Denver Broncos fire Nathaniel Hackett: What’s Next?

Calling the Denver Broncos’ 2022 season “disappointing” would be a gross understatement. A team that was projected to be a playoff contender before the season began, the Broncos have imploded in a variety of ways.

Their season has been confusing to say the least. The Russell Wilson trade ignited fans’ preseason hopes, and for good reason. With a new head coach and a star quarterback to pair with one of the best defenses in the league, expectations were understandably through the roof. That, unfortunately, hasn’t panned-out. The latest episode of this saga is the firing of head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who wasn’t able to last through his first season.

So, what are the next steps for the Denver Broncos?

Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson
Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos’ Salary Cap

The biggest bust of Denver’s season has undoubtedly been Russell Wilson. Wilson was projected to be Denver’s savior on offense, yet he’s been quite the opposite. To make matters worse, Wilson’s current dead-cap hit for the 2023 season is an astounding $107 million.

With that in mind, it wouldn’t make sense to get rid of Wilson if they’re still on the hook for that much. Wilson will almost certainly be back next year, and his price tag will only be $22 million. With Wilson, Denver will only have about 15.4 million in cap space to work with.

Denver has some money coming off the books this offseason, but the largest contract they could lose in free agency is $2.5 million. Kareem Jackson will become a free agent, as will several other starters around the roster. If Denver can keep some of their players around (that deserve it), they shouldn’t have too much trouble, even while being hindered by Wilson’s contract.

Finally, one thing to look out for this offseason will be restructured contracts. Since the aforementioned contract will be significantly hindering, players like Justin Simmons and Garett Bolles could restructure their current deals.

2023 NFL Draft

Denver gave up a lot of NFL draft capital in order to land Wilson. One of those picks was their 2023 first rounder, which went to Seattle. That draft pick would have given Denver the #3 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft.

Luckily, they were able to get a first-rounder, albeit from another team. Denver currently owns the 49ers’ first-rounder, through the Dolphins, via the Bradley Chubb trade.

Denver also owns two third-rounders, a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-round draft picks. While the loss of picks to Seattle hurts, it wouldn’t be fair to say Denver doesn’t have an at least decent supply for the 2023 NFL draft.

Hire a Head Coach Who Can Work With Wilson

The next head coach of this franchise is an absolutely massive decision. With Wilson’s contract, Denver will likely be forced to carry him for at least a couple more years. With that in mind, it’s paramount that the new head coach works well with Wilson.

Sean Payton has been dominating the headlines in recent weeks, and with the Broncos becoming the first big team to part with their head coach, expect rumors to swirl. Denver, while currently facing their own issues, are still a solid landing spot for a head coach. If they can find one to help bring the best out of Wilson, then this experiment could still work out. What’s one bad year anyway?