Examining the Salary Cap Ramifications of Broncos Cutting QB Joe Flacco

How much would it hurt the Broncos to part ways with Joe Flacco?
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The Denver Broncos have opted to sit Joe Flacco for the Week 9 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, and it now sounds like he'll be out at least 5-6 weeks, which likely indicates he won't be with the team in 2020.

Whether you believe the decision came because of a legitimate injury to Flacco or the team is just using it as a cover, there's almost no chance the Broncos will go back to him. Brandon Allen is likely auditioning for a spot as the backup next year (he will be a restricted free agent in 2020) while all eyes will be on Drew Lock and when the Broncos plan to let him see the field.

Getting back to Flacco, there is the cap implications for cutting him after the season. I have learned from Nick Korte that a post-June 1 designation will not be available for any player because the NFL and NFLPA haven't yet extended the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, all player cuts will be straight forward.

This means the Broncos will be facing a $13.6 million dead money charge in the likely outcome of Flacco being cut. The Broncos will gain $10M in cap space and, coupled with the $16.5M in space they currently have and the expected $63M they will have before any cuts are made, the Broncos are still in good position cap-wise.

There is one point to keep in mind regarding Flacco, though, which pertains to his reported injury. If Flacco is physically unable to play in 2020, the Broncos will have to pay an injury settlement of $1.2M.

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This isn't mandated by his contract nor did it come from the restructure. This is per the language in the collective bargaining agreement, which says that a player who has no guaranteed money, but is unable to play in a season because of injury and is released, must receive 50 percent of his salary for that year, with a cap of $1.2M.

In other words, don't panic if Flacco can't play at all in 2020 — the most the Broncos could owe him in additional cash is $1.2M. And that's only if he can't play. 

If Flacco decides to retire without bothering to find another team, the Broncos won't owe him any money. The same is true if he's cut, signs with another team, and is cleared to play.

I'll talk more about the Broncos cap situation in a future article, but the Broncos are still in good shape there for 2020. The dead money isn't ideal, but it's not going to impact their ability to improve the team.

The question now to ask is whether Lock can be the guy, if Allen can at least be the backup next year, or whether the Broncos will have to go back to square one and draft a QB in 2020. Regardless of what proves to be the case, the Broncos will still have the means in 2020 to build around that young QB.

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