Russell Wilson

Broncos, Russell Wilson Yet To Begin Extension Talks

Both the Broncos and Russell Wilson have expressed the obvious desire for a long-term partnership, a scenario introduced by the historic trade package sent to the quarterback’s former team. But the sides are operating methodically here.

No negotiations are believed to have taken place yet, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Wilson is signed through the 2023 season, with the two years of remaining control — on a $35MM-per-year contract the Seahawks negotiated in 2019 — helping increase the trade package Seattle received in March.

I’m excited to be here for a long time, and I think that will definitely happen,” Wilson said. “So we’ll see where it goes.”

Broncos GM George Paton said earlier this week the negotiations will be kept in-house but added, via Howe, “We didn’t give up all we gave up for him to be here for two years; that’s for sure.” The Broncos would have the option of a 2024 franchise tag with their new quarterback, but this situation should not be expected to reach that point. Wilson, 33, should be expected to sign a monster extension with the Broncos. If the timing of the perennial Pro Bowler’s two Seahawks negotiations is any indication, an extension during his contract-year offseason (2023, in this case) will commence.

Wilson’s previous two negotiations did not exactly stay in-house. In 2015, Wilson extension talks ran from mid-April to late July. The Seahawks hammered out a deal July 31, 2015 — a four-year, $87.6MM agreement — but that came after numerous headlines pertaining to the talks surfaced. In 2018, a report emerged indicating Wilson expected to be tagged after his second contract expired. But, after a three-plus-month negotiation in 2019 — one that included Wilson setting a mid-April deadline to wrap his third contract — the sides reached agreement on the then-record $35MM-AAV extension.

Although the Broncos gave Peyton Manning a lucrative five-year deal in 2012, this will be new financial terrain for a franchise that has famously struggled to replace the all-time great. Denver’s issues replacing Manning, a marketplace that could include new deals for Lamar Jackson and possibly Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, an again-rising salary cap, and the Broncos being set to have the NFL’s wealthiest owner (Rob Walton) soon all stand to work in Wilson’s favor.

A bounce-back year from the likely Hall of Fame-bound passer would only further drive up his market. Although Paton and Seahawks GM John Schneider kept their trade talks quiet, Wilson’s past negotiations indicate low-key contract talks might not happen. Regardless of how this process reaches a conclusion, the Broncos will be expected to have their new franchise passer signed long-term by the start of the 2023 campaign.

Broncos GM Addresses Russell Wilson Extension Timetable

The Broncos are entering training camp with their best quarterback situation in eight years. While Russell Wilson provides a massive upgrade for the long-QB-starved franchise, the subject of his contract will be a front-burner item soon.

Still on the $35MM-per-year Seahawks contract he signed in April 2019, when that deal topped the market, Wilson has since seen his deal surpassed by several passers. The new market makes Wilson’s pact barely a top-10 NFL accord, and Kyler Murray‘s extension now means there are four QBs attached to $45MM-per-year deals or north of that. Four other deals top $40MM AAV.

Wilson will almost certainly be added to that list, and second-year Broncos GM George Paton is confident a deal will be completed. It just might not happen this year. Wilson is attached to $24MM and $27MM cap numbers in 2022 and ’23, respectively.

We all want Russell here a long time,” Paton said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. “Out of respect for his team 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 [Wilson agent] Mark Rodgers. At the right time, we’ll get a deal done.”

Denver moving on this now might save the franchise some money, but Wilson’s best interests could be to wait. Circumstances may well dictate that as well. The possibility this is pushed to 2023 has been out there for a bit now, and the Broncos are transitioning to a new owner, Rob Walton, whose acquisition has not yet been approved by the league. That would figure to hold up a matter as important as Wilson’s first Broncos-negotiated contract. Walton, however, is expected to be in place as the Broncos’ next owner by the time the season starts. That would open a narrow window to a Wilson extension before this season.

The perennial Pro Bowl passer is coming off a down year, one in which he missed time due to injury for the first time in his career and saw a quick return from that setback lead to substandard play, and could use the 2022 season as a springboard to better value entering the 2023 offseason. The QB market could also include a Lamar Jackson extension by 2023, with monster re-ups for Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert in play as well. One or more of these QBs being extended by the time Wilson and the Broncos enter serious negotiations would drive up the two-time Super Bowl starter’s market.

Wilson can also use the Broncos’ lengthy run of below-average QB play to his advantage, and the team being on the verge of having the NFL’s richest owner would not hurt its trade acquisition’s cause. Walton’s approximate net worth, in the $70 billion neighborhood, would be an asset to Rodgers and Wilson negotiating a deal that includes guarantees that approach Deshaun Watson‘s. Though, Watson’s $230MM fully guaranteed remains an outlier. Murray’s $103MM guaranteed at signing sits second overall.

