Here's a breakdown of Denver's cap situation:
They can spend the money because they have much more cap space than we've had.
Denver, after Demaryius Thomas, isn't spending that much on each of their players. Also, remember, in the offseason only the top 51 players count against the cap.
They're pretty much spending a lot of their money on these free agent guys this year. I bet they're actually trying to load as much onto these guys' cap numbers this year and in the last year(s) so that if they have to cut them in a couple seasons the savings will be much greater than the dead money.
Plus, they're not in too bad of shape considering they have a fair amount of dead money this year with DRC's dead money being over the 2 mil mark.
You can see that they haven't invested much into their offensive line beyond Clady. Which also showed last year, especially in the SB. Their O-line lost the game for them really..... Which it appears that they're not looking to invest into their O-line again.
Denver's biggest front office strength has been getting quality role players who will play for a good price and produce well because of the allure of a SB ring. I was pretty shocked when I saw that they are 27 mil under the cap with PM costing 18.5 against the cap.
What a lot of teams do as well is guarentee the first couple years of the contract instead of some signing bonus money so that a player can get a bigger contract without having to pro-rate a huge cap number for the last couple years of the contract which saves on the "dead" money. contract money is only counted against the cap if the player was actually paid that money or the team is contractually obligated to pay that player the money.
For example: Peyton's contract is as follows:
Yearly base salary:
2012 18 mil no signing bonus cap hit first year
2013 15 mil SB 2.5 mil 17.5 cap hit
2014 15 mil SB 2.5 mil 17.5 cap hit
2015 19 mil SB 2.5 mil 21.5 cap hit
2016 19 mil SB 2.5 mil 21.5 cap hit
10 mil signing bonus plus 2012 base salary gaurenteed = 28 mil in gaurenteed money from the start. If he passed a physical his 2013 salary became gaurenteed
he passed his physical so he had 43 mil in gaurenteed money.
However, since his signing bonus was only 10 mil because he was gaurenteed 28 mil off the bat plus another 15 when he passed a physical there was no need for a huge signing bonus.
You see how they lowered the middle years in order to absorb more cap hit in the first year and then hit the final 2 years harder(which become void if he retires) which the final two years would put him at 39 and 40 years of during those seasons. If he retires at the end of 2014 or 2015 they will only have either 5 or 2.5 mil in "dead" money on a 21.5 mil contract. Which they can choose to absorb over 1 or 2 seasons.
If they put themselves right against the cap this year they only have to find 4 mil in savings next year assuming the cap doesn't go up and they'll recoup with DRC's "dead" money going away - unlikely considering it jumped 5 mil more this year than it was expected to.
The kicker is if Manning has to be cut instead of him retiring or playing out his contract. If he's on the roster at the end of either 2014 or 2015 the next years' salary becomes gaurenteed, meaning he would put them in cap hell, unless he retires of course, which voids his salary gaurentee.
Denver is basically betting on Peyton retiring before 2015 or 2016, in which case, if he remains on the team, they will have a very difficult time re-signing key players who are playing for a discount right now and they're basically going to be a non-factor in FA over the next couple years. Much like we were after we had signed Nate Clements to that huge deal.