denver’s $39M owed to him for this year.

For instance, if Wilson signs with the Atlanta Falcons for $20M next year, the Broncos would only have to pay him $19M. That’s one way the Broncos will get their cap number down.

There are many other restructures or cuts the Broncos may make, as I detailed further here, but one group that will likely have major shakeups is the wide receiver room. Denver could save $33M if they cut Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and didn’t pick up Jerry Jeudy’s option ($12.98M). But, that would obviously leave them with very little in terms of wideouts.

Still, expect Denver to make a move on at least one of those three guys this offseason. Declining Jeudy’s option and possibly cutting Patrick seem like more likely options than moving on from Sutton after his career year.

Another likely move is cutting nose tackle D.J. Jones to save $10 million toward the cap.

However, simply getting under the cap doesn’t guarantee a run at the playoffs.

Once they get under the cap, the Broncos have to find a starting quarterback. Unless they decide it will be Jarrett Stidham in 2024. Some options include Jameis Winston and Sam Darnold. Next up, Denver will have to cobble together a group of receivers. Then, make decisions at running back. And also find some edge-rushing talent, among other positions.