Broncos GM George Paton mum on Russell Wilson contract talks
When Russell Wilson participates in his first Broncos training camp practice Wednesday morning, he will have the eighth-highest salary cap hit among NFL quarterbacks ($24 million) and the ninth-richest contract in terms of average value ($35 million).
Underpaid? Possibly, considering his track record as a Super Bowl champion and a durable and productive player. Due for a raise? Most likely, considering the exploding nature of salaries league-wide in which eight quarterbacks have deals averaging at least $40 million.
As the Broncos reported to camp Tuesday morning, is a new Wilson deal — he has two years remaining on the contract he signed with Seattle — a priority for general manager George Paton?
“We all want Russell here a long time,” Paton said. “Out of respect for his team (of advisors) and our team, we’re going to keep it in-house, any discussions we may or may not have. I have a really good relationship with (agent) Mark Rodgers. At the right time, we’ll get a deal done.”
And with that, Paton and coach Nathaniel Hackett met with reporters for 30 minutes inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. An offseason of big hires (Hackett and a nearly all-new coaching staff), big acquisitions (Wilson, outside linebacker Randy Gregory and defensive lineman D.J. Jones) and a big purchase (the pending sale of the team for $4.65 billion) were among the topics covered.
Naturally, understandably and justifiably, Wilson was the main discussion point. For the first time since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season, the Broncos believe they can compete in the league’s arms race and not for just the duration of Wilson’s current contract.
The Broncos didn’t trade three players and two first- and second-round picks apiece to have Wilson be a short-term fix. It was a long-game move, a move that will ideally end with Wilson playing the rest of his career in an orange No. 3 jersey.
“Anytime you get a franchise quarterback, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Russell Wilson, it’s going to accelerate anything you’re doing,” Paton said. “We needed a foundation (of players) to go get a quarterback like him. It would have done us no good to invest in a quarterback like Russ if we didn’t have those players. First of all, he wouldn’t have come here, right? Second, he didn’t come here to lose. He came here to win. He believed in our team and we believe in our team and we believe even more now that we’ve added a bunch of good players in the offseason.”
Paton and Hackett addressed several issues during their briefing:
Meeting the owners
What’s the story: Since Paton last met with reporters during the NFL Draft, the Broncos agreed to a purchase agreement with the group led by Rob Walton, Greg Penner and Carrie Walton-Penner for a world-record setting franchise price. The new ownership group is expected to be approved by NFL teams Aug. 9 in Minneapolis.
Paton said: “The entire organization is really excited. It’s a dynamic ownership group. Incredibly accomplished, intelligent and thoughtful (with their) leadership (style) and they will help with the culture here. We can’t wait to get them here. I’ve had a few conversations with them and one thing I know is they’re all about winning and they want to win the right way. They will set the tone.”
Analysis: The wealth of the Walton-Penner Ownership Group means the Broncos will continue to spend to the top of the salary cap if Paton so chooses (and why wouldn’t he?) and it also means they will be able to allocate money to resources like facility upgrades and amenities that other owners may balk at.
Offensive line uncertainty
What’s the story: The Broncos’ starting offensive line for Week 1 at Seattle? To be determined … and a lot remains underdetermined. The right tackle competition won’t start Wednesday because Billy Turner (knee) remains sidelined. Will Hackett have Graham Glasgow challenge Lloyd Cushenberry at center? Is Quinn Meinerz a lock to start at right guard? The Broncos have more questions than answers.
Hackett said: “I look at my past couple seasons with Green Bay and you go in with that starting five, but you’re going to need everybody. For us, we train them all over the place because you never know what’s going to happen. You have to make sure everybody is prepared and can play together.”
Analysis: Last year, the Packers, whose offensive coordinator was Hackett, started three left tackles and two left guards, centers, right guards and right tackles apiece in 17 regular season games. We get Hackett’s point about positional flexibility, but the sooner the starting five is established, the sooner they can gain cohesion.
What’s the story: Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb spent the offseason in 2020 and ’21 rehabbing from ACL and ankle injuries, respectively. Chubb enters his fifth NFL camp after a regular ramp-up period.
Hackett said: “Since I’ve been here, he’s not fun to try and block. He’s making (the offensive line) better.”
Analysis: Chubb’s availability and productivity are even more important since Gregory’s shoulder surgery continues to keep him out. If Chubb can match the 12 sacks he had as a rookie in 2018, he will equal parts help the Broncos be more competitive and earn a long-term contract to stay here.
What’s the story: The Broncos are in a drought of five consecutive losing seasons and six consecutive years out of the playoffs. But the addition of Wilson has increased expectations internally even though the preseason magazines have projected the Broncos to finish third or last in the ultra-competitive AFC West.
Paton said: “We know expectations are higher than they have been here. We’re not blind to that. We embrace expectations, but we have a long way to go. We haven’t won in 5-6 years. We won seven games last year. We’re 0-0 now. I know we’ll embrace the process and I look forward to the journey with Coach Hackett and this team and everyone else involved.”
Analysis: The key to playing meaningful games in mid-December will be the work the Broncos put in during the first eight games of the year, when they should be favored to win six times. If they return from London with a 6-2 record, then the buzz should shift into a higher gear.
Source: Read Full Article