Wilson’s Seahawks negotiations were eventful in both the 2015 and ’19 offseasons, and prospective talks on a fourth contract helped drive the NFC West team to trade its star quarterback. Though, the Broncos seeing a noticeable production spike at the game’s premier position will likely be worth the tradeoff of having a player command a deal in the $50MM-per-year range.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

AFC West Notes: Wilson, Chargers, Chiefs

The Chargers made the biggest cornerback splash this offseason, signing ex-Patriot J.C. Jackson. While Jackson’s starting spot is known, the rest of the Bolts’ corner arrangement is not. Asante Samuel Jr. will enter training camp with the lead to be the team’s other outside starter, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic (subscription required). With Bryce Callahan signed to play in the slot, this would move Michael Davis to a bench role. Davis, who signed a three-year deal worth $25.8MM to stay in Los Angeles last year, started all 14 games he played for the 2021 Chargers. He has worked as a starter for the past three seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked both he and Samuel outside its top 80 corners last season, however. Samuel playing in the slot over Callahan, with Jackson and Davis outside, is another option for the Bolts, Popper adds. Callahan, who dealt with extensive injury problems in Denver, signed for barely the league minimum after the draft.

Shifting first to Denver, here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Although the NFL is amid its quiet period, the Broncos‘ new quarterback will host a pre-training camp of sorts ahead of the team reconvening. Russell Wilson will gather his pass catchers for a mid-July summit in San Diego, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Broncos have their top four wide receivers (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam back, and Melvin Gordon‘s re-signing kept the team’s 2021 backfield intact. But Denver newcomers Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett‘s presences obviously loom larger, and the 11th-year QB will take advantage of some off time to accelerate his rapport with his new teammates.
  • Shifting back to L.A., the Bolts are planning to keep Kyle Van Noy in the versatile role he held with the Patriots. The post-draft free agency addition is expected to both work as an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker, per Popper. Van Noy played both spots during the Bolts’ offseason program. The 31-year-old linebacker should be expected to be the team’s No. 3 edge rusher, behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, Popper adds. With the Pats and Dolphins over the past three years, Van Noy combined for 17.5 sacks.
  • Easton Stick‘s rookie contract expires after the 2022 season, and despite the Chargers having Chase Daniel back to be Justin Herbert‘s top backup, Popper notes the team is grooming the North Dakota State product to be Herbert’s post-Daniel QB2. Dating back to Tyrod Taylor‘s tenure, Stick, 26, has been L.A.’s third-stringer throughout his career. Carson Wentz‘s Bison successor has thrown one regular-season pass.
  • A Chiefs exec since 2017, Tim Terry is staying put with a new title. The team bumped him up to senior director of pro personnel, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Terry, 47, has been a key front office staffer for a while. Prior to coming to Kansas City, he spent eight years as the Packers’ assistant director of player personnel. The Chiefs lost one of Brett Veach‘s top lieutenants, assistant director of player personnel Ryan Poles, this offseason. Poles is now the Bears’ GM.

Jake Heaps To Become Russell Wilson’s Full-Time QB Coach

Russell Wilson will be in a new home this season, but he will have a familiar face coaching him in Denver. Former pro quarterback and radio personality Jake Heaps is becoming Wilson’s full-time positional coach, as detailed by Kyle Ireland of KSL Sports

The 30-year-old has spent the past four years at ESPN 710 Seattle, allowing him to stay close to home and to Wilson, during the decade the latter spent as a Seahawk. Heaps also worked with other QBs at various levels, but now he will be able to continue his partnership with the nine-time Pro Bowler.

“It is with mixed emotions that I tell you that I will no longer be able to host on Seattle Sports’ station” he said. “As we all know, Russell Wilson was traded and when this happened I knew that my two careers that were perfectly aligned here in Seattle had become complicated… I have resigned to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach Russell Wilson full-time and develop the next generation of quarterbacks.”

Heap went undrafted into the NFL in 2015, after a college career which saw him play for BYU, Kansas and Miami. He originally signed with the Jets, but found his way onto the Seahawks during the 2016 offseason. He didn’t initially make the 53-man roster, but he was brought back to the practice squad in September as insurance. After a brief stint in the CFL, he came back to Seattle in 2017. Like each of his professional stops, though, it ended quickly, leading him to his coaching career.

In Denver, Heaps will work alongside new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who brought fellow ex-Packers staffer Justin Outten with him to serve as offensive coordinator. He will play an integral role in Wilson’s – and therefore, the team’s – success as they look to contend in the AFC.

Broncos Unlikely To Move Up To First Round

Following their blockbuster acquisition of quarterback Russell Wilson, the Broncos are operating without a first-round pick. Of course, GM George Paton said the trade was still more than worth it, especially after the organization dealt with a rotating cast of QBs over the past half-decade.

