Kaye’s Take: Why new Broncos ownership had no choice but to lock up Russell Wilson with massive extension

The Denver Broncos needed to sign QB Russell Wilson to a massive contract extension in order to establish the new leadership group.

The Denver Broncos know what it’s like to have a legitimate franchise quarterback. The myth-making moments made by John Elway and Peyton Manning are etched in the memories of Mile High fans, both young and old. But so are the dreadful efforts of Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, and Drew Lock.

And that’s exactly why the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson this offseason. It’s also why the new ownership group, still in its infancy, had to plant an immediate long-term flag on the depth chart by signing Wilson to a mammoth contract extension to lock him up for the next seven years.

Kaye’s Take: Why the Broncos needed to lock up Russell Wilson

Unlike franchises with a long history of woe, the Broncos are known for their QB lineage. Elway is heavily involved with the organization as an exec, and Manning — while considered a forever Indianapolis Colt — still hangs rather close to the team facility and makes the occasional appearance.

Quarterback greatness continues to stare the organization in the face, making the gloomy stretch of Lynch, Siemian, Lock, and Teddy Bridgewater even more unbearable. That’s why GM George Paton had to trade three players and a bushel of premium draft picks for Wilson with new head coach Nathaniel Hackett taking off this offseason. It’s also why the organization handed Wilson a five-year, $245 million contract extension on Thursday.

Wilson’s résumé is filled with charming titles. He’s won a Super Bowl, led the league in passing touchdowns, and made nine Pro Bowl appearances. He has thrown for 37,059 yards and 292 touchdowns and ran for 23 more scores. Yes, Wilson is 33, but he seemingly has a ton left in the tank. And as the Broncos learned with Manning, while the mid-30s aren’t typically a QB’s prime, the great ones excel even as they age.

Also, like Manning, Wilson is leaving the only NFL home he’s ever known. He spent his entire career with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps a change of scenery will revamp his career and provide new life for the longtime franchise QB.

And while Manning and Wilson have drastically different styles of play, the latter has many of the former’s mental intangibles. For an organization that has missed repeatedly since Manning’s departure in 2016, those qualities are worth investing in.

The Broncos got ahead of Lamar Jackson’s contract extension talks with the Baltimore Ravens and avoided the inevitable comparison of a dual-threat QB who is nearly a decade younger than Wilson.

Instead, the Broncos likely used Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’ three-year, $150 contract extension as a baseline. Wilson has been among the most successful QBs of the past decade, but Rodgers still holds claim in the individual success pecking order, thus Wilson’s deal falls a bit below the Packers’ passer in annual average.

Paton and Hackett are starting fresh. A new ownership group and a new QB are both here to stay for the foreseeable future. Everyone in Denver is amped over the clean slate, and now they can look forward to contending for years to come. Sure, that’s a lot of pressure to put on management, but they’re hoping that pressure creates some diamond rings in the near future.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.

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