ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — From the moment the Denver Broncos landed Russell Wilson in a franchise-altering trade this past March, general manager George Paton insisted that the team’s goal was to sign the star quarterback to a long-term extension.
Paton and the Broncos achieved that goal Thursday, agreeing with Wilson on a five-year, $245 million extension that includes $165 million in guaranteed money, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The megadeal is the third-most lucrative contract in NFL history in terms of guaranteed money, behind only Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s $230 million and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray‘s $189.5 million.
The Broncos announced the deal, which runs through the 2028 season, but did not disclose financial terms.
Paton said at a news conference Thursday that the two sides had set a deadline to do a deal before the season of midnight Wednesday.
“We did feel pressure, it came down to the wire last night,” Paton said. “We had a deadline and I felt we would figure out, but you never know, we had never done a deal together.”
Wilson, 33, is now under contract with the Broncos for $296 million. The extension pays Wilson, who has two years remaining on his previous deal signed with the Seahawks, an average salary of $49 million. He is set to make $24 million this season and $27 million next year before the extension kicks in.
Wilson, entering his 11th NFL season, previously echoed Paton’s hopes for a long-term deal with Denver, saying at the start of training camp that he wanted to be with the Broncos “for a long, long time, hopefully the rest of my career.”
“I came here knowing I was going to be ready to play on these two years [left on his contract],” Wilson said Thursday. “… but I think to be able to get this done before the season, to have it all done, is just a blessing. And it allows us all to be excited.
“It’s so important to me … to me what’s about is to be able to win championships and have enough space on the salary cap so George can work his magic and we can get guys like Randy Gregory … and other great players. We want to make this a destination location.”
The Broncos traded five draft picks, including two first-round and two second-round selections, and three players to the Seahawks to acquire Wilson in March — seeking stability and stardom at quarterback, a problem spot since Peyton Manning’s retirement in 2016.
The formal arrival of the franchise’s new ownership group — the Walton-Penner group, led by Walmart heir Rob Walton — only enhanced the Broncos’ chances of getting the deal done with Wilson. The group’s $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos was formally approved Aug. 9 by the NFL owners.
The group — which includes Walton’s daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, son-in-law Greg Penner, Mellody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice and Lewis Hamilton — is the wealthiest ownership group in the NFL.
Penner, now the Broncos’ CEO, recently said it was “critical to have a great quarterback in this league, and coming in this organization with Russell in place is a tremendous benefit for us.”
“This is an exciting day for the Broncos and our fans as we announce a long-term commitment to Russell Wilson as our franchise quarterback,” Penner said Thursday in a statement. “I want to commend George Paton and his staff for their hard work and diligence in reaching this agreement, which has been a top priority for our organization. In addition to being a terrific quarterback and winner, Russell is a dynamic leader whose positive impact is felt throughout our entire team and community. Our organization is fully committed to winning and competing for Super Bowls with Russell as a Bronco for many years to come.”
“I’d like to thank Greg Penner and our entire ownership group for the support and resources to get this long-term extension done,” Paton said. “I also appreciate the collaboration and communication with Russell’s agent, Mark Rodgers, along with Rich Hurtado on our staff. We will continue to focus on building and maintaining a championship roster with Russell as our quarterback well into the future.”
Wilson, who has said that he intends to play 10 to 15 more years, said the ownership group excited him for the team’s future because of its “energy” and “commitment to winning.”
Wilson’s 292 career touchdown passes are the second most in league history for a quarterback in his first 10 NFL seasons, behind only Manning’s 306. Tom Brady (324) and Aaron Rodgers (317) are the only two players with more touchdown passes than Wilson over the past 10 years.
Wilson, who quarterbacked the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl title in franchise history — beating the Broncos after the 2014 season in Super Bowl XLVIII — also has been a consistent winner in his NFL career. His 113 wins as a starting quarterback (regular season and postseason combined) are the most for any NFL player in his first 10 seasons.
Wilson’s Broncos debut will be a homecoming on Sept. 12, when Denver visits Seattle on Monday Night Football.
The Broncos have not been to the playoffs since their Super Bowl 50 win and have had a turnstile behind center, with 10 different starting quarterbacks over the past six seasons. An 11th player — running back Phillip Lindsay — started a game in 2020 when the Broncos were without three quarterbacks, including then-starter Drew Lock, because of COVID-19 protocol violations.