ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The moment Russell Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos in March, he could have walked straight into George Paton’s office — or had his super-agent Mark Rodgers call him — and demand the biggest contract in the history of the NFL in terms of total value, per-year average and total guaranteed money.
And, ultimately, Paton and the Broncos would have had to give in, or otherwise watch Wilson potentially leave in free agency after his current contract expired after the 2023 season. However, after giving up multiple first-round picks for Russ, there’s no way Paton would have let him walk. But the point is Denver’s new franchise quarterback had all of the leverage in his contract negotiations with his new team.
Despite that, however, Russ did not demand the biggest contract in NFL history. In fact, he didn’t demand any of those things.
Russ didn’t reset the market in the total value of his deal. He didn’t reset the market in per-year average. And, you guessed it, he didn’t come close to resetting the market in total guaranteed money.
Instead, Wilson worked with the organization to get to what Paton called a “win-win” deal.
Believe it or not, his five-year, $245 million extension was a bit of a discount in terms of quarterback deals.
For a deal that had been worked on since March, this wasn’t by accident, either.
“For me, it wasn’t really about how much [money], necessarily. It was about how many Super Bowls we can win. That’s really the focus,” Wilson stated, when asked why he didn’t try to reset the market with his extension.
Russ made it clear to everyone involved in the negotiations that this was what he wanted too.
“I told George [Paton], I told [Vice President of Football Administration] Rich [Hurtado] and I told Mr. [Greg] Penner himself. I said [that] it’s so important to me—I had such an amazing first decade of my career, and the next decade, I’m really excited about,” Wilson added.
On Mar. 16, during Wilson’s introductory press conference, moments after the blockbuster trade was official, No. 3 put his goals out in the open for what he wanted to accomplish during his time in Denver. “My goal is to play 10 or 12 more years and hopefully win three or four more Super Bowls,” he said.
On Thursday, he showed his commitment to winning “three or four more Super Bowls.”
“To me, what it was really about was being able to win championships and being able to have enough space in the salary cap so George can make his magic and we can get guys like Randy Gregory when he comes on the team or other great players. We want to make this a destination location,” Wilson stated, understanding his importance in that.
When a team has a franchise quarterback, they have a shot at becoming a destination location. With Wilson tied to Denver for the next seven seasons, they drastically extended their window to be a destination for NFL players.
In a way, Wilson’s role with the Broncos is more than just a franchise quarterback. He understands not only how his team-friendly deal can help the Broncos compete for Super Bowls, but he has actually got his feet wet in the process of making Denver a destination location.
Wilson’s already worked directly with Paton on certain moves the Broncos have made, like recruiting Gregory to Denver even before he was officially traded to the team. Wilson even helped the general manager find what could be one of the steals in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“I will never forget going into [Paton’s] office [during the draft process]. He says, ‘Hey, come on in. I want to show you some clips. I have a bunch of receiver clips and stuff.’ We watched every single receiver. Literally. When I say every single receiver, we watched every single receiver for about a good hour and a half, two hours,” Wilson explained, describing a very unique situation. “We watched every single guy, and then we came across this guy named Montrell Washington. We looked at each other like, ‘He may be the one.’ Sure enough.”
Entering the regular season, Washington’s been the biggest surprise of the offseason as he’s not only appeared to have fixed Denver’s returner position, but has turned heads as a receiver.
Whether it’s working the phones in free agency, grinding tape with Paton in his office or leaving a few million in cap space for George to “make his magic,” Wilson wants to make sure the Broncos are put in the best possible position to win Super Bowls.
“It’s one of those things [where] we have an amazing tradition, amazing football team,” Wilson said flanked by Nathaniel Hackett on his right and Paton on his left. “We have a lot of amazing new faces in the Walton-Penner Group. Mr. Rob Walton, himself, Greg Penner, Carrie [Walton Penner], Condoleezza Rice, Mellody Hobson, Lewis Hamilton and Damani [Leech]. These are world-class visionaries and world-class executors and winners. At the end of the day, you want to be surrounded by that, and what’s important, too, is making sure you surround yourself with amazing players. For me, I love these guys. It’s been a blast and an amazing joy.”
Wilson’s deal allows Paton to have that flexibility to recruit more players to Denver, especially in the near future where his cap hits the next three seasons are only $17 million in 2022, $22 million in 2023 and $35.4 million in 2024, according to Over The Cap.
Russ’ $245 million extension is the third-most in NFL history, trailing Patrick Mahomes ($450 million) and Josh Allen ($258 million). Even including the two years that he had remaining on his deal, Wilson’s $296 million over the next seven years still falls well short of Mahomes’ total value.
When it came to total guaranteed money, Wilson’s $165 million was the second-most all time, only behind Deshaun Watson’s $230 million.
And as for his $49 million per-year average on the five-year, $245 million in new money he received, that also ranks second only to Aaron Rodgers $50.3 million. However, Wilson’s $42.3 million per-year average over the next seven years places him as the seventh-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.
Again, typically when an elite quarterback signs a new deal it resets the market. Wilson’s didn’t do that in a single category.
Russell Wilson did that in the name of winning. No. 3 did it to chase at least three more Super Bowls during his time as a Denver Bronco.