“It’s a blessing. We love having first-round picks. We love having the early second, but we also love having a franchise quarterback that sets the tone every day in the building,” Paton said (via NFL.com’s Coral Smith). “I come in here and he’s here working. There is a reason he’s great. It’s because of the work he puts into it … On that first day (of the draft), we’ll watch Russell Wilson highlights.”

While the Broncos may not have a first-round pick, they’re still loaded will draft capital, including nine picks overall and five selections in the first four rounds. The front office could conceivably have the ammo to move up to the first round, but Paton told reporters that he’s unlikely to move that far up, with the GM hinting at a potential move up the board during the second round (per Mike Klis of 9News on Twitter). The team’s first selection is currently at No. 64 overall.

“When we get to that second day, we’ll be on the phone calling every team. We’ll have an idea of what we want to do on that second day, especially as it starts dropping to the mid rounds,” Paton said. “Then we’ll decide do we want to move, do we want to stand pat, or do we want to move back? That kind of depends on who is there and how many players that we like are there.”

So what will the Broncos look to accomplish in the draft as they make a push toward contention?

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” Paton said. “I think there’s going to be value in those rounds where we can upgrade our team, upgrade our depth, and upgrade our speed which is everything we need to do.”

Broncos GM On Trades, Draft, Free Agency

Since George Paton took over as Broncos GM last year, the team traded the previous regime’s highest-profile player and now has a new one. Both transactions came via blockbuster trades, with the capital acquired from the first helping the Broncos pull off the second.

Denver dealt Von Miller to Los Angeles for second- and third-round 2022 picks. That ended up being a win-win-win deal, with the Rams claiming a Super Bowl title, the Broncos having enough draft picks to feel comfortable parting with a big haul for Russell Wilson, and Miller’s post-trade rebound enticing the Bills to submit a strong free agency offer. The Broncos’ years-long quarterback issue hovered at the root of the Miller trade.

I love Von, but we knew we weren’t good enough with Von to get to where we needed to go at that point,” Paton said via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (subscription required). “I knew in the next year or two we needed to get a quarterback. We needed to break through, [be it] trading up in the draft or via trade; free agency, you’re probably not going to get your franchise guy. So we were just going to keep accumulating picks until we got a quarterback. It’s hard to win if you don’t get that guy.”

Paton successfully filled one of the NFL’s longest-standing needs by acquiring Wilson for a package that included three players, two first-round picks, two second-rounders and a fifth. The Miller trade, however, leaves the Broncos with three Day 2 picks this year. Without first-rounders this year and next, the second day of this year’s draft figures to be quite important for a Denver team that will have a franchise-quarterback salary on its books in the not-too-distant future.

Denver, which had started 11 quarterbacks since Peyton Manning‘s retirement, has not carried a notable QB salary on its books since Joe Flacco‘s in 2019. Wilson is set to count just $24MM against the Broncos’ cap this season. While an extension is fully expected to commence by the 2023 season, it is not yet certain a new deal will be in place this year.

“You build a different way,” Paton said of how the Broncos will need to construct future rosters. “You aren’t going to go on a spending splurge every free agency; you just can’t. The model doesn’t work like that. We realize — we had all of these talks about how, three years down the road, how this impacts us.

“Do we have to hit on picks? Yeah. Everyone has to hit on their picks. But the stakes are higher. You gotta hit on the sixth-rounder, the seventh-round safety or else the model doesn’t work. We embrace the challenge just as we embrace the opportunity to have a guy like Russ.”

Paton’s first Broncos draft included cornerstones like Patrick Surtain and Javonte Williams, along with rookie-year contributors in offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz (Round 3), safety Caden Sterns (Round 5), linebacker Baron Browning (Round 3) and edge rusher Jonathon Cooper (Round 7). Nathaniel Hackett has Meinerz, who became a starter after a midseason Graham Glasgow injury, installed as the team’s starting right guard. With a Wilson extension expected to be in the $50MM-per-year ballpark on the horizon, the Broncos will need more low-cost contributors in this draft.

No Timetable For Broncos’ Russell Wilson Extension

It has been quite a while since the Broncos needed to prepare for a quarterback contract extension. With the team trading Jay Cutler after his third season and having Peyton Manning play on one contract during his four-year stay, the franchise has not needed to go through an extension process at the position since Brian Griese in the early 2000s. Their new quarterback’s re-up will feature a bit more intrigue.

The Broncos will enter extension talks with Russell Wilson, who is signed through 2023. But the long-quarterback-starved team is not rushing to finalize a new deal with its new passer, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic, who notes the sides have not begun discussions (subscription required).

Wilson signed a $35MM-per-year contract with the Seahawks in April 2019; that deal topped the market at the time. It has since been topped by six quarterbacks, with Aaron Rodgers‘ $50.3MM-AAV pact leading the way. The Broncos have Wilson attached to $24MM and $27MM cap numbers over the next two seasons, giving the team some flexibility despite a more expensive QB salary hitting their books compared to recent years.

