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How The Broncos Did It: Their Cap and Free Agent Signings

Much talk has been had concerning the moves the Denver Broncos made in the offseason, and the Salary Cap situation that allowed them to do it. This article explains how.

There has been a common theme in comments section here at BFTB over the last two weeks of Free Agency: How can the Broncos sign big name free agents when we can't? In the same breath, it has also been asked: How do they have so much Cap Space? The answer is actually fairly simple.

Before Free Agency

Existing Contracts

The Broncos entered pre-Free Agency with fewer players under contract, for far less money than the Chargers.

Team No. of Contracts Total
San Diego Chargers 48 $113,219,194
Denver Broncos 40 $97,195,116

Dead Money

It is no secret that this is the last season that the Chargers will suffer from weight of the Dead Money for Jared Gaither and Robert Meachem. But they also added to the figure by cutting Derek Cox to the tune of almost $4 Million more. The only significant figures for the Broncos came from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the retirement of Chris Kuper.

Team Dead Money
San Diego Chargers $12,543,317
Denver Broncos $5,765,786

For the math-challenged, that's almost $7 Million more the Broncos had to spend this year.

Cap Rollover

For a number of seasons, the Broncos have carried a higher cap figure over from the previous season. This season is no different.

Team Cap Rollover Cap Adjustment Adjusted Cap
San Diego Chargers $2,319,341 ($191,500) $135,127,841
Denver Broncos $6,400,000 ($3,150,302) $136,249,698

If there is some silver lining, it is that the Chargers' accountants are better than the Broncos. That doesn't save them from the fact that Broncos have more than $1 Million in additional Cap Space this year.


Before a single Free Agent was signed or re-signed, the Broncos had about $24 Million more than the Chargers to spend. This doesn't account for the holes to fill in either roster, but it shows the Broncos had the money to fill their holes.

Free Agency

Reserve/Future Contracts

Both team were active in snatching up camp bodies around the start of the new year, but the Broncos had far more open roster spots and plenty of cap to afford these cheap contracts. In the end, the Chargers signed 11 such contracts, while the Broncos signed 21.

Restricted, Unrestricted and Exclusive Rights Free Agents

The Chargers had no ERFAs and elected not to tender offers to RFAs Bront Bird, Cornelius Brown and Stephen Schilling. The Broncos signed their two RFAs (Mitch Unrein, Chris Harris) and their three ERFAs (Duke Ihenacho, Tony Carter and Brandon Marshall).

As for UFAs, the Broncos have only re-signed Andre Caldwell, letting go a number of big names including Knowshon Moreno, Robert Ayers and a pair of ex-Chargers, Quentin Jammer and Shaun Phillips. The Chargers on the other hand have been more careful about losing their players. They extended Donald Butler with a 7-year, $51.8 Million contract before he would have become an UFA. They negotiated a contract with Chad Rinehart for 2-years, $5.1 Million, and inked a 4-year, $7.6 Million deal with Darrell Stuckey. Additionally, they agreed to a 2-year contract with Reggie Walker, and 1-year contracts with Richard Marshall and Seyi Ajirotutu.

The Broncos are signing short-term, cheap contracts to lock up their younger players, while letting their expensive Veterans walk. The Chargers have let some vets walk, but have invested big money in keeping a number of their starters.

Free Agent Signings

The point of this article is that the Broncos have been able to sign the following:

Player Contract 2014 Cap Hit
Aqib Talib 6 yrs, $57 Million $7,906,250
DeMarcus Ware 3 yrs, $30 Million $9,666,666
T.J. Ward 4 yrs, $22.5 Million $3,250,000
Emmanuel Sanders 3 yrs, $15 Million $4,000,000
Total $24,822,916

While the Chargers have signed the following:

Player Contract 2014 Cap Hit
Donald Brown 3 yrs, $10.5 Million $1,833,333
Kellen Clemens 2 yrs, $3 Million $1,177,500
Kavell Conner 3 yrs, $2.7 Million $820,000
David Johnson 2 yrs, $1.7 Million $840,000
Brandon Ghee 2 yrs, $1.605 Million $760,000
Total $5,430,833


The over $19 Million difference can be explained by the far superior cap situation the Broncos brought into free agency, and the choices they made with their own free agents. Now whether the Broncos made good decisions signing those 4 players I will leave to a forthcoming article from Mr. Marver.