ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Since he broke into the league as a starter with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, Russell Wilson has been hit and sacked more than any other quarterback. Matt Ryan is second in hits (380 behind) and sacks (62 behind), but it’s not terribly close.
The Denver Broncos traded a package of players and draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, to acquire Wilson, with the idea that some of his best work is still to come. To achieve that, however, the Broncos may need to reduce the amount of hits the 33-year-old absorbs.
“We want him to play 10 years here, 12 years, 15 years,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “The way you do that is by extending it, by running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Those are the two most important things, and I think that he understands that and sees that.”
Fifteen years may seem like a lot, but the Broncos and Wilson agreed on a five-year, $245 million extension that includes $165 million in guaranteed money on Thursday. The deal could keep him with the team through the 2028 season.
Wilson has missed only three games in his career, all last season with a finger injury. He has said many times he’d like to play well into his 40s.
Through the years, Wilson has been willing to hang onto the ball for one last look, one last chance to create something from nothing. He has been in the 90th percentile of pressure rates among starting quarterbacks in seven of his 10 seasons.
And he has been sacked at least 40 times in eight of his 10 seasons. The only two seasons he wasn’t sacked at least 40 times were his rookie year in 2012 (33 sacks) and last season (also 33 sacks).
“I don’t think that he wants to live in that world,” Hackett said. “I don’t think anybody does.”
And he may not have to, considering the quality of the Broncos’ offensive line. Using a formula based on pass block win rates and run block win rates, ESPN projects Denver to have the fourth-best offensive line in the league.
Wilson also will have quality targets in Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, as well as a solid running game with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III.
“We know to be where we’re supposed to be on our routes, because he expects us to be in the right place,” Sutton said. “And we know if it breaks down, we have to help him, be there for him, get to a spot where he can get us the ball. Because we know he isn’t going to believe a play is ever over in those situations.”
Wilson doesn’t expect any adjustment period with his new system.
“Not really,” he said. “Just keep getting the ball to the right guy at the right time and have some fun while doing it. It’s been a blast.
“I feel amazing and feel the best I’ve ever felt. I feel strong, I feel fast, I feel confident and no fear. I feel like a winner.”
Hackett, in his first year as head coach, has said his offensive system demands precision, the play-action game, and at the root, moving the ball out with good tempo whenever possible.
“For us, we talk about the intention of the play, what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to attack and why,” Hackett said. “So that he knows when to throw to that No. 1 (read) or progress on to two.
“As a coach, you always plan on never getting past two. But the reality of it is, sometimes that happens. The idea is to limit those as much as possible. We don’t ever want him to get touched.”
Hackett doesn’t want to limit Wilson’s capacity to save a bad play with mobility, especially in the red zone, but Hackett hopes to eliminate the unnecessary hits.
“Some guys will force a window when they decide that’s being aggressive, just to push (the ball) to a certain guy,” said Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten. “And they don’t see the whole picture. He sees the whole picture, the video he watches through the week helps him with that.
“Even when we had Dallas here for a joint practice, for one practice, he was grinding on those guys to know where the trouble would be in certain situations … young guys sometimes just want to be special, make a play, force something in there that isn’t there. He understands we’ll have another down. He’s learned from any bumps and bruises he’s had along the way and knows the difference between a play that can be made in those situations and when to move on to the next down.”