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Russell Wilson Affirms Broncos’ Request for Contract Adjustment; Expresses Desire to Remain with Team Through 2024 Season

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On the verge of becoming a first-time free agent, Russell Wilson resides in limbo to close out his second season with the Broncos. Demoted after the Broncos fell out of reasonable playoff contention, Wilson has expected to be released for several weeks.

First, however, the 12th-year veteran will be Denver’s QB2 behind Jarrett Stidham against the Chargers. Unlike Derek Carr, who left the Raiders following his benching for Stidham last season, Wilson will dress for the Broncos’ Week 17 game. Beyond that, his situation is murky.

Wilson shed light on the Broncos’ reported attempt to change his guarantee vesting date. GM George Paton is believed to have contacted Wilson’s agent about adjusting the contract to move back the 2024 vesting date, according to the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson. Wilson also confirmed (via Denver7’s Troy Renck) this occurred during Denver’s Week 10 bye, just after the team had beaten the Chiefs. The 35-year-old QB also said the team notified him he would be benched earlier had he not agreed to do so. After the NFLPA contacted the Broncos about this request, with Wilson adding the NFL indeed was also involved, the team did not follow through with benching its starter at that juncture. His five-year, $245MM contract remains untouched — for now.

They came up to me during the bye week, beginning of the bye week — Monday or Tuesday — and told me if I didn’t change my contract, my injury guarantee, I’d be benched for the rest of the year,” Wilson said. “I was definitely disappointed about it. It was a process through the whole bye week. We had just came off beating the Chiefs. I was excited obviously for us fighting for the playoffs. The NFLPA and NFL got involved at some point, I think.

“… I wasn’t going to take away injury guarantees. This game is such a physical game. I’ve played for 12 years and that matters to me.”

The former Seahawks superstar suffered multiple injuries, including a concussion last season; he missed two games. Were he unable to pass a physical by the start of the 2024 league year, the Broncos would be locked into paying that guarantee. Sitting him to close out this season doubles as a bubble-wrap scenario Las Vegas utilized with Carr and Washington executed by sitting Robert Griffin III — to protect against his fifth-year option salary from locking in, back when the options were guaranteed for injury only — in 2015.

Although Wilson appears headed toward free agency — a move that will hit the Broncos with a record-shattering dead-money figure, $84.6MM over two years in a post-June 1 cut scenario — he said Friday (via Tomasson) he wants to stay in Denver beyond this season. That would almost definitely require a contract adjustment, and the nine-time Pro Bowler did not confirm he was open to that.

When asked about the midseason attempt to adjust Wilson’s contract, Payton said (via Tomasson) he was not privy to the matter pertaining to the injury guarantee. The timing of the request occurred between the Broncos’ wins over the Chiefs and Bills. While they won four more games after the request, the team’s losses to the Lions and Patriots have all but buried its playoff hopes.

The guarantee in question — a $37MM sum — covers Wilson’s 2025 base salary; it shifts from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. The Broncos attempted this ultimatum measure to explore a post-2023 future with Wilson, Renck notes. The Broncos aimed to move the vesting date from March 2024 to March 2025 to provide them more flexibility, per Tomasson.

Faring better this season than he did in 2022, Wilson has still not justified the trade cost or the $49MM-per-year extension. The former Super Bowl champion would have had a better chance to stay in Denver for the 2024 season had he accepted the team’s terms, but it is not surprising he would decline this request. It would have represented a risk had he gotten injured during the season’s second half. Were that $37MM guarantee not in the equation, the Broncos could have cut Wilson in 2025 for $49MM rather than the $84.6MM total they will soon face.

Wilson is not expected to receive that extra $37MM, but his contract will have paid out the $124MM fully guaranteed; that represents a monster sum for two years of work. Barring an 11th-hour reconciliation, the parties will separate at some point between Super Bowl LVIII and that March vesting date. Wilson will presumably look for another chance at a starting job elsewhere, while his contract will hamstring the Broncos as they seek to replace him.

I hope that it’s here. I hope that it’s here for a long time,” Wilson said of his playing future. “… But if it’s not here, I’ll be prepared to do that somewhere else.

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