Denver Broncos go all-in to get Russell Wilson, but with a little pragmatism on the side

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5:06 PM ET

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -– For weeks Denver Broncos general manager George Paton had used words like “aggressive” and “chomping at the bit” and “all-encompassing” whenever he has been asked about his pursuit of a quarterback for a team that has clamored for one since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season.

For a little over a year, Paton has also waxed on about the need for thoughtful decisions, sticking to plans, getting input, crunching the numbers and “all of us being on the same page.”

Then Paton took all of that aggressiveness, composure, thoughtful analysis, consensus-building and football prudence, mashed it all together and made the absolute most pedal-to-the-metal move when he traded for former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on Tuesday.

Some in the league might have wondered if the everything-in-its-place Paton had this wild side as he turned a detail-oriented career as a scout into a steady, highly productive climb up the ladder into his first general manager gig. They need wonder no more.

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He dealt the Broncos’ franchise player in pass-rusher Von Miller just after Halloween to get more draft picks to go to work later and on Tuesday swung for the fences to land Wilson. It’s a deal that was weeks in the making, a deal to which Wilson has given his blessing with one of the few real, rock-solid no-trade clauses in the league and a deal that’s one of the biggest in NFL history.

Yet Paton still found a way to sprinkle in a little pragmatism, because Wilson is 33 years old and has missed three starts in his career — he had surgery on his right middle finger last season. Just to set that in proper perspective, Manning was 36 when he signed with the Broncos in 2012 and had missed the previous season after his fourth neck surgery.

Wilson has, if things go anywhere close to what the Broncos hope, plenty of prime seasons left. In almost a year of pipe dream conversations the Broncos’ faithful have had about a solution at quarterback, it has been Wilson and the 38-year-old Aaron Rodgers who have been the fuel for that almost constant fire of discourse.

In short, the Broncos got the young guy in that equation.

Paton has routinely said how much he likes draft picks in hand — the Broncos had 11 for the 2022 draft when the day began — but when asked this past week at the combine if he would be willing to part with multiple first-rounders to make a deal he wanted, he said:

“That’s the flexibility when you have a lot of picks, if we’ve got to give a little to go get a player, we can do it and it’s not going to handcuff you for the draft. Everything’s on the table.”

The Broncos had to give up plenty to get Wilson, including quarterback Drew Lock, who they obviously weren’t sold on — Paton traded for Teddy Bridgewater shortly after evaluating the Broncos’ roster early last year when he took the job. But defensive end Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant were starters who will have to be replaced.

And the Broncos surrendered prime NFL draft real estate — two first-round picks, two seconds and a fifth. Those types of picks usually yield starters, at least if a team is even halfway serious about the draft.

Paton has a lot riding on this — in a nutshell Wilson and a fourth-round pick in exchange for three players and the picks to secure possibly five more starters — but he kept his word. Turns out all of those times he was asked about doing everything to stop both the team’s turnstile at quarterback and the growing string of playoff misses, he was ready to do just that.

And a team which has acquired four of its top five passers in franchise history — John Elway, Manning, Jake Plummer and Craig Morton — from someplace else, has added another big résumé guy to the list.

Source: ESPN NFL


Author: Ellen Garcia