Broncos Wanted To Avoid Waiting Until 2023 To Extend Russell Wilson

Amplified by the Broncos’ bevy of primetime games to start the season, their Russell Wilson partnership has not gotten off to a good start. The team has seen the nine-time Pro Bowler struggle in Nathaniel Hackett‘s increasingly scrutinized offense, inviting big-picture questions.

The Broncos are being questioned for greenlighting Wilson’s five-year, $245MM extension before he played a down with the team, but as Mike Klis of 9News notes, the team was fully committed to Wilson long-term upon trading for him. That should be expected given the trade haul the Broncos sent the Seahawks.

The Broncos viewed 2022 as a better window for their Wilson extension, Klis adds, due to the annual quarterback-market price hike. Next year will bring extension windows for Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, with likely multiple deals coming in north of $50MM per year alongside Aaron Rodgers‘ current $50.3MM market-setting Packers pact. Wilson’s 2015 extension came in just behind Rodgers’, and his 2019 Seahawks re-up checked in as the top QB payment until Patrick Mahomes (and others) topped it in 2020.

Wilson, 33, did not leverage the Broncos in the way he did the Seahawks in the past, doing a deal despite two years remaining on his second Seahawks extension. He is under team control for seven seasons, after his previous Seahawks deals included five years of control (the extension seasons tacked onto a contract year). Wilson’s $49MM-per-year AAV sits second among NFLers presently, but the contract’s length could age well. Wilson is essentially locked in with the Broncos through 2025, with the deal’s final three years being nonguaranteed.

Of course, any talk of this contract aging well will need to included improved play. Wilson is well off his Seattle pace, sitting 24th in QBR and having completed just 59.4% of his passes through five games. Shoulder and lat trouble has affected the likely Hall of Fame quarterback over his past two games, mainly the ugly outing against the Colts, but he is not expected to miss any time because of this issue. The Broncos’ 21.4% red zone touchdown rate is well behind every other NFL team, with the 31st-place Seahawks at 38.5%, and Hackett play-calling and game management struggles have persisted — to the point the ex-Packers OC has been regularly mentioned as a one-and-done candidate.

Various NFL staffers are wondering if the Wilson-Hackett partnership is sustainable, per Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus. While an AFC scout informed Kyed he believes the Broncos’ issues stem from Wilson working with new receivers — in a group that lost possession target Tim Patrick before the season — and in a new system. One of this era’s top deep-ball throwers, Wilson has graded 23rd in that area this season, per PFF.

Another personnel exec mentioned, via Kyed, chemistry issues may doom this Broncos season. Already playing without Patrick and Javonte Williams, Wilson will now be tasked with playing with a backup left tackle. Garett Bolles will not return from his lower-leg fracture this season. The team’s various hiccups have been on display due to the NFL slotting Denver into three primetime games already; the fourth — Monday night against the Chargers — figures to be another referendum on the Broncos’ trade. Considering the Wilson-Hackett acclimation issues and the Broncos’ run of injuries, the team’s top Wilson-years form might not end up emerging in 2022.

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