Wilson, 33, signed his previous two extensions with one season remaining on his contract. While the Broncos will be prepared to pay their new quarterback at or near the rising top-market rate, Wilson could increase his leverage by bouncing back from his 2021 injury-plagued season and playing well for his second NFL team. The salary cap is expected to make another big jump in 2023, further bolstering Wilson’s case for a substantial raise. Wilson already carries rare leverage, having seen the Broncos part with five draft picks and three players for him.

Manning’s five-year, $96MM contract from 2012 represents the most lucrative deal the Broncos have authorized. Wilson’s next contract, should it come this offseason or next, figures to be in the $50MM-per-year ballpark. It will be interesting to see if Wilson’s camp pushes for a fully guaranteed extension, following the Browns’ Deshaun Watson re-up, or if a deal in the Matthew Stafford range (four years, $160MM, $63MM fully guaranteed) would be acceptable. Stafford played his first Rams season on his Lions-constructed, $27MM-per-year contact. Wilson could follow that path this year with his new team. However, the perennial Pro Bowler’s two Seattle extensions came after lengthy negotiations. The Seahawks were leery of a third such process. It would not surprise if the newly relocated QB — whose agent has one NFL client — eventually pursues an extension closer in structure to Watson’s.

AFC Rumors: Colbert, Browning, Broncos

Current Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert, who will be stepping down from his role after the 2022 NFL Draft, held a conference call with reporters today that produced quite a few nuggets of information.

Colbert expounded a bit on their moves to replace longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He explained that Pittsburgh didn’t want to sacrifice draft capital in order to add a veteran quarterback, according to Brooke Pryor of ESPN. This led them to target Mitchell Trubisky, who they were able to sign in free agency for a very reasonable price. Pryor reported that he went on to say that signing Trubisky does not preclude them from taking a quarterback in the Draft.

Colbert claimed they have starters at every position except for strong safety, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, while failing to mention any specific targets to fill the role. Kaboly did note that Colbert said they’ve focused on targeting “young veteran players” in free agency.

Commenting on his eventual replacement, Colbert said they’ve completed the first round of interviews with 16 candidates and that they intend to start the second round of interviews after the Draft, according to Pryor.

Here are a few other rumors from the AFC, these concerning the Broncos of Mile High:

  • With the addition of linebacker Alex Singleton, the Broncos will give linebacker Baron Browning a look at outside linebacker, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Browning went back and forth a bit between the positions at Ohio State, so he should be able to make the switch without too many issues. He’ll work with new outside linebackers coach Bert Watts.
  • Klis also reported that new Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson will have a say in the tailoring of the new offense. Wilson’s lack of agency in Seattle was a great frustration for the veteran quarterback and new Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett will make sure that isn’t the case in Denver.

Eagles Made “Competitive Offer” For Marcus Williams; Latest On WR, QB Pursuits

The Eagles have signed edge defender Haason Reddick and wide receiver Zach Pascal this offseason and otherwise have been mostly quiet in terms of adding outside talent. But that hasn’t been for lack of trying.

As Tim McManus of ESPN.com (subscription required) writes, Philadelphia made an effort to sign former Saints safety Marcus Williams. Per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required), the Eagles made a competitive offer to Williams, who ultimately signed a five-year, $70MM contract with the Ravens.

GM Howie Roseman also took some big swings at other positions. We already knew that the club nearly completed a trade for Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley before news of his gambling suspension surfaced, and according to McLane, the Eagles also had interest in WR Robert Woods. Woods was under contract with the Rams and was recently traded to the Titans, but Los Angeles gave him a say in his next destination, and he chose Tennessee over Philadelphia.

Precipitating the Rams’ trade of Woods was the club’s acquisition of Allen Robinson, whom Roseman also pursued. But Robinson, like Woods and most other notable players changing teams this offseason, elected to go elsewhere.

As McLane writes, the Eagles’ status as an also-ran when it comes to this year’s open market talent pool is perhaps a function of how players outside the organization view Philadelphia’s chances to compete in 2022. And, of course, a team’s chances to compete are inextricably linked to that team’s QB.

While it is unfair to exclusively blame incumbent signal-caller Jalen Hurts for the Eagles’ inability to make more FA or trade acquisitions thus far in 2022, McLane confirms that the Eagles were interested in Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, and he believes that Roseman will continue to do everything he can to find an upgrade over Hurts.

That could mean using one of his three first-round picks in next month’s draft on a passer, though McLane thinks that Roseman will not do so and will instead trade one of those picks to enhance his draft capital in 2023, when the QB prospects are expected to be better than this year’s crop. And assuming that the Eagles do not draft a quarterback this year, and do not view a trade candidate like Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield as a worthy investment, then Hurts will get another chance to prove his long-term value.