I've been digging into Socal's theory on the spending. I'll post my findings when I'm done, but just looking at a six year spread, If you take away free agents that signed with the team they were on (ie Free agents no one had any shot at), it's starting to show that the Broncos actually finished towards the top of the league in spending almost every year but a few - and those few we were up against the cap because of Shanahan's bad spending. The problem is that Shanahan was such a crappy GM that his draft prospects regularly bombed. That left him going after the dregs of the NFL, and frequently overspending for them, when the rest of the league was re-signing their home grown prospects. There are a few exceptions, obviously: Reggie Hayward, which was a good move to avoid, and Bertrand Berry, who didn't live up to his contract, but probably would have helped a line that had no pass rush.
However if you look at who was available, year after year Denver was toward the top of the league in spending. The problem is they were often not worth the contract Shanahan was offering them, were frequently cut the next year and that would bloat our cap and prevent movement the year after.
The real hole is, as I've always said, Shanahan knows how to manipulate the media. He would frequently get things leaked. It was well know that he had cart blanche while he was here and Bowlen never once interfered with the spending habits of Shanahan. Mike Shahanan made ALL the football decisions and everyone reported to him. This is an unequivocal fact.
SoCal loved him (didn't we all?) and is mad at Bowlen for firing him. He wants to create a revisionist history of why Shanny failed as a head coach, and had decided to concoct a story that Bowlen was sabotaging him at every turn. We all know Shanny wouldn't have tolerated that, we all know Bowlen has never behaved that way ever, we all if it happened at any point it would get out - and the evidence shows the numbers from the Forbes report includes free agents that never hit free agency - something that Shanahan's poor drafting (again HIS fault, not Bowlen's) never allowed him take advantage of that often.
Now Shanahan's got a pretty bad record going back five seasons and is showing his mismanagement problems in Wash as he did here. Meanwhile Bowlen has turned the reigns of the franchise over to Elway and "cheap ol' Bowlen" signed one of the biggest free agents ever and has turned the team into a contender again, winning just as many playoff games as Shanahan did while he was head coach after Elway retired.
Shanahan should be grateful Bowlen let him stay on as long as he did.